|8 Apr 2021|
What was Bruton like in 1947 ?
Austere could be the word, but not quite prison.
In September, 1947 we arrived at Bruton station and I don’t think we were met. Fortunately it was down the hill to Old House, for we 12/13 year olds were not used to humping suitcases or the regulation tuckboxes. Teamsmanship emerged, and we crocodiled our possessions to the House. It didn’t stop there though, for Old House new boys were then moved to 38 High Street for their dorms.. All new boys were Fags – at the call of prefects and, it seemed so, senior boys. Essentially this meant shoe cleaning in the then boot-room in the Old House changing rooms (once a week it was the barbers). I never knew where the brushes and the Utility polish came from – everything was rationed – but things were polished or else. Gadd and Gorski were fearsome in the Upper Study. Thank God we all wore black footwear. Dubbin for Rugby/hockey boots (washed in the 3 never-cleaned, stained baths); cricket boots were always white !
Fagging for the innocents was pressurised, but we learnt how to handle it and it was the first step on the ladder, probably good for the eventual inner-man, and certainly a toughening-up process. New boys at that time were not very worldly, and soon I was appointed as a senior fag - whatever that meant, but I think it was licence to run errands into town!
Some flashbacks - British and Bruton life at that time was hardy and austere. Everything was rationed. Each month we were given a jam-jar half full of sugar and slice of butter, with half a pound of utility (mystery) jam. That was it for the month. Meals were served at table, with a master sharing out the dish. Can’t think that anyone wanted, or could get, seconds ! Sweets could be bought, if you had ration coupons, in the tuck shop run by Sergeant-Major English (who was also the backbone of the Cadet Corps). We discovered dried fruit ( apricots, bananas, etc) could be bought, unrationed, at the chemists. Clothes, again rationed and Utility grade, were bought in the High Street. I don’t remember where soap or toothpaste came from.
Our shilling-a-week pocket money, issued formally by the house master at Friday prep. was converted into sticky buns in Town, on Saturdays. Additional finance could be bought on account as stamps (easily traded !) in the tuck shop. Half the school had a lesson before breakfast. Scrumpy was 2d a pint ! I don’t think heating had been invented. The only paper readily available was lines paper - a bit like music paper, but with lines spaced and printed in colour so your lines had to be fulfilled in copperplate format – or else ! All the masters were too old for military service and it showed ! How some of them walked from Plox to the Memorial Buildings was a mystery ! I’ve no memories of masters wearing shorts or running on the sports fields. The drum and bugle band marched both ways, through the High Street weekly – there were few cars.
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