BOYS at the City of Oxford High School staged a strike in protest at the quality of school dinners.

Former pupil Mike Brogden says the lunches were terrible and he and some of his classmates refused to eat the food.

He recalls: “Once a week we had a horrible cheese flan. There was often an unpleasant-looking semolina in a big washing-up bowl. The headmaster Fred Lay, in the Oxford Mail, said it was a ‘storm in a teacup’.

“I complained so much at home about the food that my parents eventually arranged for me to have lunch at Granny Brogden’s house in Thames Street. She got the lunch money and I got food I enjoyed.”

This is one of his many memories of the school, which occupied a site on the corner of George Street and New Inn Hall Street for 85 years until its closure in 1966.

Mr Brogden, who lives at Much Wenlock, Shropshire, has sent Memory Lane a panoramic picture of pupils and staff at the school in 1952. The right-hand section is reproduced above.

He recalls that boys were always known by their surnames and most of the teachers had nicknames.

One ordeal pupils faced was the weekly ‘cap parade’ organised by Mr Lay on Mondays, standing in the playground in forms and following orders to ‘stand to attention’ and ‘stand at ease’.

“Fred marched up and down, perhaps reliving his service in the First World War but without the horse. Another teacher playing the role of sergeant major barked out the orders.

“Fred also made monthly appearances in each form to announce the ‘merit order’ when we moved seats – top boy to the front right, bottom boy to back left.

“Perhaps this was intended to encourage us to work harder, but how these decisions were made was never explained.”

Mr Brogden remembers ‘Pongo’ Bodey as deputy head, school disciplinarian and physics teacher.

“He was good at all three jobs. He arranged the evening and Wednesday afternoon detentions so I got to know him quite well.”

Other staff included ‘Titch’ Wright – “when we joined his O-Level class, we soon realised how little French we had been taught in earlier years” – ‘Spud’ Taylor, who taught biology and was keen on athletics, ‘Jock’ Wright, an “excellent and systematic teacher of English” and RR Coleman, a “very organised and clear” chemistry teacher.

‘Flea’ Lee, who taught Latin, is remembered for his use of a length of lead pipe (the ‘lambaster’) and throwing an ink bottle at disruptive pupils.

“When the top came off one bottle and covered a boy’s uniform with ink, Flea panicked and offered to pay for the cleaning.”

Mr Brogden also recalls ‘Froggy’ Freeborn, who taught music and French, and ‘Sherlock’ Holmes, who taught PE and English.

And who else can recall the occasion when Froggy’s successor as music teacher, ARV Rowland-Jones, started to play the grand piano at assembly, only to find knives and forks jamming the strings?

Old boys from the High School will be holding a lunch in Oxford on Sunday, October 2 to mark 50 years since the school’s closure.

Keep your memories rolling in.