Page Compiled November 2015

Victor King Story

And so in conclusion how do I sum up my time in Goldings. In all honesty I wish circumstances had been different so
that I never had to go there in the first place. I found the experience very wearing, always having to compete and
constantly being on your guard for trouble around every corner. I remember getting a rash from a coconut mat in the
gym and being isolated in the sick bay. They thought it was chicken pox or something contagious. I didn't tell them
because being in isolation and waited upon was like heaven, almost like being in a proper home - no pressure. OK, so
a normal upbringing is not like that, but the fact remains that many children did, and still do enjoy the comforts and
support of a normal upbringing. In my case and all the other Barnardo children, that was not possible, but I have to say,
there were many worse places to be than in Dr Barnardo's Homes and that includes the environment I was in prior to my
admittance.

Victor King 52-55

All images and text copyright © to Goldings Old Boys reunion members

Victor Kings Profile

Victor King Recalls

Arriving at a new school is a very daunting prospect for any young child whether it is a private, public, or a Dr Barnardo's
school. I was filled with apprehension and fear as I stood on the empty parade ground looking up at this huge building.
All around was deathly quiet as I contemplated my fate but suddenly bedlam erupted when the workshops and school empted
out. Of all days, I had to arrive on "linen change" day! The ritual of changing bed sheets, towels etc. could not take place
until every member of a dormitory was present. Woe betides any late comer, for they would have to run the gauntlet up the
spiral staircase under a hail of abuse and flailing towels. Although nobody really got hurt, the screaming and shouting
convinced me I had come to a mad house.

Things were to get no better when I was allocated my dormitory. I do not remember the House name but it was on the
second floor on the left. I do remember only too well the House Captain, a surly fellow about six feet tall and reputed to
be an Amateur Boxing Association champion. On the first night I did not sleep well and was already awake when the
bugle sounded reveille at seven am. From his bed the House Captain ordered us to the ablution block and to get back
quick. On our return we had to clean the dormitory. We moved the beds from one side of the dormitory to the other,
thereby leaving a clear space to clean the floor. With cloth rubbers we got on our hands and knees in a line, and positioned
ourselves on the first floor board. The House Captain, still in his bed, barked out: "rubbers to the left - fifty on a board - rub".
We shouted out the number of rubs as we progressed backwards across the floor: - "47, 48, 49, 50, change boards, 1, 2, 3, 4..."
and so on. Having cleaned that side of the dormitory, we would then move all the beds from the other side which included
the House Captain's bed, and yes, he was still in it. When the dormitory was completely clean we would fold our bed c
overs in military fashion and prepare to parade for breakfast. At this time the House Captain would arise. His 'bed-boy'
would arrive with his clothes and would virtually dress him.

We paraded on the square before proceeding into the dining room. Having queued up for my breakfast I sat down to eat
it when the House Captain said "You don't want your bacon, do you King?" Well yes I replied, which must have been
something of a surprise to those around the table. However, I skirted around the bacon and eventually gave it to the
House Captain. "About time too" he said. I believe it was some time before I was allowed to eat my bacon but like many
of the other boys, I developed a great liking for what I shall call the "Goldings doughnut". This was fried bread, of which
there was always a plentiful supply, covered with marmalade. Yes it really did taste like doughnuts
.

I am aware the picture I am painting of the House Captain is not a good one but this is how it was. House Captains and
their prefects appeared to have total autonomy. The thought of going to a Master with complaints was completely out of the
question. At the time I thought that some of the Masters were just as scared of the older House Captains and Prefects as we
were. The following incident was typical of rough justice metered out by them.

We were in the process of cleaning the dormitory one morning when we discovered a pool of water under one of the beds.
The occupant of the bed was on 'Verney duties', which meant he left early in the morning to assist with cooking and cleaning
in the Verney, and did not return until late at night. I knew things were serious when the House Captain actually got out of
bed unaided to investigate. It was quite obvious that the occupant had wet his bed and covered it up instead of taking the
wet bed linen to the drying room. The House Captain was furious and ordered all cleaning to cease.
After lights-out that evening I could hear the House Captain and his prefects whispering in the corner.

My bed was immediately opposite the half glazed dormitory door and I could see the light from the passage through the frosted
glass. I heard someone say "here he comes" and there was a shuffle. As the boy was about to enter, the door was suddenly
opened from the inside and the boy received a vicious punch in the face. He staggered down the corridor screaming. Later a
Master appeared but all of the participants claimed to have been asleep and the incident was forgotten.
The boy was obviously in the wrong and deserved some sort of punishment but the shock of this surprise attack, and the
severity of the blow, was completely unwarranted.

