FOR those of us untroubled by the call of a vocation, employment, especially nowadays, is largely a matter of taking whatever crops up.
And an interesting consequence is that one comes across all sorts of bosses, of whom a significant number appear to range from the mildly eccentric, through the usual spectrum of fruitcakes, to those with a downright need to be sectioned.
But to a certain extent one is conditioned to this through the experience of school days, when several of the teachers seemed to be similarly categorised.
Of course in today’s classroom, with no effective means of control the balance of terror lies with the kids, but for readers of a certain age no doubt the memories – perhaps painful – still linger of a cane wielding headmaster, as perhaps epitomised by ‘Barrel’ Cook.
Equipped with a short and frequently carried cane, Mr Ernest Cook maintained a firm discipline – ‘just looking at him made you decide never to argue’ – and when walking along the lengthy school corridors (which induced ‘a glorious temptation to run’) pupils had to obey the rules, and maintain an orderly progression. Otherwise his whistle would blow, everyone would freeze, and the cane would effect the necessary remedy!
Mr Cook was a Yorkshireman, and at the age of 12 had gained an early introduction to his future career when told by his headmaster: ‘On Monday you will be a teacher, Cook, and this will be your class.’ And so it was to be.
Educated at St John’s College, York, Mr Cook had originally arrived as the headmaster of the Bletchley Senior School in 1924, in succession to Mr Melton, who in 1920 had succeeded Joseph ‘Boss’ Shardlow.
Mr Shardlow had been the headmaster of the Bletchley boys school since 1897, and perhaps harbouring fond memories of the town on retiring to Clacton he named his bungalow ‘Bletchley.’
However, when this was destroyed during an air raid in the Second World War he then moved to Norton, near Stourbridge.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, many London schoolchildren arrived in Bletchley as evacuees, and accompanying them were many of their teachers.
In fact the headmaster of the Senior School, Mr S Taylor (no relation), had been due to retire on the same day, but instead he came to Bletchley, and, known to all the pupils as ‘Dad’ continued his teaching career with four other masters at the Pavilion, Bletchley Park.
Eventually he retired at the age of 65, to be succeeded by another of the teachers who had come from London, Mr Jackson. As one of the schoolchildren who came to Bletchley, George Young still retains vivid memories of that time, and in this photo, in which he is seen wearing a policeman’s hat, he is third from the left at the back.
George says that the photo was taken outside the Senior School in Bletchley Road (now Queensway) about 1948, and shows Mr Parfett with the cast of a play which, as a teacher of dramatic art, he had written.
The pupils who performed in the play (and also supplied the props and costumes) are also seen, and from memory George thinks that the girl standing on the left is Olive Cutler, the boy standing third from right is Austin Timms, the boy with the scythe possibly Theo Dennis, and the boy front left is Henry Mutton.
As for the others, time has faded the memory, and so perhaps a few of this column’s readers might be able to put a name to a remaining face.