Bryn Oakley recalls…

Last updated: 2 Mar 02

Rats and bees

Looking after the rats in the biology lab. My brother looked after them for  ‘Creep’ (Mr Mason)  before me, so I was an obvious choice to follow on.

And those bees, we used to take it in turns and were proud of the fact that we always got stung, for we were ‘ard! In fact it was because we really didn’t know what we were doing, having had no real training, meant that we were doomed to be  stung. In fact we used to count the stings by the remains of bees on our skins! (We were wierd!) I remember one day having 28 stings, on my face, neck, legs and so on, and claimed the school record which as far as I know was never beaten!! However it came with a price. Years later after I had been
living in Devon for several years I kept bees. I got a few stings on my face one day and I became unrecognisable!! My face swelled so much that my nose disappeared due to the fact that my face swelled up beyond it! It turns out that due to all of those stings I had at school, my body reacted severely and I am now allergic to bee stings. My doc told me that if I am lucky, I may survive my next two stings, but will not survive three!

Sports Day

I remember those sports days when everyone would turn up and make noise. I used to be good at javelin throwing (I still have one of the old school javelins! I took it home to practice!! – honest “Boss” (Edgar) ). Anyway I had done well representing the school and remember going to Dudley with all the other athletes to compete in some Midland area competion. The only trouble was I was on crutches, having broken my leg in the summer holidays in a head-on collision on my scooter, with a car. Anyway the “Rat” (PE teacher, Wilf Hunt) told me I had to go and he said that I would just have to forego the run-up!! I was surprised when I came third out of eight schools in the javelin – in spite of the fact that a forward throw always leads to a
backward reaction – me – I fell over at every attempt!

I got my own back the following year. I was at home skaiiving off, when a mate (John Waring) came round on his scooter and said I had to go to school straight away. I had forgotten Sports Day!! Woe-be-tide my soul!! Anyway I jumped on the back of John’s souped-up Lambretta 125  and got from my home on the Woods Estate to school in about 4 minutes! Mr Bradley was our House Master (Lodge), he knew I could throw a bit, and the javelin was underway, I had been entered by him!! He was running it and had sent John to fetch me. Anyway the ‘Rat was standing a little further away than the other competitors had been throwing and it came to my turn. I let my first one go and the Rat saw it coming, the look on his face changed as the javelin went higher and higher. It began its downward descent and the Rat didn’t know which way to jump. The upshot was that he twisted his body at the last minute and the javelin was about two inches from his chest! The whole school cheered, caps were thrown and the Rat ran after me! I was gone. The throw was the winning one so my excuse was obvious, when I was called to see the “Boss” in his office – If Rat  was stupid enough to stand in the way…. I was let off…

I had had a previous performance with the Rat in the fourth year. That was when he decided to introduce boxing into the PE lessons. I was out playing football and Rat had got all of the ‘skaivers’ into the hall and thought it was a good idea to get them knocking seven bails of sh*t out of each other.  Anyway someone came out to the football pitch and told us so we all flocked into the hall. Rat was boxing Roy Paget (his favourite stool-pigeon) and was knocking him about a bit. He then offered himself to all comers (the fool).
The rest of my mates knew I could box a bit, so enticed me to put on the gloves. Being a ‘southpaw’ Rat didn’t square up to me and I just hit him once… hard! He ended up flat on his back, refusing to get up and carry on.
We all walked out, him still on the floor. I enjoyed the ‘hero’ moment whilst it lasted!! Paget was grateful anyway.

Other memories of later years …

Robert (E) Talbot and ‘Nat’ Hawthorne, both being science ‘profs’ used to spend all their spare time making bombs and guns for the rest of us to play with. Nitro-glycerine was one of the many things we had!! I am NOT kidding! They made it in the lab. We spent ages trying to blow up everything.  We progressed to putting in a team effort to make a crude rifle, to fire a ballbearing. Boy did that thing go! We fired it in the Physics lab. Into the wall at first, there was about ten ballbearings embedded in the wall come the end. We then tried other targets, including one of those wind up screens for projectors that were always laying on the floor against the wall. About four months later we had to get this screen out and when it was wound up there was a hole about every six inches all the way up it! We all laughed – the master at the time didn’t realise why.

