Alumnus from 1944 shares fond memories of the College of Technology, Arts and Commerce

Friday, 28 August 2015

Alan Walker's son and grandson

Alan Walker, who graduated in 1944 and was the first of three generations to attend the institution, shared an account of his time there in the Oxford Mail on Tuesday (25 August).

It is now over seventy years ago that I first met John Henry Brookes and my association with what is now Oxford Brookes University began.  I had won a scholarship to the School of Technology, Arts & Commerce - known as The Tech - and at the age of fourteen I set out on my new bike to start a two year course to study art.

The year was 1942, there was a war on. Blazers were not obligatory, Caps were to be worn travelling to and from school and gas masks and satchels were carried everywhere.  

Orders had been placed, coppers been collected and the chosen one would race out of school, up St Ebbes Street to the shop which made the very best Fattie Cakes ever.

Alan Walker, alumnus of Oxford School of Technology, Arts and Commerce 1942-44

There were 17 pupils in our form, five girls and twelve boys which was not a bad arrangement. In engineering it was strictly all male and in commerce the mix was about two dozen girls to two boys. Our studies were equally divided between art subjects and general education. Our classroom could be anywhere although in the Art Department on the first floor only art students were allowed.  There were, of course, classrooms in the school but there were many more outside. Sometimes it seemed that the entire body of students had been moved to odd corners of the city. We travelled on foot to venues in Brewer Street, the Halifax Building Society, Balliol Boys Club, Summertown School and for every Wednesday afternoon to the Sports Field, which was a large area behind where St Catherine’s College is now.

Lack of supervision between classrooms did on occasion result in the loss of pupils who usually attended one of the cinemas for extra cultural activities.

Another strong memory is asking a teacher’s permission for one of the class to leave slightly before time for the mid-morning break. Orders had been placed, coppers been collected and the chosen one would race out of school, up St Ebbes Street to the shop which made the very best Fattie Cakes ever.  You have to remember all of us were severely rationed and this lunch break for three half pennies was nectar to us sugar starved kids.

The war went on around us.  We were very aware; used to air-raid sirens, shelter drills, evacuees and the many wounded service men who were being treated at Headington Hill House which is now part of the University’s campus. Current Affairs lessons kept us up to date on the various places where our forces were fighting and the boys could name every allied aircraft and most of the enemy ones.

In all, one might say, a very broad education but extremely happy days.

Pictured above is Alan's son Martin and his grandson Sam. Martin studied at Oxford Brookes from 1975 to 1977 when it was a former Polytechnic. His son Sam graduated from the University in June this year. The full article can be read on the Oxford Mail’s website. As part of its 150th anniversary celebrations, Oxford Brookes will be hosting two special reunion events in September for alumni who graduated from Oxford Brookes and its predecessor institutions.