Throughout the five years
at this school, my average marks put me in the bottom end of the class. This in itself did not mean that you did not have ability, after all, we were the top pupils from the surrounding area, the average was based on a mix of subjects. In my particular case, I was good at math, science and woodwork., reasonable at English literature, Geography and History, hopeless at languages: English, German and Latin. I the latter case, I gave up Latin after two years. I have never mastered the technical definitions of the English language other than the simple: noun, adjective, verb and pro noun.
German was taught by a Miss Latham, a very plain looking young woman who was quite nice in the class, and a good teacher. Miss Latham spent time with me trying to correct my pronunciation of certain German words. Unfortunately, the end of my tongue is tied with a membrane of flesh which reduces its flexibility. Even to this day, I have never been able to stick out my tongue. The school did not have modern texts the books were written in the ancient gothic script which was also difficult to decipher. Of course I was not the only pupil that had difficulties in these areas. It was a mandatory class and we had to take it for the full five years. There a few of us that did not pass the final exam. Ironically, German has been a useful language throughout my working life. I have been able to hold simple conversations both in Germany and Ukraine, where English was not spoken. I have always been able to read and get an understanding of written text (with the help of a dictionary), this was helpful in translating technical engineering documents.
Woodwork was one of my favourite subjects, the teacher Mr. Dobson, a small wiry Scotsman, kept a firm hand on the class. He would not tolerate any “horse-play”, the tools were very sharp and he did not want any accidents. During the instruction period, if your attention wandered, he would throw his chalk at you with great accuracy to get your attention. We were taught how to use tools and keep them in good condition. The practical exercises were on how to use the tools and making sample joints. He was very much a perfectionist who required you to be the same. As we became more skilled, we were paired with another pupil and made several projects. We worked with oak and made a fire screen and a small table. They could be bought for the price of the materials and I let my partner take them home as I did not want to ask mother for the money.
Chemistry with Mr. Curry was an interesting class. He could always find a way to demonstrate what he was teaching. Mr. Curry was a keen photographer and he got a few of us that were interested to form a lunchtime photo club. During wartime, photographic film was not readily available, so not many family pictures were taken. We did have a camera at home, a Kodak Baby Box Brownie, which was used about 3 or four times during this period. Mr. Curry had a “Grayflex” quarter plate camera and was allocated some photographic plates for use in school. He taught us how to use the camera but we were not able to take many actual photographs. The chemistry laboratory had a built in dark room and we processed the plates in open dishes under a red light. The developing and fixing solutions were made from scratch using chemicals from the lab. Since we did not have any photo paper to make prints, we made a positive image using another plate in contact with the negative plate and exposing it to daylight.