Having been brought up in the sleepy, quiet, and peace-full countryside of Suffolk, you cannot imagine how I felt being
plunged into this noisy place with all these boys. I had never seen so many boys in one place at any time, I felt terrible.
Because the war was on, we were all sleeping in the basement of the main building, in most unsatisfactory conditions.
For the first few weeks, I was sleeping on a brick floor with a thin mattress and a couple of blankets. The possible reason
for being in the basement was, because a few days before my arrival at Goldings a bomb had fallen on a workshop and
killed the bandmaster, fortunately the only fatality, but never the less, very sad because he was a. very popular master.
In the basement there were all the pipes for the heating and hot water system, and as the boilers were fuelled with 'coke'
there were nasty fumes most of the time.
Not having any one to advise me as to what trade or calling I should learn, I decided as I had always enjoyed working with
wood, I would take up Cabinet Making, it sounded more interesting than being a Carpenter. Before getting into the
workshop to start this training, I was taken off toilet cleaning and upgraded to work in the 'Masters Pantry'. I was to work
under a very nice lady called Miss Owen. This job consisted of cleaning the plates of all leftovers and doing the washing
up. When I say washing up I mean washing up! There was a very large staff to run this college, so you can imagine the
quantity of plates and dishes that had to be washed. To make this job more difficult, I was not tall enough to reach the sink.
I had to stand on an upturned box, and the sink was an enormous wooden sink, big enough for me to have a bath in. I
would fill this with very hot water, wash the plates, cups and saucers, all the knives, folks and spoons, then having dried
them all, put them away into their proper places in wall cupboards and drawers, again to do this I had to stand on a stool
to reach the shelves in these cupboards. As soon as I had finished the breakfast dishes, it was ready to start again with the
lunchtime dishes and so on! I was very lucky to have this job, which lasted for a few weeks, because there were perks to
be enjoyed working in the pantry. I was in the position of helping myself to any leftovers from the Masters table, which
as you can imagine, was much better than the food we boys had in our mess hall!
Meal times were extremely noisy with three hundred plus boys all talking at once the din was almost unbearable. There
was always a master on duty, and the prefects had their own dining area in the main dining hall.
Each House had their own dinning tables, and as in Dickens time, the most senior boys were at the head of the table, with
the most junior at the far end. The senior boys also had to fetch the trays of food from the kitchen, serving hatch, and were
responsible for serving out the food to all the boys on his table. This meant that the junior boys only got a very small
portion of food, whereas the senior boys got extra large helpings. This led to the senior boys offering to 'sell' some of their
larger portion, to those boys at the far end of the table, for a 'steva' or 'duce' (a penny or two pence in old money) I hasten
to add, this practice was strictly forbidden.
When I eventually got a place in the Cabinet Work Shop, I started by learning how to use and sharpen and look after the
tools. Whilst learning this we were taught to recognise the different types of wood by their grain. Many hours were spent
practicing cutting and making the different types of 'joints' that are used in Cabinet making, and how to draw a plan of
what we were going to make to scale. Whilst we were being taught all these aspects of the trade, we were put to work on
making three-tier 'bunks' for the London Underground Air Raid Shelters, we didn't have time to make any furniture, but
we learnt a lot that would stand us in good stead for later on.
I was very fortunate because my home was in North London, and after I had been at Goldings for some weeks, I was able
to go home at weekends. I used to leave Goldings after lunch on Saturdays and walk to Hertford North station and take a
train to Bowes Park, where I would leave the train and catch a bus to Muswell Hill. I had to be back at Goldings by
Sunday evening. On entering the grounds, there was usually at least one prefect waiting to pounce on me, and search me
to see if I was carrying any cigarettes or other items that were considered 'out of bounds' and if there were, he would
confiscate them for his own use.
I spent just one year at Goldings, and when I came home for my Christmas leave in 1941, I was offered an apprenticeship
as a compositor in a printing works, which I accepted. Had I known this I could have opted for the Printing Trade instead
of Cabinet Making, but the training I had in Cabinet Making, has served me well throughout my life. After the formalities
of leaving Goldings, I was given a complete set of clothing, and officially restored to my mother and joined my family
with my other brothers and sisters.