I first visited Price’s School in July 1957 when my mother took me to meet Mr. Ashton, the headmaster of the day. My late brother Rodney had attended Price’s from the war years until 1953 and had done very well both academically and within sporting activities, obtaining various medals.
It therefore made sense that I should follow in his footsteps. Notable today is that his teachers also became my teachers, for there was that continuity largely lost today, with parents finding their children unable to form long-term relationships with their teachers because of the rapid turn-over of staff.
For example, teachers such as Foster, Garton, Shaw and Thacker lasted for decades. Also, the dormitory where my brother had slept now became the classroom where Mr. Chaffey taught me Geography some fifteen years later. Sadly, that was also when Rodney was killed in a motorcycle accident.
Trinity Street and Park Lane were already familiar to me as my mother had staffed a little clothes shop there, now a private house. My earliest memories were of visiting there as well as the lending library nearby. Here you could borrow a novel for a three-penny bit. How simple life was then!
Mr. Ashton invited us into his home at the front of the school. I vaguely recall it had bay windows covered in ivy. We were welcomed to sit down on a comfortable sofa but I was in awe of Mr. Ashton, who seemed to have a military presence.
This was to be my only direct contact with him, for fortunately I never needed to be disciplined! He often led the Assembly that began the school day. He was to retire two years later when Mr. Poyner took over the reins. Their deputy for many years was Mr. Shaw.
It was agreed that I should start school the following September. A strange experience as we were required to arrive on a Wednesday morning and then depart two hours later. This was because Wednesday afternoons were traditionally earmarked for sports.
The catch was that we must also attend on Saturday mornings, a practice later abolished by Mr. Poyner. Price’s meant work, for there were five lessons each morning and three every afternoon plus three lots of homework. Gone were the arts and crafts I had enjoyed at primary school. Even Art had an exam attached!
I soon had to cope with unfamiliar subjects, notably foreign languages, Chemistry, Physics and Technical Drawing. My one claim to fame at Price’s was that two years later within the same class I came top in French and bottom in Mathematics, a topic that for some reason I seemed quite unable to grasp.
At Price’s you either sank or swam! More fun, however, were the friendships we all enjoyed. I can still remember the roll call of surnames for that first year, for it was repeated so many times. We were all also required to attend Services at St. Peter & Paul Church at the beginning and end of every term.
The Cadet Force proved to be a mixed blessing. Some boys loved it, others loathed it. My main memory is of a group of us being dumped upon Salisbury Plain and left to find our own way back. I also recall being given a 1914 rifle and taught how to use it, the only time I have ever handled a gun!
Life seemed simpler then. We schoolboys were all white, British and Christian. Smart in our crisp uniforms, our common aim was to obtain plenty of qualifications. We were shielded from the distractions of the opposite sex and it was not until I started to work in libraries that I for one began to meet them.
Years later, it still baffles me how one headmaster could control hundreds of boys and so by extension their families. I eventually met Mr. Poyner in old age at his retirement home on the Isle of Wight. And when I too retired, his widow baked me a cake! They’ve both gone now but I recall them with affection.
Odd memories also remain. Mr. Chapman taught us Latin with an Australian accent while Mr. Alderson instructed us in French, yet had once published a dictionary of Turkish to be found in Fareham Library. My evenings were often spent in that library, with other evenings passed in the two local cinemas.
In closing, I recall that Price’s always had a good reputation, with us boys proud to be pupils there. It also taught us much about discipline and self-discipline, behaviours almost lost today. If you encountered a teacher in the street, you had to raise your cap and say “Good Morning, Sir”. How times have changed!