Posts Tagged ‘Schooldays’

Then and Now – Memory work in school

November 4, 2012

At a social gathering at my church this week we were given a quiz. One question was about the introduction of decimal currency and it suddenly occurred to me that no one under the age of 50 would know much about it; that must mean over half the population.

Bearing in mind that many elderly folk don’t have a computer and access to the internet I think it would be a fair assumption to say that approximately two-thirds of the visitors to this blog would have no personal experience of conditions during the 1930s and 1940s.

I’ve therefore decided to publish a series of posts on the “Then and Now” theme, comparing Pontypool life in the 1930s and 1940s with life today. If any visitors have any queries about this or if anyone has anything to add from their own memories, please feel free to make a comment or email me. I know that World War II is in the syllabus of many schools today so this information might be of use to any visitors who are teachers.


From conversations I’ve had with my grand-children, I gather that, in schools today, children are not required to learn much poetry by heart. When I was at Town School we had to learn a good many poems by writers like Wordsworth and Masefield and from time to time we had to chant them in class. As it was a Church school we also had to learn the Church of England Catechism and the Ten Commandments. This gave us an interest in poetry generally and I often liked reading poems which I found in books, especially if there was a comic element in them.

I have written in previous posts about the boys’ literature we loved to read in magazines like the Wizard, Hotspur and Adventure. I suppose I was fortunate in having at home a large book-case full of all sorts of books which my father had collected. I well remember one set of large red encyclopaedias – 12 volumes in all. There were many items in them to interest children including some poems and I spent many hours browsing through them.

I used to like reading the limericks by Edward Lear which were illustrated. Another poem which I often read was “The Story of Augustus” by Heinrich Hoffmann. He was a German psychiatrist who was also an author. He published a book called “Struwwelpeter” full of illustrated cautionary tales informing children what might happen to them if they misbehaved, told lies or in this case, didn’t eat their soup. The English translation below was publlshed in 1848.


The Story of Augustus,
Who Would Not Have Any Soup

By Heinrich Hoffmann

Augustus was a chubby lad; 

Fat, ruddy cheeks Augustus had; 

And everybody saw with joy 

The plump and hearty, healthy boy. 

He ate and drank as he was told, 

And never let his soup get cold.

But one day, one cold winter’s day,

He screamed out–“Take the soup away! 

O take the nasty soup away!

I won’t have any soup today!”

Next day begins his tale of woes;

Quite lank and lean Augustus grows.

Yet, though he feels so weak and ill,

The naughty fellow cries out still–

“Not any soup for me, I say:

O take the nasty soup away! 

I won’t have any soup today.”

The third day comes; O what a sin!

To make himself so pale and thin.

Yet, when the soup is put on table,

He screams as loud as he is able–

“Not any soup for me, I say:

O take the nasty soup away!

I won’t have any soup today.”


Look at him, now the fourth day’s come!

He scarcely weighs a sugar-plum;

He’s like a little bit of thread,

And on the fifth day, he was—dead!

Hello Pontypool!

June 6, 2008

I started at West Mon Boys’ School in Pontypool during the war in 1942. During one of our music lessons, our music master, “Toot” Steven informed us that we were going to borrow the Harrow School Song for our own use. I remember the opening verse very well:

Forty years on, when afar and asunder
Parted are those who are singing today,
When you look back, and forgetfully wonder
What you were like in your work and your play,
Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you,
Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song –
Visions of boyhood shall float them before you,
Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along.

I remember, at the time, feeling slightly nostalgic when I heard the words and thinking what a far-distant time we were singing about; although I did wonder how far flung we might all be and what we might be doing in forty years’ time.

Now I’m looking back, not over forty years, but well over seventy and I really do wonder what all those boys are doing and where they are. So I decided to start this blog. It’s possible that some of those old school friends might see it. I expect that there are old westmonians not only scattered all over the UK but all over the world. They might like to recall those “visions of boyhood” of yesteryear.

It’s not my intention to make this blog another “history of Pontypool” as there are plenty of those about already. This will be an intensely personal collection of recollections, almost at random as they occur to me; and I don’t want them necessarily to be only my recollections. If any visitors have any they’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them. This doesn’t mean only old westmonians of course, but everybody who’s ever lived in Pontypool and its surroundings.

Any visitor wishing to do this can either make a comment after any of the posts or they can email me at