Anyway one day after Talbot got into the habit of adding more and more explosive, the thing exploded – WHOW we were all deaf for a week! We ran as fast as we could out of the lab leaving everything behind. The deputy head (who HATED me and me him) came running down the bottom corridor and up the stairs in about five strides. “OAKLEY! What was that noise??” I could hardly hear what he appeared to be screaming at me. “Noise? What noise?” I rather dumbly replied, wondering if the ringing would stop. He opened the Lab door and it was full of smoke, you couldn’t see more than two feet. He ran off to phone the fire brigade and I ran into the lab and hid the rifle, I was hidden by the smoke. We got away with it as when quizzed further I told him that I had just turned up to my locker from being in the library. (My locker wasn’t outside the Physics lab it was somewhere else, but he never twigged).

Then there was the time when ‘Nat’ Hawthorne took some ‘Nitro’ home and put it on top of his wardrobe, not realising that it became more unstable with age!!………

One day Talbot discovered this chemical (which I will not name) which was stable when it was moist, but when it dried, it was extremely explosive. We tried it out on ‘Tats’ Taylor’s board wipe. Halfway through a lesson Pete Hackett picked it up with one of those window  opening sticks with a curly end, and dropped it on the floor. BANG the thing hit the roof!  Tats gave him 500 lines and told him to stop distracting the rest of the class! ….Classic!

Anyway we wanted a bigger target… Someone suggested spreading it around the school. so we came up with the idea of putting on the soles of our shoes then at period end we walked everywhere, and so did all the rest of the pupils, unwittingly spreading the stuff over the whole school. We couldn’t wait for end of the next period. Then it came but nothing happened! Then the next day, everyone was ‘crunching’ around the school, every step causing a minor explosion. The “Boss” called one of his “Emergency Assemblies”. Everyone trooped loudly into the hall and sat down. The ‘Boss’ came in and was walking on the stage asking for the perpetrators to own up, whilst crunching up and down the front of the stage! We were in hysterics and lying low. I got accused by him but did my usual duck and dive and got off with a severe warning. You know, all my mates got the cane at sometime or other fom the Boss, either publicly in front of the whole school or in his office. But I always talked my way out of it somehow. I even got to pretending to my mates that I had been caned, because they could not understand how I kept getting off, and neither could I. I was accused of being a ‘snitch’ which I most definitely was not, so pretending seemed a good way out. Sorry lads, but I NEVER got the cane after the first year and cannot explain it. Perhaps my future as a salesman started in those early years?

Mods rule OK

Did you lot remember us gang of ‘Mods’ when we were in the fifth and sixth years? We all used to go around together everywhere. Pete Hackett, Dave Blakemore, Alan Horton, Micky Bradshaw, Brian Hayward, Val Turner and so many more. Do you remember us coming to school on scooters and later in old vans – I had a Morris Minor van in pale blue with dark blue doors! It used to be a ‘Service Van’ and I rubbed off the ‘Ser’ part! Very popular with biology master ‘Ben’ Dearne!!

Moped Madness

Before the start of the ‘Woden Mods’ there was only one kid who was allowed to come to school on any sort of transport other than a bike. He was in the year above us. I cannot remember his name. All I can remember is that he had a reputation for being arrogant. His fave sport was to come into school at full throttle and try to run as many lower school pupils down as he could. Someone must have been giving 5 points for eveyone he knocked over ‘cos he was on a daily mission!! Anyway, one day he came in as usual but in his way was this streak of nothin’ called Bryn Oakley!! He aimed carefully and opened the throttle giving it everything the moped could muster. I looked at him as he approached. At first my reaction was to try to jump aside but ther was no time to get clear before he would be upon me, so I chose the other course – ATTACK!! I stood my ground as he came towards me gathering speed. At the very last second, I swerved to one side then shoulder barged as he passed me. I don’t quite know how I did it, but he was spread all over the car park, with his books everywhere. Meanwhile we just all calmly walked away leaving him picking himself and his moped off the deck. Needless to say no more ‘Fags’ were run over by him!! I  WISH I could remember his name.

Memories of Messrs Ede, McLure and Taylor

I remember Ghandi whose second nickname was ‘Spitfire’ for he used to spit slightly every time he pronounced an ‘S’. He was a very good teacher though.