Before moving on to lighter topics I would like to mention the kangaroo courts that the prefects used to hold in the old
wooden recreation hut. I believe at that time their club was also located in the hut. The courts were still a form of bullying
but were only meant to be a bit of fun. Fun that is for the prefects but not so funny for the victims. I was a victim on one
occasion having been waylaid by a "snatch squad" as I crossed the parade ground. I joined another unfortunate soul who
had been caught the same way. We faced the court which consisted of a judge, guess who? my House Captain, a jury,
and a defence lawyer. I forget what the charge was but it didn't matter because the accused were always found guilty. I
suppose the only funny thing about the process, was when the defence lawyer was asked if he had any defensive
evidence or mitigating circumstances to offer. With his head buried in a newspaper, which it had been from the outset,
he said he had none to offer. And so the dreaded sentences would be read out. My fellow prisoner was bent over the
billiard table and given strokes across his bottom with a billiard cue, not too many and not too severe. I was sentenced
to be thrown in the holly bush, so it was off with my shirt and in I went.
(When I visited some fifty years later that holly
bush was still there).

Towards the end of my first year at Goldings some radical changes took place to the Housing structure and I am sure it
had something to do with the bullying that went on. It was decided that the school would be split in two, with separate
junior and senior living accommodation. Boys below fifteen years old would occupy dormitories on the top floor and the
lower floors would be occupied by the older boys, some of which could be approaching seventeen. For some unknown
reason I was given the position of House Captain of one of these junior houses. I suppose it was because I was the
captain of the junior football and cricket teams and beginning to feature in other sporting activities. I do however
remember one Master saying to me "King, you are a natural leader. The only question is; in which direction will you
lead?" What could he mean?

The preceding paragraphs might suggest that I was unhappy in Goldings and I suppose for the first six months or so that
was the case. But as time passed I got involved with the excellent sporting facilities that were available and began to settle
down. I hesitate to say I actually enjoyed it but life became bearable. The sporting year started off with boxing and in
that first year I was "persuaded" to enter by my House Captain. Even with the excellent tuition of Joe Patch, I didn't
think I was prepared for my debut in the ring. Sitting down in my corner at the beginning of the bout, I thought about
keeping my right up and feinting with my left. Yes things would be OK! The bell went and I remember getting off my
stool and didn't remember a thing until I sat down again, completely out of breath. The bell went for the second round;
I got up and then ... nothing. Next thing I remember is being held up by Snowy White outside the gym, I had been
knocked-out cold.

The following year things were slightly different. I was now the Captain of a junior house and had to persuade my
colleagues to enter the boxing tournament. I would like to think my persuasion was different to that used in the
previous year. I was lucky in one respect; those in my house who did not want to enter said it was because of the size of
their opponents. Well I had the answer to that, for I had to face Wiesenburg. Wiesenburg was a black boy with muscles
bulging from everywhere and the last thing I wanted to do was to get in the ring with him. But I was the House Captain
and had to "lead from the front!" Anyway it worked and we all entered. Once again I seated in my corner wondering
who will be supporting me outside the gym this year. The bell went and I began to dance around the ring keeping a fair
distance from this man-mountain in front of me. I started to feint with my left and this made Wiesenburg blink furiously.
Gaining in confident I began to follow through with my right, and surprise surprise, I won.

The following year I was approaching sixteen and quite a big boy for my age. I remember taking size nine shoes and was
worried about what size they would be by the time I was twenty one. I need not have worried because I stopped growing
there and then. However, boxing time was here again and this time I am one of the three heaviest boys in the school. The
other two were my mates and we were in the 11.7 to 12.0 stone weight range. There was no way we wanted to box each
other so we evolved a cunning plan for two of us to be outside of this weight range. We drew lots as to who would starve,
who would stay as they were, and who would eat like a horse. I drew the latter option and for about a month ate
everything I could get my hands on. By the time of the weigh-in I was well over 12 stones, and Williams was under
11.7. I can't remember the third boy's name but we had all reached our respective targets and felt secure. Imagine our
frustration when the new PT Master decreed that we would fight each other regardless on our weight differences. My
first bout was with the boy who had retained his normal weight. You will recall that this was now my third year in the
ring, so you would have thought I was getting the hang of it. No such luck. I remember nothing until my hand was held
aloft after winning the bout. I then went on to beat Williams after he head butted me in the second round. I told you he
was a mate of mine.

