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George Dixons Grammar School

Harry Flashman

master brummie
Scanning back through my memories of GD, I remember happy times and one particular episode rather vividly. I've typed it out and called it 'Snow Day'. I hope it's not too long and wonder if anyone else can recall those happy times.


There are few joyous moments for a 12 year old boy, attending grammar school. I suppose I can number the truly happy occasions on one hand.

One would be being taught French by the very gorgeous Miss. Lewis, who’s mini skirts and exposed legs were the the stuff of legend and much speculation. Then, of course, there were the days when we were liberated from the drudgery and repression of the educational Gulag, for periods of time called the school holidays. School holidays gave us captives a reprieve from the many unhappy and spiteful souls (excluding Miss. Lewis of course) whose responsibility it was, to impart knowledge to us “empty vessels”, as we were often called.

The only other joyous time was one that was not easy to predict and as a result was the most treasured for its absolute spontaneity. The snow day.

I believe it was a particularly cold dark Tuesday afternoon in February. It stared badly enough as always. After digesting a disgusting school lunch, we of Class 2C were now expected to apply ourselves and enthuse over a double class of Algebra. Two 40 minute lessons, or if you like, 80 minutes of mathematical purgatory starting at 2:00pm. However, on this particular day our savior came some 20 minutes into the lesson. A quick glance out of the large Victorian leaded windows confirmed that there was a God after all, although it was not manna falling from heaven, but huge snowflakes. Naturally, there was some mumbling speculation from we at the back of the classroom, or “back benchers” as we were called. We knew the ropes. Snow like this meant school was going to be let out early. The unknown was just how early. Naturally, our mathematical taskmaster told us to, “Shut up and keep your heads down." However, twenty minutes or so later the classroom door opened and the deputy head master gave our teacher the nod. School was closing early.

Oh joy. We packed our brief cases with the books we needed for homework and joined the happy throng of other pupils who were now exiting the school. My way home was via the number 7 to the Ivy Bush, then the number 8 to Five Ways followed by the number 1 to Bristol Road. In those days the double deckers had a conductor who stood on the open platform at the back of the bus…but more about that in a moment or two. By the time my friend Terry and I reached the bus stop on Portland Road, just around the corner from the school, the snow was at least four inches thick. Not only that, but the girls school had let out earlier and there must have been at least two dozen females of varying ages talking, laughing and having a great time while queuing for a bus. This what is now referred to as a target rich environment. With merely a look between us, Terry and I decided on our next course of action and accordingly took up a position behind the low hedge in St. Chads churchyard. This was directly opposite our targets who were now about 20 yards away, across the other side of the road. The snow was perfect for our needs and after a couple of ranging shots we got our aim where it needed to be and started a steady rhythm of bombardment. We were greeted by a mixture of screams, catcalls and threats of bodily harm. Two groups of lads who had been engaged in their own snowball fights now saw how much fun Terry and I were having joined us. Soon there were perhaps a dozen of us engaged in the barrage. However, it was not all one way. Some of the more fun loving of the girls were giving as good as they got and scored direct hits on the us lads. Shouting terrible threats of violence, a couple of the senior girls decided to put an end to this unwarranted assault and started to make their way across the road towards us. This was unfortunate, because now all of our attention was focused on them. With terrifying accuracy, a white storm of biblical proportions was visited on the two, who quite sensibly, retreated back to their compatriots.

By this time, a double decker bus had pulled up opposite us, shielding the girls from our attentions. As they and some boys who had joined them got aboard, the bus driver opened his small side window and began to shout some abusive 'suggestions' to us. Clearly he must have seen our ghastly treatment of the two big girls. Sadly, he too was treated to the storm of biblical proportions and disappeared temporarily in a veritable whiteout. Just then a shout of “you boys” was heard in the distance. This from a teacher (never did identify) who had come to investigate the source of all the shouting and hooraying. Immediately, we dirty dozen scattered going our separate ways, laughing, slipping sliding and falling as we made our haphazard escape.

Terry and I continued on our way, deciding to walk home as it was more fun than waiting at a bus stop, with its inherent danger of being ambushed by people like ourselves. Most of the journey was relatively uneventful although we did take advantage of a couple of unsuspecting bus conductors standing on their open platforms. It was now dark and although illuminated, these were moving targets and far more challenging. But our snowballs must have hit their marks because on both occasions we were met with the gratifying shout of “ba$tard$” from the receding buses.

