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News > Memories at Hymers > Memories at Hymers, by Clive A. Norman-Henderson, OH 1978-1982

Memories at Hymers, by Clive A. Norman-Henderson, OH 1978-1982

Clive started a project during the Covid-19 lockdown to document his time as a child in Hull in the 1970's, and has kindly shared his memories of the Junior School with us.
Form J1D, 1979
Form J1D, 1979

The first memory I have of Hymers College Junior School is the day I went there to take the entrance exam.  Yes, I can actually remember that, how many of you still do?  I don’t remember any of the questions of course, but I do clearly remember being taken on a tour of the grounds by a member of staff.  I found a rather large bird feather and, being aged only 8 at that time, was rather pleased so took it home with me.  Perhaps it was an omen of good luck to come.

So in September 1978, I started in form J1D with Mrs. Dunham whom I believe also started that same year.  As it was an all-boys School back then and she was the only female teacher (certainly in the Junior School if not across both), then she must have felt like a “fish out of water” so to speak!  But such matters did not concern us young boys, it was all about the excitement/fear of starting a new school and making new friends.

The old Junior School of the 1970s was very different from the amazing buildings you see there today.  I seem to recall it was a “prefab” style concrete building in a “U” shape around a central concrete playground.  I believe Mrs. Dunham’s classroom was on the far left end of the “U” with the library at the opposing end, although I could be wrong.  I can clearly remember the main hall which was a separate adjoining building, as I was rather impressed by its versatility.  It was an assembly hall for the entire Junior School in the mornings, a cafeteria at lunchtime, and I think the floor could even be sloped downwards with a stage at one end to function as a theatre on special occasions.  I believe the entrance exam was also held there.

To one side of the assembly hall was a small room that functioned as the “tuck shop”.  Immediately after lunch one of the Masters would operate this and each boy was allowed a maximum spend, which I believe was five pence.  I can clearly recall one day at assembly when the headmaster Mr. Ransom announced this was going to be increased (to seven pence I think), resulting in an almighty roar of approval and joy which he had great difficulty in silencing!  I wonder if the Junior School still has a tuck shop today, probably not.

At break times we were all unceremoniously “dumped” in the concrete playground between the classrooms.  I believe on some days the doors were even locked to stop us from getting back inside, although my memory could be wrong.  There was a small group of trees just beyond the library and we were told this was as far as we were allowed to go.  Under no circumstances were we to go behind the lake or onto the main rugby pitches where the Senior School boys were.  I guess the staff kept a close watch on us during that first year, we were only 8-9 years old after all.  We thus had to create our own forms of entertainment and games, one of which was “hand tennis”.  There was no tennis court, net or rackets etc., we just set-up our own pitch boundaries using jackets and batted a ball back and forth with our hands.  I was actually quite good at this and enjoyed it immensely.

We were not supposed to go to the library at break times.  I don’t know if there was any specific school rule saying so, but I seem to recall it was generally frowned upon as the Masters all wanted us to be outside getting fresh air and exercise – and no doubt “out of their hair” for a short while too!  However, myself and a few friends found a way around this, which was chess.  We discovered that if we were playing chess in the library during break time and a member of staff came in, then we were generally permitted to stay.  My best friend Martin Gordon-Kerr was the Junior School chess champion and unbeatable, although I do recall that on one occasion – probably just that once – I did have the good fortune to do so.  Perhaps he was having an off day, but it was certainly a triumph that was noted at the time!

I became quite good at chess and was even invited to attend a multi-school chess competition, representing Hymers Junior School along with perhaps half a dozen other boys.  Upon arrival at the venue, there were 30-40 boys from various schools all seated at tables arranged in a huge square, each with his own chess board.  In the centre of this square was a local/national/world(?) chess champion who would play all the boys simultaneously by going from one to the next after each move.  Wow!  I got knocked out fairly quickly, but Martin Gordon-Kerr no doubt lasted longer.  That was a memorable experience, but unfortunately I cannot recall in which year this occurred nor where it was held etc. – answers on a postcard, please!  I wonder if anybody still plays chess in the Junior School these days.

Facilities at the Junior School were very limited in 1978.  Each week we had to go across to the Senior School for woodwork, art, music, and probably some science lessons too.  We also had to borrow their indoor gym, having none of our own back then.  I have an image in my head of this being a very old-fashioned style place with the traditional vaulting horse, parallel bars and climbing ropes etc.  I also seem to recall bars up the sides of the walls on which I particularly enjoyed climbing.  I can remember the new sports hall being built at the time and it was quite an exciting experience when it finally opened and we (at the Junior School) had an indoor gym of our own.  Of course, as with any other boy, there were the usual occasions when I forgot to bring my gym kit or gym shoes and wasn’t allowed in, incurring some form of punishment instead.

