I went to school a long time ago (correction: a very long time ago) and I have just found a document dated December 1955.  It is headed plaintively, ‘Please read this’ and it is from the Principal (headmaster in ordinary language) to parents.

My secondary school was a minor public school (in other words private), boys only, where trouser pockets had to be sewn up, no footballs were allowed (rugby balls yes, footballs no), prefects were called praepositors, there was a fagging system and, of course, we had corporal punishment (caning).  Not only could masters cane, praepositors could too.

Back in the 1950s all this seemed, indeed was, normal and I accepted it without demure.  In fact it never occurred to me, nor so far as I’m aware to any of my contemporaries, to question the way things were.  We just buckled down and got on with it.  (I’m tempted to say, ‘It never did us any harm’)

The document from the Principal has some amusing items – though they were not meant to be amusing and nor would they have seemed so at the time.  Here are a few verbatim quotes.

CLOTHING.  Some boys are bringing back light or very light grey suits and other garments which are unsuitable for school wear.  Parents are asked NOT TO ALLOW THEMSELVES TO BE CAJOLED into buying garments which are not suitable.

Comment:  This item may well have been included because I had successfully ‘cajoled’ my parents into buying me a light grey jacket that the Principal had described as ‘histrionic’.  At the time I had no idea what this meant except that I doubted it was complimentary.    

POCKET MONEY.  The gross amount per term should vary from £1.15. 0 for younger boys to £3 for study boys and praepositors.

Comment:  Since we were hardly ever let out of school during termtime, the derisory amount of pocket money permitted was largely irrelevant.  The only place you could spend money was in the school tuck shop where, if I remember correctly, you could put things on tick and the accumulated amount was added to the bill your parents received at the end of each term.     

FOUNTAIN PENS.  Only fountain pens with nibs may be used.  Please do not supply your son with an expensive fountain pen unless you are sure that he is able to look after it properly.  Satisfactory pens are on sale at the school at a reasonable price.

 Comment:  Having got used to a world full of biros, I had forgotten about our fountain pens!   I still have some fountain pens and, on the strength of reading this item, have decided to use them again.  I tried them out yesterday but I had also forgotten about the perils of blots and smudges.  Perhaps I need to buy some blotting paper!

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