The Regis school, Tettenhall, 1959 to 1964

As an infant and junior, I attended Castlecroft primary school, just up the road from our house in Windmill crescent, however it was soon time to go to the "big school". Following a rather tortuous 11+ exam taken at Ounsdale School, Wombourne on November 5th, 1958 it was decided that I should go to the Regis school in Tettenhall. At the time there was no senior school in Castlecroft, indeed it would be a few more years before one was built. It was going to be quite an adventure; I hadn't any idea what was waiting for me. A new pair of trousers and a second hand blazer, complete with school badge, was purchased for me with the promise that I would soon "grow into them". As was the custom in those days, anyone with a new school uniform was to parade to show off and a simple walk around the block was sufficient to carry out this task. How awkward the rather oversized outfit felt although there was a certain amount of pride when I stepped out in my new outfit. Also worn were the obligatory tie and cap. It was a tradition that on your last day at school you would tie your tie to the school railings and cut off the bottom half leaving just the knot and a few inches of tie.

School Buses

Anyway, come the day, and I duly waited at the bus stop by the bridge for the school bus along with many, many, more rather anxious new pupils. School buses were a bit of a joke in those days with no deference given to comfort, health or safety. Only the most decrepit and elderly buses were used on the run and I imagine only drivers and conductors who had training in the SAS were ever used. They were locally made Guy buses that had seen much better days. These buses had the open rear platform, which was great for hanging off whilst the bus was moving or simply running to catch. The route went from Castlecroft, over the bridge, through Finchfield and down into Compton. The bus then carried on up the Holloway and on into Tettenhall via the Tettenhall wood estate onto Regis road. Because the buses were so old, many had trouble in simply getting up the Holloway. The result was a plethora of young boys literally pushing the bus up the hill. Whilst I'm sure the drivers and conductors were grateful, I am willing to bet that the melee of kids jumping on and off a bus on a busy road, gave them headaches. There were also a few ways of avoiding fare payment including hiding partly under the seat covered by schoolbags and coats of fellow pupils although the favourite was to get a ticket issued to someone else or to raid the used ticket box and chew it until it was almost unrecognisable. When asked for your ticket you simply showed the chewed up mass. No self-respecting conductor would dare look any closer.

First Day

The first day was a mixture of getting to know the school and it's staff. I can remember just hanging around for quite a while in the playground along with the other new kids waiting for information. My first form teacher was Malcolm Marples, a local man who was also organist and choirmaster at the local Congregational church in Tettenhall Wood and a prominent member of the school choir.
The Regis school was one of a "new breed" of comprehensive schools and was built in the mid 1950's as part of government reforms. The headmaster, W.G. Cretney came over from the Isle of Man and his deputy was Mr Macgregor, a Scot who most of us felt, no disrespect intended, was the real power behind the throne. No doubt their orders were to make it work at any cost. There were about 1200 pupils at the school in 1959/60 and the classes were quite large. In order to accommodate them several "temporary" classrooms were installed at the far end of the school. These classrooms were no more than wooden huts and were variously known as "Stalags", "hut 29" after a TV show "the army game" and other derogatory names. It was not unknown for pupils to exit via the windows rather than the doors. The school had four houses, each occupying a block of the school. They were Mersey, Severn, Thames and Trent after UK Rivers. Mersey Severn and Thames formed the main body of the school with a covered way giving access to Trent science block. The top floors of this covered way contained the Arts block. The staff room and the M.I. room lay between the foyer and the library at the bottom of Thames block. In those days, Tettenhall was still relatively rural and the remnants of the old farm that once occupied the site of the Regis were still there. I remember the old galvanized steel barn been cut down. Houses now occupy that part of the area close to Red house road.

School Uniforms

The school was very strict on its uniform policy with the girls having dresses in the summer and tunics, ties and shirts in the winter. The colours were also strictly controlled right down to the grey socks and black shoes that were obligatory for all boys. Woe betide any boy or girl who dared to attend school in anything other than the prescribed garments. One day I deigned to turn up in brown shoes, you would not believe the bother I found myself in. Trying to explain that my black shoes had developed a leak simply cut no ice. Hair could also give the teachers palpitations; this was after all the age of Beatle mop tops and the Rolling Stones.

School Milk

Another feature of school life in the 50's & 60's, and indeed up to "Thatcherism" in the 70's, was the school milk. This was designed to supplement the diet of scrawny kids and to be fair many of us were glad of it. The milk came in a 1/3rd of a pint bottle, which was stacked in crates. In the winter they often froze with the tops expanding off. In order to thaw them out, they were often put against the radiators resulting in a rather tepid concoction, not to mention odour. At this point I have a confession to make, I actually enjoyed school dinners. There I have said it. The school had its own kitchen and meals were served in the dining room and the foyer. Those bringing packed lunches were forced to eat in one of the temporary classrooms. I felt that school meals were good. They included stews, fish on Fridays and meat pie. There were rarely chips and the food was served in large aluminium containers, 1 per table. This could lead to the odd food fight although this was rare. One person on the table would act as food monitor and ensure we all had fair helpings. One person would be allowed to return to the hatch and ask for seconds. Other delights included bread and butter pudding and tapioca, also known as frogs spawn.

Foreign Students

Life at the Regis in the early 60's was in some ways quite good, but in other ways quite bleak. After the regime of primary school, the rigidity of secondary school life was something different. In some ways it was an eye opener. Following W.W.2, the area had several sections of none English personnel. These included Poles, Lithuanians, Dutch and other displaced persons. Some had married into local families and their offspring also attended Regis. Unfortunately not all of these people got on and sometimes this spilt over into school with the odd fight. In some ways these people were very much at the lower end of the educational spectrum, which given their family circumstances is not surprising.

Morning Assembly and Punishment

One aspect of school life that was similar to junior school and yet different was the morning assembly. Each day we would assemble in the hall for a short service followed by school notices and the list for the days detentions. There was a tradition then that pupils were never excluded from school although other forms of punishment were available. These punishments of course included the cane, which was only rarely used. The headmaster normally carried out Canings. It was a known fact amongst the pupils just where Mr. Cretney kept his cane in his office and anyone been interviewed would be very wary if he moved towards the cupboard in his office. I have to admit at this juncture that there were times I too was very wary although I was never given more than detention. A type of what would now be seen as discrimination took place during assembly, all non-protestants were herded into the dining room whilst we were in the assembly, once the assembly service was over they were released to stand at the back of the hall to hear school announcements. These unfortunates of course included the earlier mentioned poles, Latvians, Jews and others.

School Sports

A major difference between junior and senior school was competitive sports. Now I am the first to admit that as far as I am concerned, sport is something for others to do. I am in no way built for sport and yet I was expected to take part. This resulted in one or two unfortunate accidents including a broken nose, which was gained when I stood behind a rather energetic rounders batsman. He swung the bat backwards in order to be ready for the ball and my head was in the way. Cross-country, running was another test of nerves as each year the school held an inter house cross-country run around the streets and lanes of Tettenhall and Perton. Whilst I always completed the course it seemed that it was designed to punish rather than reward the participants. I felt very sorry for some of the runners especially those who were overweight as they had the same rules as the rest of us. Once the street section had been run the course ventured onto the school running track before finishing outside the gym.

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