David Coe left school at 15 years old and started work doing a five year engineering apprenticeship until he was 21.
Prior to this he was at the Norwich Technical School (otherwise known as “the Junior Tech”) which had formed part of the college from 1941 to 1958.
This is where he was educated up until 1958 at which point this element of the college was closed and moved to start a new school, the Hewitt Grammar.
For all five years of his apprenticeship David was back at the college for one full day a week and one evening class and found himself back again in his old school classrooms and workshops being taught by several of his old teachers who still worked there.
Read David’s story, as told in his own words, below, as he recalls fascinating memories of the college, its facilities and sharing the large assembly hall with fellow students.
Dressed as Robin Hood and brown shoes for Prefects – the Junior Tech uniform
The Junior Tech school uniform consisted of a blazer with two pockets on the side and one top and one inside pocket, cap and a tie plus a scarf in the winter months.
Both the blazer and cap were a distinctive Robin Hood colour green and each had a triangular badge on them with the schools initials (NTS) all in gold stitching. The tie was a simple sober one of green, black and gold stripes.
You were expected to wear this tie at all times correctly fastened up at the neck even in the hottest summer. The school scarf was made of wool and had the same patterns as the ties had. All remaining clothes you had to wear were:
- White or grey shirts
- Green, black or grey pullovers
- Grey or black trousers or shorts
- Plain socks and black shoes
You were always being told to pull your socks up!
I remember the shoes because I was give a decent pair of unwanted brown shoes to wear for school but the first day was told that I was not allowed to wear brown shoes because only prefects and boys who had been given special permission by the headmaster were allowed to wear brown shoes.#
Suitcases, bags and backpacks – carrying your books in style
There was however one item the school gave you leeway on and that was whatever you choose to carry your school books, pens and ink etc in.
Few pupils had proper school satchels, most used suitcases, bags and backpacks from the Army and Navy surplus stores and old civilian gas mask holder bags.
I used an ancient family brown suitcase which was heavy and awkward to carry, in fact not suitable at all but it was all I had and it did the job. I still have it hidden away.
An extension at the back of the college
The school was a separate unattached extension built at the back of the Norwich City College consisting of a single story building the same length as the college itself internally split in two by a corridor down the middle with the classes and workrooms each side connected physically to the college.
At both far ends nearest to the college were the school toilets. In 1957, before the school closed, a handful of girls and their teachers arrived from the Norwich Art School to join us. The Art School had closed down and they were allocated the toilet nearest to the city which meant if you came by any city bus you always had a long hike along the corridor to reach the boys toilet!
A concrete bunker – the sports changing rooms and showers
The first room past the boy’s toilet and one of the two open access exterior entrances to the college was the sports changing room and showers. One can only describe this room as a concrete bunker.
The changing section consisted of a rough concrete floor with plain raised ancient wooden strips the length of the room which served the purpose for seating with the occasional hook on the wall for your clothes.
Having your own locker was many years into the future but amazingly I cannot remember anyone ever having anything stolen, although looking back I must admit most of us did not have anything much worth stealing!
Avoiding a scalding
The adjacent showers ran the whole length of the room. You went in one end to face the cold showers and by the time you reached the far end the hot showers were in full flow and were too hot to stand under and enjoy!
To avoid coming out scalded you had to run past and out at full speed!
A boy complained to his parents about this, so to avoid scalding the hot water was turned off meaning after any sports lessons we had to come in from the cold, wet and muddy and have a cold shower to clean up. It was horrendous!
Slipping and sliding in the Assembly Hall
The Assembly Hall and its stage had wooden floors. Both were polished to such a degree that the floor itself was so shiny and slippery that many boys who had the wrong type of sole on their shoes regularly slipped and fell over!
Opposite the toilets was a large wood-work workshop which was used by the school during the day and in the evening by students and apprentices all over Norfolk as part of their training.
Next to this was a training workshop for all types of metal workers in engineering and the motor industry etc used in a similar way for both school boys during the day and students and apprentices during the evening sessions.
