excerpt from 'My Boyhood at the turn of the century' pp. 176-178; 180 (454 words)

excerpt from 'My Boyhood at the turn of the century' pp. 176-178; 180 (454 words)

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My Boyhood at the turn of the century

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176-178; 180


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[Bill was a cousin, informally adopted by Frank Gross’s parents. The boys had just started at Derka primary school in Lancashire after the family relocated from London]


[Mr. Schultz, the German-language teacher] was also a musician whose greatest love was brass bands. Beside [sic] beating the drum for our drilling in the playground he helped to satisfy his musical urge by volunteering, as an extra subject, the production of a brass band. 


Bill and I were very envious of the snootier among our playmates who were to be seen carrying various types of brass instruments on the way between the school and their homes. Not wishing to be deprived of the opportunity to indulge in similar snootiness, we made enquiries about joining the band. 


The band class was held in an attic right at the top of the school. To attend, one had to go back for an hour after school between seven and eight in the evening. The two of us would discuss endlessly the possibilities of a musical career. We imagined audiences of thousands, receiving us with deafening applause, as we rendered a cornet solo. So we decided to join the band. 


Most of the boys had been enrolled in the band at an earlier date and had brought practice instruments, mainly cornets and clarionettes with them. 


For the next hour Bill and I stood in a corner trying our best to look excited and interested while Mr. Schultz had various members of the band trying out scales […] [T]he bandsmen were all at the very elementary stages of learning to play or blow the variety of notes required.


After the class was finished we remained behind with Mr. Schultz while he repaired the stops and re-reeded two cornets; these were for us to take away to practice on. Then he gave instructions on the stop depressions necessary to produce the different notes and we did a trial run at producing successive notes of the scale [and told to practice at home].



Our intention to join the school band had not been mentioned to our parents, so on returning home we had expected a joyful welcome and congratulation on the steps we had taken to bring sweet and joyous music into their prosaic lives. [The boys are forbidden from playing the instruments indoors and told to go outside to practice]. 


We did, on the following evenings, make some effort to practice our instruments at the far end of the tip, but the criticism and sneers of all the moronic youth of the neighbourhood, who gathered about us to help us on these occasions, were too much for us to continuously accept. We went on the following week to return the instruments. 

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excerpt from 'My Boyhood at the turn of the century' pp. 176-178; 180 (454 words)


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