I must add that even though we used to get up to all types of mischief the masters taught us well for we all got good ‘O’ & ‘A’ level results so some of  it must have stuck.

During the fifth year a new teacher came to teach Physics. I cannot remember his name [John McLure] but he was a really nice guy, we all liked him. He quickly gained the nickname ‘Red’ for we found that when we embarassed him he went red as a beetroot. We embarrassed him a lot after that but he always took it in good heart. He had come straight through school, teachers training college and on  to WBHS so was still quite young. Perfect fifth year fodder. He was really nice and we had some great laughs with him. He lost it a couple of times, going bright red in the process, so suffered the jeers of the whole class, and as a result often just walked out on us.

We were naive, and just out for fun. Then one day the “Boss” came into our lesson and told us that he had died during the night. “It’s you lot, you’ve killed him!” he said. We knew we hadn’t but were so shocked by his death that we were all speechless. No one hardly spoke for a week. We really did like him, and he liked us. He had told us on several occasions that he enjoyed our company for we didn’t give a damn! We had become close to him in a very short time and mourned his going for months. We didn’t really get over what the “Boss” had said, and all felt some youthly guilt, which of course we didn’t deserve.

Then along came ‘Tats’  – a completely different Kettle of fish! ‘Tats’ Taylor for Physics. He also taught my brother and his mates. He was always giving us lines to do for every small error. Roy Paget found a very lucrative income by writing lines for everyone at sixpence (old pennies) per 100 lines (that’s about 2.5p). He used to tape about five pens together all different colours and write five lines at once! Never mind the colours as long as the paper was full and the quota achieved, Then one day he went to sharpen a pencil into the basket at the front of the class and found that ‘Tats’ had only screwed up the lines instead of ripping them like all the other masters did. Paget and a guy called ‘Ellis’ had a new form of income. They would visit the basket as often as they could in the day, after all lessons, for he gave everyone lines. It was nothing for them to pick up 5 or 10 thousand lines a day! They sold them to everyone, all years. The same lines were recycled over and over. They were even given to other masters who invariably ripped them up. They ironed them every day. It all came to an abrupt end when Dave Blackmore (who had to do 15,000, yes 15,000! lines),  lifted ‘Tats’ book where he kept all the records of everyone who he gave lines to. His memory was bad. Dave removed the pages and returned the book. This became HIS new form of income for if anyone got lined off ‘Tats’  they paid Dave Blackmore to remove the page with their name on.

On another occasion, my brother’s lot played a trick on ‘Tats’. His fave thing to do was to walk around the class during lessons, with a wooden metre rule in his hand. He used to slap it on his neck as he walked around. Sometimes if you were the day’s idiot and didn’t answer his questioning promptly, you were the receiver of a whack on the head with said metre rule! They decided to get their own back. He often put the rule down for a few minutes, then would pick it up again and start slapping his neck with it. One day, he put the rule down and someone coated the end in vaseline. ‘Tats picked it up and sure enough spent the rest of the lesson slapping his increasingly sticky neck with the rule. This no doubt mixed very well with the residue of shaving cream he often came to school with around his ears!


On my way to school I used to pass down the gully from Woden Road East behind the school to St Paul’s Road. In the summer some lovely roses grew there. I picked one of them and stuck it in the lapel of my blazer one day. I got through most of the day when I heard “OAKLEEEY!” It was Edgar.

“What is that?”


“That thing in your blazer!”

“Why it’s a rose sir!”

“Take it off, what do you think this is – a wedding?”

“No sir, I just thought it would brighten everyone’s day”

“NEVER let me see you with it on again!”

The next day I picked another and put it in my pocket, Later, I had enough stupid courage to put it in my lapel. I was walking down the corridor, having forgotten the rose…… “OAKLEEEY! STOP!”

“What sir?”

“I told you not to wear that rose again!”

“I haven’t sir!”

“What’s that in your lapel then?”

“Oh that! That’s a different one sir! The one you told me not to wear again wilted, so I threw it away!”

Detention wasn’t so bad. Trouble was I was a prefect at the time! – The only prefect to ever get detention!!

These are only a few of the memories that are ‘loud’ in my mind. There are many others. More another time!Good luck to you all.