All rooms facing the back playing fields, including the gym, had, instead of an outer wall made of bricks, a metal roller wall like you would see in workshops. This meant that in the winter months these classrooms were cold even when the heating was full on.
All the boys of my age still had to wear shorts because you were not allowed to wear long trousers until you reached the grand old age of sixteen!
At the far end was a large engineering machine shop that housed Centre lathes, milling machines, drilling machines and various other machines. Also stationed there was the equipment that controlled the heating and lights for all buildings on the site and housed the school and college maintenance caretaker.
Near the entrance gate was a new building used for building apprentices and some boys occasionally went there as an introduction to basic bricklaying skills, walls, windows, doors and arches in our case.
The dreaded school canteen
Tucked away on the right hand sides were two buildings, one for storage and the other was the dreaded school canteen.
The canteen only ever served dreadful foul tasting stew as the first course dish. The second course was a bit more enjoyable with various fruit tarts, custard, rice pudding and tapioca pudding (also known as “frog spawn” – which everyone hated!).
There was not a large number of teachers, but I do clearly remember a number of them.
Mr Douglas our math’s teacher, an old type teacher who insisted you wrote down every figure and rough checked your calculations on the side of the paper – an act I still do to this day.
Doc Riches was a dream teacher. He always inferred in a roundabout way he took part in the battle of Britain and when we were bored in class we took turns to ask him about this event.
Once he got started he got carried away and we would spend the rest of his lesson listening in raptures to the tales he was telling us. I feel embarrassed about how we kept tricking him, but at the end of the day everyone enjoyed listening to his stories and today I still have fond memories of him.
Mr Fraser, a dour Scotsman, was the mechanical engineering teacher who always dressed entirely in black, similar to an undertaker.
He had this habit of randomly searching any boy he thought was carrying sweets and if he found any he would give half back to the boy and the other half for himself and eat them during the lesson in full view of the class.
Fred Wilby was a teacher I always liked. He was reputed to be an ex-Japanese prisoner of war giving a constant impression he was suffering some unknown trauma which caused him to have a short fuse if anything upset him.
He used to twist our ears or try and lift us up by them, but he was a good and fair teacher who would always try and help you with school work problems. He had a strict and rigid set of rules that you had to obey without question.
Before you felt the force of his punishment you always had a warning first – for example “stop talking Coe” and if he caught you talking again you knew what to expect! All the boys tried to outwit Fred but never did.
Arthur “Chippy” Wood was one of the quietest teachers I have ever met and always looked happy with a smile on his face.
He replaced Mr Douglas and Mr Fraser in maths and metalwork. After leaving school I found out that he was a war hero who served in the SAS and had won several medals for bravery after being dropped behind enemy lines in occupied France.
Amongst his medals he was awarded was the prestigious French Croix de Guerre with a silver star and a mention in dispatches for outstanding bravery behind enemy lines.
“Hoppy Kemp” was a metal work teacher. He always had a bad limp and was said to have one false lower leg or foot – although no one knew for sure, and in those days you simply did not ask.
After leaving school, during my entire five year apprenticeship he was my sole instructor when I went back to the main college. He was a good teacher and a nice man who was brilliant at engineering calculations and drawing. He tried his utmost hardest to help you at all times.
The headmaster during my entire time at the JTS was Mr Stanley Orrell Hesketh who was a fair and gentle man.
We did several school trips, one being a cycle and hiking trip up to Derbyshire and the other when we went abroad to France, Holland and Belgium (where we went to see the first Brussels Exhibition which took place in the1950s).
The highlight was seeing the first working colour TV at the Russian exhibition stand. If my memory is correct my parents had only just purchased our first black and white set!
The Derbyshire trip was wonderful. We went by bus up to the location and then on our bikes, often pushing and carrying them all over the mountain paths staying overnight at small youth hostels in remote spots.
All my memories of my time at the Junior Technical School are happy ones
Some great memories and stories David, many thanks for taking the time to share with us.