During my first year I was also in the gardening club along with several other boys from J1D.  We had a small area of allotments on site with boys encouraged to work as a team to grow flowers/plants/vegetables etc.  I don’t remember what happened to this activity after that first year, perhaps the ground we used was where the new sports hall was built instead.

And of course there were the trains.  As the Junior School was only a few yards away from Botanic Gardens Depot you could clearly watch all the trains moving about through the classroom windows, much to the dismay of the Masters, one of whom I can distinctly recall during a lesson yelling “look at me, not at the trains!”  I shall say no more on this topic, for if you were one of many such boys who attended the Junior School and was introduced to the lifelong interest of railways whilst there then you will understand, but if you didn’t or weren’t then you won’t.

A new intake of boys occurred in the second year, with the number of forms increasing from two to three.  Most boys in J1D moved up to J2G with Mr. Glenville (myself included), some moved across to other forms and several new boys also joined us.  Unfortunately, I have no specific memories of that second year.  In the third year, I was in form J3H with Mr. Harston of whom I have fond memories of being my favourite Master whilst there.

Across the three years, the one thing I was consistently useless at was team sports.  I enjoyed cricket (but couldn’t play with any proficiency), wasn’t interested in football, and absolutely loathed rugby!  I dreaded sports lessons, particularly in the winter, which I think were on a Thursday afternoon.  The way it often worked was the two boys who were considered the best players were designated as team captains with the rest of us standing in a line, from which they would then take turns choosing whom they each wanted on their teams.  I was always one of the last to get chosen and usually assigned to some non-critical position where I could do the least damage to the team’s chances of winning!  I was, however, a little better at the more individual sports such as track and field athletics.  I can recall a sports day one summer with parents in attendance at which I competed in the long jump.  I believe I also threw the Javelin too.  Although I don’t recall winning any prizes, I don’t think I did too badly either.

Here are three random memories from the Junior School to round off my story:

One time whilst playing cricket, I ran to catch a ball that somebody had hit quite high.  I got to the correct spot, looked up, and waited for it to descend when all of a sudden it just disappeared from view.  A second or two passed and then the next thing I knew it hit me on the head!  I was utterly confused as to what had happened as I was certain I was lined up correctly to catch it.  The situation was later explained to me and I learned a valuable lesson in Human biology that day, about something called “the blind spot” of the eyeball of which I previously knew nothing!

One year we had a bicycle safety day/week.  We all brought our bikes to school and somebody from the council (or police perhaps) gave us lessons in road safety and rules etc.  This was followed by a test, upon completion of which we were given a bright orange badge.  I still have mine to this day, it says “Humberside Road Safety” on it.  I suspect that’s another activity that doesn’t happen anymore either, not all progress is for the better!

Finally, I can recall the craze in 1979/1980 when electronic handheld games like space invaders etc. appeared.  These were expensive items back then and many boy’s parents couldn’t afford them, including mine.  I would thus beg other boys to have a go, but rarely got the chance to.  During break time boys would sit outside in the concrete playground leaning against the classroom walls hunched over these video games, with their jackets over their heads in order to block out the light so they could see the screen.  The Masters were not impressed and I can clearly recall one day being told we all “looked like old men” and should be playing football etc. instead!

In September 1981, I progressed to the Senior School, but it was only for a short time.  At Easter break 1982, not having even completed a full year there, my family emigrated to America, a move which had been several years in the planning.  This was an event that naturally changed the course of my life, and I fully expect that had it not occurred then I would have remained at Hymers right until the very end.  That, I also presume, would have been immediately followed by a university place, perhaps even accompanying my friend Martin Gordon-Kerr to Cambridge.  However, that was not how things turned out, and I did not eventually complete university until the age of 31, and in a completely different field of study and location than I probably would have done otherwise (Animal Science, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, 2001).  Such is fate, it’s not always your own choices which determine your destiny.

Over 40 years have passed since the above events occurred, so I must apologise for any inaccuracies, omissions, or fabrications my mind has created in the meantime.  Any corrections or additions would be gratefully received.

Clive A. Norman-Henderson

(At Hymers 1978-1982)

November 2023

N.B: Clive can be seen on the photo on the middle row, 4th from the (photographer’s) right, wearing brown sandals, next to Mrs Dunham.

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