The second event in the sporting calendar was the annual cross country race. I hated long distance running but was always
competitive in all sports and tried my best. The whole school would assemble on one of the football pitches and at the
starting signal would race like a pack of greyhounds to an exit at the top left hand corner of the field. Rounding the corner
the boys were out of sight of the masters and this was the point where half of them would come to a stop, light up their
fags, and continue the rest of the course at a walking pace. I must admit that I felt like joining them but I never did and in
my first year I finished in about thirtieth position. As the years progressed I gradually improved and in my final year I
came second, that Graham Ferris was always in front of me in distance events.

I believe athletics followed the cross country and in my first year I was asked if I wanted to enter the boat race. I
volunteered immediately and visualised myself sculling down the river that meandered through the school grounds.
I should have known better. Their version of a boat race was to have about eight boys, carrying a football goal post
between their legs, through an obstacle course. It was bad enough not getting into a boat, but when you have short legs
like mine, this activity could be very painful! Apart from that bit of fun? and throwing the cricket ball, all the other
activities were recognised athletic events. In my first year I picked up a few points for my House but in subsequent years
I did very well winning the Victorludorum(?) twice. This award was given to the boy who accrued the most points in all
the events

There was a tennis tournament each year but I cannot recall it being a major event. It consisted of a number of knockout
rounds played over a week or so. The only real interest came on finals day and I recall beating a boy called Munson one
year to win the tournament. We were privileged that year to have one of the Wimbledon Tennis commentators to present
the prizes. He was a very well known personality and quite famous. So famous that I have forgotten his name!
(I have
since learned from this site that it must have been Max Robertson).
Lastly was the swimming gala. Someone made reference to this event and I can support his description of the colour of
the water. It was so cloudy that even in the shallow end you could not see the bottom. One of the swimming events was
to see who could swim the furthest under water. We all dived in at the deep end and most of us emerged at the distant
end of the pool. However, there was one boy missing, his name was Dawson. We all looked back down the pool waiting
for him to come up. We waited, and waited, and then Masters began to get concerned and peered into the murky depths.
Eventually he came up claiming to have swum two and half lengths. Nobody could dispute this but there was a sneaky
suspicion he had been hanging onto the ladder in the deep end all the time. Whether he did or he didn't, he had remained
submerged for an exceptionally long time. Seeing as I seem to be blowing my own trumpet in the other sporting activities,
I should add that I was a very mediocre swimmer, so we'll drop this subject.

The two main sporting activities were cricket during the summer and football during the winter. We had two excellent
cricket pitches in idyllic surroundings. I played cricket but agree with the old adage that it is ninety nine percent boredom
and one percent terror. As far as I was concerned the terror came when facing the bowling of Alan Blackburn. He was
primarily a footballer but was also an accomplished all-round sportsman. When he was bowling he took about a thirty
yard run-up and when you faced him he seemed to hide behind the umpire. You could hear him thundering in before you
actually saw him and he would then hurl that little red ball at you at about a hundred miles an hour, or so it seemed. Mind
you he didn't scare me, I had the perfect tactic, close my eyes and swipe - and hope you're out first ball.

Of all the sports, football was my favourite. Apart from getting a great deal of satisfaction playing the game, it also
cushioned my existence in Goldings, especially during the early days. There were three school teams, the juniors, the
intermediates and the seniors. In my first year I was captain of the junior team and began to get a name as a reasonable
footballer. In my second year when I was fourteen, all of the three school teams reached the finals of their respective
leagues. I was picked to play in each of the finals. I was very proud of this especially playing in the seniors alongside
Alan Blackburn who was later to become a professional footballer with West Ham. At the time he was playing county
football and a year or so later I was to follow in his footsteps. I also played for West Ham colts but didn't make
professional. On Alan Blackburn's seventeenth birthday he signed pro forms for West Ham. The West Ham team came to
Goldings on that day and we played them cricket. They beat us quite easily but I had the privilege of being caught on the
boundary by Bond.

Reviewing what I have written so far it may appear strange that I should reflect on bullying and sporting activities first,
when there should have been far more important considerations: education and learning a trade for example. Obviously
these were important but I know without doubt, that it was through sport that my time in Goldings became infinitely more
bearable. Further proof of this was when I reached the age of fifteen and had to move from the junior section back in with
the seniors. I am sure there was still an element of bullying going on but because of my foot-balling abilities,
Alan Blackburn ensured that I was placed in his house - Cairns. He was the House Captain and respected by everyone in
the school. I am sure that being a friend of his cushioned me from some of the more unpleasant experiences that went on.
When playing football I could even run rings around that first House Captain of mine, and although he would call me a
"Toe tapping b......", the retribution for such an insult was confined to name calling.

