“Of course, we were much younger then” (2)

This is a second series of photographs taken by the Reverend Charles H Stephens. They portray some of the actors in the Junior Plays during the academic year 1976-1977. All of them were in Form 2L. What is most striking is how the actors have begged, stolen or borrowed, items from ordinary life and then, by putting them all together, have created a character for their own particular Junior Play.

The first picture shows the actors in a drama whose plot I cannot begin to imagine. It must surely involve a huge admirer of Harpo Marx, whose hobbies include cross dressing in those night dresses you get in the Hammer Horror films of the period. Just to prove the point, on the right is a sinister Christopher Lee type figure, presumably waiting patiently for a cup of luke warm blood from the demented waiter in the middle:

Picture Two shows the Exorcist in the middle, apparently wearing some of the Reverend’s robes that had shrunk in the wash and were therefore surplice to requirements. The little boy on the left clearly has completely the wrong end of the stick when it comes to the rule that “Junior Plays are not performed in School Uniform”. Just taking your tie out of your jacket will not be enough. And on the right, the happy little chap who won the North of England “Neat shirt sleeve folding” competition for the next fourteen years running:

The third photograph shows a capacity for violence compatible perhaps with “Straw Dogs” or “Clockwork Orange”, two films of the time. On the left is the little boy who had clearly decided that the winner of the Junior Plays will be decided not by the judging panel nor the Ballot Box but by the Armalite. In the middle is the representative of the Metropolitan Police, looking a little morose, perhaps, but with his plastic policeman’s helmet, just like you get in toy shops, jauntily on the back of his head:

The boy on the right looks rather sad too. The police had promised to help him find, and then recover, his trousers. Still, that dress is rather nice and compliments perfectly his top garment, whatever it may be. A housecoat? Or the “Something more comfortable” that dubious young women with dyed blonde hair are keen to get into?

Next is the Junior Play set at Woodstock with three classic haircuts, two state of the art guitars and one army surplus coat in two extra small. Note the camouflaged ex-US Army cap that fishermen wear and always cover with lots of badges. Note, too, the denim waistcoat complete with war surplus sew-on USAAF wings:

The final photograph shows the final three actors. On the right is the cowboy, whose costume is the easiest of the lot. A pair of jeans, a heavy, thick shirt, your Dad’s fishing hat and your little brother’s cap gun. And in the middle, somebody to whom you’d really have to pose that embarrassing question “And who are you meant to be, sonny?”. Well, he has made a fair attempt at reconstructing the beret of the Parachute Regiment, but the shirt and the trousers are a strange combination. Note the snake belt fastening, incidentally, which was then compulsory for all small boys to wear at least once before they reached the age of fourteen. On the left, he must surely be something Arabian, but exactly what I am not so sure. He has his mum’s tea towel over his head, held on with elastic, and a pair of wide, flared, bell-bottomed trousers which belong to his sister. Presumably his mother hasn’t noticed her missing Laura Ashley curtains in the third bedroom. Let’s hope too that that is a plastic scimitar and that the bra-like garment over his shirt has not been borrowed from his sister:

Next time, we’ll look at some of the School Plays over the years.

They laboured under a terrible handicap, which is clearly stated in the School Magazine:

“After the First World War, the Dramatic Society would put on an annual play for their parents and their siblings and friends to come and see. Usually, it was a classic, although not always by Shakespeare. The problem was that the School was for boys only and, in the words of the School Magazine: “The Dramatic Society has always hesitated to produce a modern play because of the difficulty of finding boys capable of filling the female parts. Twentieth Century dress does not lend itself so well to the purpose of transformation as do Elizabethan and Georgian costumes”.



Filed under History, Literature, Nottingham, The High School, Writing

19 responses to ““Of course, we were much younger then” (2)

  1. I do hope these lads have all got copies, or at least read your blog.

    • Quite a few of them read my blog, but there is also an “Old Nottinghamians” Facebook page where I post the links to any articles I have written about the school. At the moment there is quite a vigorous discussion going on about these photographs, discussing the identity of the boys and whether the boy wearing the woman’s nightie is enjoying it too much.

  2. School plays can be hysterical. Some of the players are too embarrassed to be on stage and others think they are the next Lawrence Olivier!!

  3. Chris Waller

    The boy on the left in the first picture probably spent the next few years in therapy. I bet he doesn’t attend school reunions.

    • At the moment the identities of these young actors are being discussed on the Old Boys’ Facebook page. So far, I can’t see any name being put forward for the Nightie Boy, but comment has been made that he seems to be enjoying it all a little too much!

  4. Jan

    By the mid-late Seventies, Chas was one of only a handful of masters still wearing a gown on a regular basis. IIRC the others were John Hayes, Dennis Usher, Andrew McMurchy and (possibly) David Padwick.

    • I would have seen these gentlemen for the first time in 1975 and to tell you the truth, I can’t really remember either way about their gowns. Forced to say yay or nay for David Padwick, I would say that he didn’t wear a gown but I might well add David Peters to the list of gown wearers.

  5. Nice article you have made. I really appreciate your efforts.

  6. Dress up days and school play costumes are the stuff of nightmares. World book day puts the fear of god into me, “Come as your favourite book character” always follows with “and who are you supposed to be?” When they turn up in ordinary non-school uniform. We have a Harry Potter day this week, why oh why do they inflict such atrocities upon us mere mortals!

    • I really feel for teachers nowadays. They are expected to cope with anything that a group of teenagers can come up with, and are paid a pittance for the privilege. My brother, now recently retired, taught in schools near Derby, and likened the school day to an army foot patrol in a hostile country Some of my daughter’s friends tried teaching but two or three years later, they have all packed it in. Teaching practices in Leeds wasn’t the smartest idea, perhaps!

      • I can relate to that John. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I’m lucky that I am approaching that time where I can consider retiring early, and seriously am. If I was younger I’d leave in an instant!

  7. What a fun post, John!! Really enjoyed this one! Thank you!

  8. Ýour photos surely are treasures. And they took me back…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.