Earlier today I published a narrative bequeathing it’s discerning reader unreliable anecdotes from my junior high schooldays. These notions manifesting from the depths of my capricious mind; embellished by fictional addendums sourced from a neurological chamber with a door titled ‘Random’.
Breckenbeds Junior High on Saltwell Road in south Gateshead the subject of that ramble. A place of learning I attended between 1974-77, along with other hundreds of other 11-14 year olds who resided in the Low Fell, Bensham and Saltwell Park areas of the town skirting the river Tyne.
This typical 1960’s built comprehensive school grey of facade, linear of design, metal framed of window and plentiful of field. Play areas that in the 1980’s witnessed the fledgling football games of two pupils who went on to represent the England national team in the 1990’s. Vast grassy domains that in the 1970’s also witnessed the developing footballing skills of another student who went on and play top flight professional football for Leeds United.
Pitches where greatness wasn’t so much born. Moreover, potential was identified and the students guided towards erudite individuals who mentored them towards fulfilling their ability, along with a subsequent place at the top table of their sport.
Although my memories of Breckenbeds are predominantly fond ones, I received some earlier feedback from some former pupils who begged to differ. Individuals relaying how my narrative evoked memories of unhappy experiences, predominantly their disdain of the school’s corporal punishment policy during their tenure.
It was hard for me to give an informed comment on the opinions of these detractors as their experiences were formed in the 1960’s, prior my time there in the mid 70’s. What became clear, though, was it appears during the years I attended this alma mater disciplinary procedures appear to had evolved for the better.
Sure there was still punishment by strap, sandshoe and semolina pudding. However, compared to what the pupils claim to have experienced in the 1960’s these chastisements were mild and less frequently administered.
Reading some of the 1960s students experiences wasn’t pleasant to read. Punishments alleged to be systematically cruel and administered for minor misdemeanours. Admonishments that included receipt of the cane and enforced listening to Cliff Richard albums.
All I felt comfortable commenting on was I’d no recollection of seeing teachers administering unwarranted disciplinary action during my time at Breckenbeds….. Well, not unless you class Alan Seabourke’s receipt of a fortnight’s detention for misusing the words tongue and groove during woodwork class.
The woodwork teacher (whose name evades me) so incensed at the pupil’s immaturity he blunted the cutting blade on Seabrooke’s wood plane. Before hacksawing his haversack in half and drilling a hole in his packet of spangles.
They were idiosyncratic punishments, even for that era, but consequently apart from one further occasion young Alan never felt the need to use double-entendre again in a classroom environment.
The other blemish on Seabrooke’s rap sheet occurring again during a woodwork lesson, when he loudly exclaimed (mid-hacksaw) of his urgent requirement of a flange for his wood. I don’t recall the teacher’s punishment on this occasion, however I’m pretty sure it involved wood glue, goose feathers and the class hamster Eric.
This afternoon’s feedback from the 1960’s Breckenbeds pupils was really appreciated as it gave a new less rose-tinted perspective on my old junior high school.
However, as much as I felt for them following their ordeals during a much stricter disciplinary regime, I won’t allow it to cloud the fondness of my own school day recollections in those corridors, classrooms and fields from over 40 years ago.