St James’s Church was our final port of call. By now it was dark and the snow was well over 6 inches deep. The church was built on a hill and was the ideal venue for sledding. Being resourceful lads, we employed our briefcases as sleds and for the next half hour or so had a most excellent time whooshing down the steep slope, eventually coming to a crashing halt against a stone wall. Eventually, feet numb, hands beyond numb and soaking wet from head to toe, we decided to call it a day. I arrived home half an hour later cold wet, but very happy. What a great afternoon. We had pelted and had been pelted by, a group of girls. Had seen off a determined attack by the two Amazons who had been bent on doing us bodily harm. Given the nosey bus driver a mouthful of snow. Escaped a wrathful teacher. Given two bus conductors a flying surprise and topped it off with a very enjoyable period of sledding.

I suppose their is always a price to be paid for naughtiness. Mine came later that evening when I resigned myself to crack a couple of books and do some homework. The resourcefulness of having used my briefcase as a sled, was not without its consequences. On opening it, I found that every book in there, text and exercise were sopping wet. As I dried the books one by one with a hairdryer, I wondered how I could explain my wrinkled books and lack of homework the next day. I needn’t have worried. It snowed that night and school was cancelled the next day.
 

DavidGrain

master brummie
I am a little puzzled by this story as I don't understand why you changed to a no. 8 at the Ivy Bush when you could have got the 7 (or 5A as it was in my day) all the way to Five Ways. By St Chad's Church I presume you meant St Germains Church. St James Church was a little off the no. 1 route.

I am not doubting your story, just checking some of the facts.
 

Harry Flashman

master brummie
David you are absolutely correct. The church on the corner in question was St Germain's Church. Terry and I were good friends and as he took the number 8 bus to Lee Bank Road and to his home on Ryland Road. During my time at City Road, I would take this minor detour so that we could spend time together, usually buying sweets from a newsagent at the Ivy Bush. The number 1 was good for me as it got me to Bristol Road. On snow day Terry and I did catch a number 8 to Lee Bank Road and then on to St. Jame's church. From there it wasn't a difficult walk to my home on the corner of Sir Harry's Road and Bristol Road. 56 years ago and while some facts remain clear, others of Brum, perhaps a little hazy due to my residing in the United States for the past 34 years.
 
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Annd

New Member
I was at the girls school from 1963/68 and in 1D Miss Dyer. Name then was Ann Hayes. Still in touch with Liz (Chancellor) and Denise (Hunt) and this week caught up with Christine (Palmer). I went back to the school a few years ago to discuss how they were dealing with mentoring and behaviour as we were amending our in-house practice. At this time my role was an Asst. Head of Year in another inner city school. It definitely had changed. The hall looked much smaller and all the boards with the names of past pupils had been removed.
 

DavidGrain

master brummie
Ann Welcome to the forum and in particular this thread.
Yes, when I went back in 2004 for the centenary of the City Road building, I noticed the names of previous pupils removed or blanked out. Although in fact, back when I was at GD (1955/60), the names were way out of date as more and more pupils went to university and got degrees. The old Boys hall was much smaller as additional class rooms had been built into it.
 

Harry Flashman

master brummie
I was at the girls school from 1963/68 and in 1D Miss Dyer. Name then was Ann Hayes. Still in touch with Liz (Chancellor) and Denise (Hunt) and this week caught up with Christine (Palmer). I went back to the school a few years ago to discuss how they were dealing with mentoring and behaviour as we were amending our in-house practice. At this time my role was an Asst. Head of Year in another inner city school. It definitely had changed. The hall looked much smaller and all the boards with the names of past pupils had been removed.

Do you remember Susan Meanwell and Fiona MacDonald?
 

Actongrumpy

The Quinton Kid
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Does anyone know the purpose of the tower, (apart from providing a hideaway for girls in need of a fag)? I presume it was in the girl’s school and it looks like it might have once held a bell.
 

DavidGrain

master brummie
As I understand it, it was disguising the chimney for the central heating furnace. This was a common feature in Victorian and Edwardian school and other local authority buildings. As I remember it from my days at the school it was actually in the primary school playground and I think the compound which might have held the coal or coke in the old days was at the base. With four schools in the same building the central heating would need to be a pretty large installation.
Wally Walker who was Second Master in the Boys Grammar School when I was at the school told us about the time during the war when he was in charge of fire watch duty that he climbed the tower and carried an unexploded incendiary bomb down from the top of the tower. There must be stairs inside the tower as I see windows.
 