And so to education and learning a trade. All my life I have regretted not having had a better education and acquiring some
academic qualifications. Certainly the teachers in Goldings tried their best but most of the boys thought they were there to
learn a trade and anything outside of that was considered incidental. General behaviour in the classroom was apathetic, if
not downright disruptive. I remember Mr Blakemore having a really hard time and Mr Smith fairing slightly better. Mr
White the science teacher was an old hand and seemed to know how to handle the boys. We all got on with him but would
laugh behind his back at the number of brothers he appeared to have. In every little anecdote he had, and he had plenty, he
would drag out another brother. We reckoned he had about fifty brothers. Religious Education was taken by the Reverend
Corbett and although attention was varied, there was no misbehaving in his classes.

Before going to Goldings I was advised that I should opt for printing as a profession and it did appear that printing was
the premier occupation on offer. I can recall it as though it was yesterday, Mr Wheatley saying to me "And what have you
come here to learn?" The word "printing" was halfway out of my mouth when I suddenly had a panic attack - I was bad at
spelling - how could I be a printer? And so my reply was - "print....carpenter". I really could have done with some parental
guidance at that time.

Never mind, the choice was made and I entered the carpentry shop. Mr Tempest was in charge and I remember his bushy
eyebrows and rather stern face. He was never over-friendly but I liked and respected him. Mr Farnham was my shop floor
instructor and I really liked his friendly and easy-going manner. I thought he was an excellent instructor and I learned a
great deal of the fundamentals of carpentry and joinery from him. Much of our work was making furniture and fittings
for Goldings and other Barnardo related institutions. I recall making tables, bedside lockers and on one occasion making
bespoke furniture for invalid children in Woodford Bridge. The most memorable project was making an oak dining table
and chairs covered in red leather for Mr Tucker, who I believe was the head of Barnardo's at the time. George Smith was
involved with this project and when the suite was finished, George Smith, Mrs Wheatley and myself delivered it to Mr
Tucker's house in Tunbridge Wells. By way of a treat we were invited to stay for lunch which ended with fancy pats of
butter with cheese and biscuits. I remember looking at George in amazement when Mr Tucker put a whole pat of butter
on one little biscuit. Goodness that would have covered six pieces of bread back at Goldings.

In addition to the rough and tumble activities, there were attempts to introduce us to the more genteel pursuits in life, this
included ballroom dancing. The instructor was married to the Sister in the sick bay but I have forgotten his name. For
most of the time the boys had to dance with each other and this was a great source of amusement. Not only did we have
to dance with each other, we also had to request a dance in the correct manner: "May I have the pleasure of this dance
please?" You can imagine some of the replies, but regardless of this all our efforts were rewarded with a proper dance
once a month in the gym. On these occasions the wives and daughters of the staff would bravely turn up to have their feet
and pride trodden on by a hoard of would be Fred Astaireís. The twenty or so females would sit on one side of the gym,
and about a hundred boys on the other. The dance master would introduce each dance as a waltz, quickstep, foxtrot, samba
or tango. The beginning of each introduction was the cue for the boys to get on their marks. If it was a waltz, all of them
would tear across the floor, sliding to a halt in front of their prospective partner. We all knew how to waltz but the other
dances were progressively more difficult, culminating of course with the tango. For the few boys that could tango, they
would casually stroll across the floor and have their pick.

My association with the House Masters was fairly uneventful but I remember asking Mr Wheatley if I could buy a pair
of shoes in the town with my clothing allowance. He asked if I knew why the shoes in our store were so cheap. I said
because they were rubbish. No no he said, itís because we buy in bulk. However, in the end he relented when I said the
shoes I wanted was much like the ones he was wearing. Although I was not particularly religious I had a great deal of
respect for the Reverent Corbett. I always thought he was a manís man and would not be intimidated by anyone. Another
Master I respected was Captain Culver but I believe all the boys were of the same opinion. I remember him coming
around in the mornings waking us up with some little jingle along the lines of: "Wakey wakey, rise and shine, the sun's
scorching your eyeballs out". Joe Patch was another favourite and I was glad to read someone else's account of how his
dog used to chase us up the wall bars. I was worried that was a figment of my imagination. The last person I would like
to mention is Mr Whitbread, our football coach and manager. He had a great influence on me and wherever he is now,
I'm sure he would be glad to know that I did give up smoking - eventually.

FACT OR FICTION