Hymn books were always quite a contentious subject. They would get lost, nicked, swapped or found by budding Arthur Daley type entrepreneurs who traded them on for money or toffee to another pupil who’d lost theirs. They were quite small blue pocket size books about the size of the Warne Observer books. The lowly ‘B’ forms morning assembly was held downstairs in that den of physical exertion, sweat, blood and tears ‘The Gym’, whilst the posh A forms held theirs upstairs in the other den. The den of literary pleasures ‘The Library’.
Mr Hicks conducted most of the Library’s assemblies whilst downstairs in the gym any old master seemed to do it accompanied by music master, Mr Moore, at the out of tune piano. Well, one fine and sunny morning we were graced by the presence of our great leader and mentor Mr Hicks. A bad omen as this only occurred when there was trouble of some kind. After prayers, we were subject to the usual speech concerning schooly things which led up to the subject of ‘hymn books’, the reason for the visit of our great leader to us lowly ‘B’ formers at our assembly.
‘Hands up all boys who have no hymn book’ he suddenly rapped out in staccato fashion. A few hands wavered tentatively up. Peter Long, a form mate who was a bit gullible stood in front of me. I knew he had lost his so I gave him a little poke in the back and whispered to him ‘Stick yer hand up Longy and he’ll give you a new one’. Up shot Longy’s hand. ‘Step out to the front all boys with their hands up’ rapped out our great leader Mr Hicks. The boys were punished in some way, but I can’t remember what, but I don’t think it was the stick.
Naturally, I felt very guilty for sticking up old Peter Long so I bought him a packet of treats which I knew he liked as he was forever sucking them. The chocolate coated peanuts that were supposed to melt in your mouth and not in your hand, remember the advert on the telly?