As one of the initial intake in 1954 into what was then known as CVTS, I found myself in the very unusual situation of being a pupil at a school at which my father was headmaster! We lived in Beckenham, where my father had been head of Beckenham Technical School, he having lived in the town all through the war years, during which time my mother, older brother and I had been evacuated to live in glorious Gloucestershire, where my relatives farmed. Having attended my first two schools in Beckenham, the eight miles to Cray in the early days seemed quite a trek, and whilst certain concerns had come to mind about having my father as headmaster, one major advantage soon became very obvious, namely that if I was late for school, so was he!
Leo Walmsley, who also lived in Beckenham, travelled to school with us in the early years, until he got himself a Morris 8 and became independent. We also collected Mrs Malins on our way through Chislehurst. The journey was usually fairly uneventful, except for one particular night during a period of ‘smogs’. During the journey home, it became progressively thicker, and as we neared Beckenham, the only way we and other vehicles could progress safely was for a passenger (in our case a certain art master!) to walk in front of the car as a guide. Many others adopted the same idea, though there were vehicles abandoned on pavements and all over the place. It was a nightmarish experience which on a second night of the same weather we were not prepared to repeat, and my father and I slept in the medical room at school!
There were also occasions when we dropped Sam Mayo off at the train station (which one I can’t recall) for his homeward journey. He would sit in the back seat with me, my father and Mrs Malins in the front, and we dreaded what became a regular request from Sam which was ‘do you mind if I smoke’, which was a pipe! Needless to say windows were quietly wound down before we had travelled very far!
Looking back on my days at CVTS, they were generally enjoyable, my father ensuring that I was treated in exactly the same way as my contemporaries, and there was one occasion when I and a number of others were sent to him having been ticked off for playing football on the cricket pitch!
I left school with a wide range of ‘ O’ level GCE’s but no A levels, having failed the two which I took simply through not working sufficiently hard. Having a number of relatives who were farming, and having spent most school holidays on one or other of their farms, my intention on leaving school was to ultimately become a farmer, and to this end I spent the required pre-college year on a farm before entering Harper Adams Agricultural College for what should have been a two years NDA course. However, at the end of the first term, whilst back in Gloucestershire, I was offered a position with a local agricultural co-op as a salesman, which was to be the start of over 50 years in sales. My father was none too pleased at my decision to opt out of college, but was very aware that my prospects of becoming a farmer were slim, simply because I did not come from a farming family. I quickly realised that I had done the right thing, as he did, and found selling to farmers over the next few years a very satisfying occupation (though not particularly rewarding financially), which both enabled me to be involved in agriculture, but on the other side of the fence (literally!), and at the same time work in my beloved Cotswolds.
The agricultural connection continued through to the present day. I spent some years working for a big veterinary/pharmaceutical manufacturer, selling animal health products to vets, which was great. In most cases, the ‘pitch’ would take place in the operating room, which gave one much more time with the vet, though was not for the squeamish! This was followed by several years working with a vitamin/mineral supplement manufacturer, supplying agricultural feed manufacturers.
From the mid-1980’s, I became involved in what was a revolutionary new on-farm technique of machine- wrapping baled haylage in a special polythene stretch-film, a process which grew rapidly in popularity, and in 1990 I was seconded by a Swedish polythene manufacturer, and was offered a sales/technical role which took me not only around the UK and Ireland, but also on occasions to clients as far away as Japan.
In 1995, I was approached by a direct competitor, who are the largest UK polythene manufacturers, British Polythene Industries. This was to continue selling stretch-film into agriculture, and involved a considerable amount of foreign travel, both around Europe and long-haul. Travel was always very comfortable in business-class, and this has had the lasting effect of making ‘economy class’ travel, particularly for long-haul flights, a most unattractive prospect, never mind the ever increasing hassle at airports!
I ceased full employment with BPI in 2008, who then asked me if I would be prepared to go self-employed and they would then use me as a sales/technical consultant, which I continued with for a further 4 years. During this time, a new market for stretch-film opened up in the energy-from-waste business, and I launched BPI’s product range into this market. Then, believe it or not, as soon as my contract ended, the Swedish manufacturer for whom I worked in the 1990’s contacted me to introduce their film into this new market, in which role I am still working. My view of the retirement years is that you should find something you enjoy doing. To some this would be golf, but I still get the same buzz from sales as I always did, and there is the added bonus of getting paid for what I enjoy!
I have been married to my wife, Dee, who originates from St.Helena island (think Napoleon!) since 1968, and we have one son and two teenage grandsons, who all live in Devon. Our son also works for a Swedish company! We lived in Broadway, Worcs., for 17 years after we were married, and moved down to our present home near Stroud, Glos in 1985. Dee ran a guest house for some 13 years.
I celebrated my 70th birthday in the air – wing-walking on a bi-plane, which was fantastic. Having expressed my enjoyment, my family thought that they would take things a step further, and arranged a hands-on aerobatics experience over the south-coast, which was quite different but every bit as exhilarating.
My father died in 1988, having retired in 1966 at the age of 60 with my mother to the Chipping Campden area of Gloucestershire, where my mother’s brothers had farmed for many years. They both became very much involved in local activities in their village of Mickleton, and from 1968 we were living close by in Broadway. They continued to keep in touch with some ex-CVTS staff, and enjoyed occasional visits from Sam and Grace Mayo, who had friends in nearby Gloucester. Mum died in 2002, at the ripe old age of 95, having suffered a major stroke following what was a successful hip operation, and during what was her only hospitalisation in all those years. It was great that my parents were able to enjoy so many happy healthy years of retirement, which was particularly gratifying for my father, having given his all to education, and having achieved so much, not least having received a CBE for his contribution to education.
I am sure that he would be extremely proud if he knew of the continuing interest shown by so many of our colleagues in keeping the CVTHS flame alive, and the magnificent job that Colin Cadle has made of the website, which has been the key to ensuring that we can all maintain contact with our contemporaries.
I think that we were all very fortunate to have attended what was clearly an excellent school. I also feel fortunate to have lived the past seven decades, rather than the next seven, which, with the sad state of so much of the world, are not such an attractive prospect!