Actongrumpy

The Quinton Kid
As I understand it, it was disguising the chimney for the central heating furnace. This was a common feature in Victorian and Edwardian school and other local authority buildings. As I remember it from my days at the school it was actually in the primary school playground and I think the compound which might have held the coal or coke in the old days was at the base. With four schools in the same building the central heating would need to be a pretty large installation.
Wally Walker who was Second Master in the Boys Grammar School when I was at the school told us about the time during the war when he was in charge of fire watch duty that he climbed the tower and carried an unexploded incendiary bomb down from the top of the tower. There must be stairs inside the tower as I see windows.
Thanks for that David. I’m in contact with a couple of old boys who now live in Australia and none of us could understand why we never knew the purpose of the tower or why we never enquired when we were there.
We were there in the early 50’s and, unfortunately, came into contact with Wal on several occasions - non of them very pleasant. Often wished that the Germans made better bombs! Just joking of course, (but I might be lying).
 

Colin Butters

proper brummie kid
I assume that any bells would be in that small ‘tower’ on the apex of the roof. I am sure that the big tower was not in the Boys Grammar school part of the complex.
Incidentally, I walked past the school a couple of years ago and the entrance to the building directly in line with the gate just to left of centre of the picture is not used any more. There were weeds growing all over the step and damp dust around the bottom of the doors. Looks to be in a rather sad state. Surely someone could ‘tidy up’ a bit!
I also noticed from Google Earth that Stanmore School which was built on the sports field at the back while I was there in the 1960s has gone and seems to be a car park.
 

Actongrumpy

The Quinton Kid
I assume that any bells would be in that small ‘tower’ on the apex of the roof. I am sure that the big tower was not in the Boys Grammar school part of the complex.
Incidentally, I walked past the school a couple of years ago and the entrance to the building directly in line with the gate just to left of centre of the picture is not used any more. There were weeds growing all over the step and damp dust around the bottom of the doors. Looks to be in a rather sad state. Surely someone could ‘tidy up’ a bit!
I also noticed from Google Earth that Stanmore School which was built on the sports field at the back while I was there in the 1960s has gone and seems to be a car park.
It appears that the entrance to the school is in Portland Road now with a car park off Stanmore in the corner of the playing field as you say. Presumably, this is because of the density of traffic on City Road.
I suppose that the front is a case of ‘ out of sight, out of mind’ - hence the mess. Sad.
 

DavidGrain

master brummie
Did not spot the chimney. It was behind the tower. Could be that the tower was a water tower. On a much larger scale this was the water tower for the former Holymoor Mental Hospital
1604931170556.png
 

Colin Butters

proper brummie kid
Thanks for that. When I was at the school, sometimes we went in through the entrance mentioned and sometimes in through a door which faced City Road but was down the side of the main building and only just out of shot in the photo. The tarmac leading to this door is just visible. If you were to go in the entrance shown and continue through the anti-hall, the headmasters room was off to the left. Carry on down the corridor to the end and turn left and left again and you would be at the inside of the alternative door I have described above. This entrance is also not used and I think the idea about traffic might be correct.
 
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DavidGrain

master brummie
I think the whole site was due to be rebuilt under the Building Schools for the Future programme but they ran out of money. I think it was the infants school which was built on the Girls playing field. The Portland Road entrance was, I think, the entrance for the King Edwards playing field. Stanmore Road School was built on the Boys playing field and was then later demolished. A new block was built on the King Edwards playing field called the Rumsby Block, named after the headmaster at my time and that has also been demolished. I did visit the school at the centenary of the City Road site in 2004 and found weeds growing the Back Quod.
 

Colin Butters

proper brummie kid
The Rumsby block was built when I was at the school. I vaguely remember an old pavilion where the block was built. It was off limits because it was all rotten and in a dangerous state. The pavilion we used was across on the other side of the field not far from where Stanmore school was built.
I remember that a school pupil lived somewhere opposite where the Portland Road entrance now exists. His father donated some books to the school library and when our biology master went to pick up the books, he discovered that this man was president of the Chrysanthemum Society of Great Britain or similar title. He had lots of pamphlets and other literature of said organisation and told our master all about it. A few weeks later, the biology master was called to pick up some more books. All the evidence of the Chrysanthemum Society was gone and replaced by another national organisation whose title I can’t remember. He was now president of this society instead. A very odd situation. His son was also a bit off the wall as I remember.
 
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