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Saturday, 15 September 2007

St Bonaventures, Maths and Jam

Two pictures of Hartleys Jam factory. For a fuller explanation of the cow on the roof go to the end of this post and you'll appreciate how Monty Python really won World War 11.

St Bonaventures was located at the bottom of Cedar Road. Next to it was a field of coarse, yellowing grass. Hartley’s Jam factory stood on the other side of the field. We could smell jam during PE, History, Geography, jam in maths, and English, jam in R.E.

If Monty Python had attended St. Bonaventures, they’d have written the ‘Jam Song’ instead.

The top of Cedar Road opened out into Walton Vale. On one corner was a black Methodist Church. When I was young, very young, I assumed there was a quarry somewhere that provided black stones exclusively for Methodist Churches. The industrial grime pervading most northern cities - and our lungs - didn’t figure in a child’s mind. What did figure was the grimness of the church and its posters, exhorting us to save our souls - follow Jesus or else - and something called love that bore an unfortunate relationship with old women and tea. The words were in red or violent magenta, and, like Northern grime, pervaded my world outlook, added to a general sense of gloom.

Facing the church was the Black Bull Inn, where the damned drank, and where we would too, one day. On the other side of the road, separated by a tiny park consisting of gravel two benches and black-painted railings, was the Midland Bank. Mammon and God, and us in between, with only the smell of Jam to sustain us.

The school was newly built and playground politics resembled Dodge City. Two other schools, Blessed Sacrament and Holy Name fed into it and with it, their established gangs and pecking orders.

Presiding over everything was Mr Coleman, stern, avuncular, and largely dressed in grey. He reminded me of a bear, who fed on honey and boiled egg, and growled when he was hungry, and caned you when you’d done wrong. These are the things that go through a small boy's head when other things around him don’t make much sense.

I’d seen egg crumbs on his grey pullover once - so that was a fact. Maths however was not a fact, important but largely incomprehensible. Mr Roberts taught us. He wore a tweed jacket, was sarcastic and dry, and I liked him because he was funny. He did a good job, teaching very large classes, his voice occasionally reaching me where I sat at the back.

My ‘Road to Damascus’ moment was when he introduced fractions. I was brilliant with addition, subtraction, even multiplication. I was getting the hang of these little buggers. Then, one day he drew breath and announced he was about to teach us how to divide fractions. I knew at that moment we were about to attempt the impossible. It was the way he drew breath.

“Well, boys,” (There were girls in the class but he never addressed them. I didn’t think it peculiar at the time) “Well, boys,” he said. ‘To divide fractions…you turn them upside down…” He paused. “And multiply them!” He glared round the classroom as though daring anyone to argue, or question the sense of it, and I dropped my pencil and lowered my head. This was all nonsense, nothing compared to the smell of jam.

The Blitz began in 1940 and, as was promised by William Joyce (better known as Lord Haw Haw), it started over Liverpool.

Another promise he made was to put "jam on the crackers", a reference to the bombers' aim to blow up Jacob’s Cream Cracker factory, which was situated next door to Hartley’s jam factory.

The threat was taken seriously by the management of Hartley’s who had already installed a fire-watch on the eight storey building. The previous week in the local area of Walton Vale a pub called the ‘Windsor Castle’ had been demolished by the Luftwaffe, also the local Catholic Church of ‘Blessed Sacrament’ had had its roof blown off. The bombers were after the local Royal Ordinance factory and so the area was to be targeted again and again.

Some diversion or camouflage was called for so the management of the two factories met together to discuss ideas. The roof of Hartley’s was chosen to be the area of camouflage as it was the larger of the two factories. They planned to paint the roof of the factory green and place rocking wooden cows on it. From a great height the cows would appear to be moving in a field, and so there appeared black and white Friesian cows on the roof of Hartley’s.

Unfortunately nobody had calculated the effect of high winds on these strange rocking creatures and one flew off and landed on an adjacent railway line causing the line to short circuit. A major enquiry was held and the rocking cows were retired from service.

No one is sure whether this story is true. But apparently ‘rocking cows’ were found in an old store room in Hartley’s factory.

True or false? It’s up to you to decide.

From ‘ Forty Square Miles of Walton’ by the Walton on the Hill History group, 2000


Anonymous said...

Reading this provided great memories, especially of Mr. Roberts, THE best teacher St. Bonnies had by far !!!!!

Mike Keyton said...

A belated reply. I almost agree. For me it was Mr Bird, history followed by Mr Roberts

beryl shilton said...

so many memories, thanks for this, mr. roberts was brill, loved him and mr. bird. i was in first first year in 1966 beautiful new school .

Mike Keyton said...

Hi Beryl, I'm glad it brought back good memories. Thanks for the feedback. I think what I liked in both Mr Roberts and Mr Bird was their intelligent and never unkind sarcasm that made you laugh rather than take offence.

you must have entered Bonnies as I was leaving/recently left. And yes, I imagine the school still looked new and fresh. I'm trying to remember the Domestic Science teacher. She gave me a year of cookery when they discovered I wanted to be a chef

Margaret MUSOLINO said...

Margaret Metcalfe: I started at Bonnies in 1970.Mr Coleman was there as headmaster my whole time there. Miss mooney was deputy head and taught needlework. Miss McGurk was our domestic science teacher. Miss Miller taught commerce and typing. Mr Slade, physics was very sweet and retired in 1975 when I finished. Mr Stanley, history. Walter Bridson, geography. Margaret Richardson, English. Miss Hammond, chemistry. Hilary Balfour, french. Mr Riley, maths. He was a tall, slight balding man with a comb-over and he'd put his hand to his head and say,"rack your brain!" Mr Bird was a house leader,I think. He never taught my classes. Mr Holt took computer class, (which I didn't take)and dj'd the lunch time discos in the newly built hall (canteen adjoined). One new penny entry, which he used to buy records. I could go on and on, I think. Oh, yes a special African student teacher called miss Adimi was so nice and invited a group of us girls to her accommodation one Saturday afternoon.
margaret musolinoa@gmail.com

Mike Keyton said...

Hi Margaret, I was halfway through my university course in 1970, but it seems St Bonaventures remained much the same. I found it a very warm and friendly school with more characters than you could shake a stick at. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your memories.

Brian Taafe said...

I started there in 75 and left in 1980 a lot of the teachers mentioned were still around throughout my time there, reading this brought back some good and bad memories. Walter bridson, nick stanley and Tony Mason being my favourite teachers of my time there and no doubt it was those that inspired me to go into teaching

Mike Keyton said...

They may have influenced my decision to go into teaching as well. Not too sure how I feel about that 😉 though it did allow me to teach in New York for one glorious year in New York. It was a teacher exchange program and I ended up in A nice condo in Jackson Heights teaching in St Agnes Academic school for Girls, whilst ended up in a much tougher school in Newport.both of us enjoyed the experience

Paul samosa said...

I left St bonaventures,the one at the bottom of cedar road,I left school in 1979 my is Paul samosa

Margaret MUSOLINO said...

Paul samosa, did you have a sister Donna? I think she was in my year, but not in my class and not for the whole time I was there...September 1970-July 1975.

John Swanson said...

Hi, I started in the same class as Margaret in 1970 and can remember a few other teachers; Mr King (English) Mr Jones (Music and first year Geography), and Mr Hammill (History) who I think also played football for Marine FC. There was also Mr Capaldi (Woodwork), Joe Crowe (Metalwork) and Dennis Roberts (Sports). I remember the ‘cross country’ runs we used to do up to Jacob’s then across a large field towards Evered Avenue before turning right and heading back towards Hartley’s and on to Hunslett Road – it must have only been a couple of miles but seemed a lot further at the time.
I can’t remember any computers being there, but I still have the slide rule that we had to buy in first year – I think Mr Riley must have been on commission to sell them!
Most enjoyable were the geography trips with Wally Bridson to Yorkshire and the Lake District, and the trip to Chester Zoo when ‘Arrowsmith’ was the winning house one year – the other houses were Almond, Campion and Mayne, all named after English Martyrs.
Thanks for the great article and for bringing back many happy memories of St. Bonnies.
John Swanson

Mike Keyton said...

A very belated Hi Paul and thanks for dropping by

John, I'm glad the article brought back memories. St Bonaventures always brings a smile when I think on it - which is more than can be said for many schools

Unknown said...

Hi chaps, my name is Brian Smith. I started at St Bonnie's in 1961. First in class 1a with Beryl Shilton I notice who commented earlier. Mr Coleman was head.Mr Stanniford metal work, Mr Capaldi tech drawing and wood work. Mr Bird geography,Mr Slade physics, Mr Roberts maths..... Good times. I left in 1966 with a good all round education. Entered Civil service in 1967, change of direction to Volume Housebuilding in 1971, Directorship at 33, the rest is history as they say. I am a lucky boy and owe a lot to St Bonnie's. Now an affluent retiree. Contact me on bpturnersmith@aol.com

Brian Smith said...

Hi Beryl, hope u r well. Remember u well. Brian.