Tom Jenkins

Tom Jenkins of Woodland Vale, Ynyswen writes...

Many years ago, as a young Ton Pentre boy. I attended the Ton Junior Boys School which was situated in Bailey Street. The school is still there, but in these days it is a mixed school. (boys and girls)

I was a pupil there in the 1930's - amongst a  class of approximately 40 boys.

These were the years of the Great Depression and the greater percentage of us were realistically poverty struck - equated against today's kids.

In those far-oft days this school was proudly a local "Centre of Excellence" because of the prestigious record of passes into the Rhondda Valley's Grammar and Secondary Schools.

This period of five years (attendance) culminated in qualifying for the opportunity to sit the old Rhondda Entrance Examination known to all and sundry as the Scholarship.

We had the same teacher for the five years - whose name was Mr. Trevor Evans - and I, along with all my classmates will always remain indebted to him.

Sadly, he passed away the year we left the school - being a victim of cancer.

The Headmaster of the school was the famous Mr. Thomas Rees, who was not only a devout disciplinarian and a committed disciple of punctuality and attendance, but a classic Rhondda "Mr. Chips". He was feared by everyone and secretly hated.

During our years there he was wished the worst - but after we left, wished the best.

He was a familiar sight during schooldays, just after 9 o'clock, armed with a bamboo cane similar to Charlie Chaplin's and similar to a shepherd's dog - seeking out and nudging up any boys who were late for lines. When the school bell ceased tolling - he came out of the school like a tiger out of a cage!

Within the walls of this Ton Pentre School an education was made available - equal to any Public or Private School - to every boy.

Those boys of my generation were placed into the hands of men who were "Seasoned Potters". We were the clay - in their settled lives and hands - that became pliable.

In those far-off years we were often aware that we were "lumps on flat wheels being spun". We positively felt the heat of their teaching - which was realistically, "baking and glazing". The three "R's" (Arithmetic, Reading and Writing) were daily on the menu - with compulsory second helpings!

Exercises in Mental Arithmetic presented themselves at moments of unpreparedness and attacked us like hot-tempered bees out of the hive.

Punctuality  and Attendance were certainly objects of worship - and most certainly had their rewards.

Discipline could not have beem drummed into us more religiously even if our Teacher had been a trappist monk.

This was indeed training for the FRONT LINE OF LIFE.

The fifth year was the count-down to the Scholarship and entrance to Porth County Grammar and Secondary Schools.

Every Friday morning of the Fifth Year we were subjected to a rigorous test which was chalked up on the blackboard - covering all prospective subjects that had been drummed into us.

There were four rows of desks - and the numerical listing as to how we had done in each respective test determined what row we would sit in each following week.

The four rows of deskes were known in numerical order and named as follows..."The Excellents", "The Very Goods", "The Goods" and ""The Not So Good" - and very often the more familiar terminology applicable to the fourth row was "The Duffers".

The most outstanding pupil of that long-ago fifth year was a certain Vernon Griffiths who, from memory, would always occupied the first desk of the number one row of "Excellents".

He came fifth in the Scholarship - out of the whole Rhondda Valley - to enter the prestigious Porth County Grammar School, and second in the valley to enter (if he so wished) Pentre Grammar School - known in those years as Pentre Secondary School.

In those years Vernon was a Ton Pentre boy and lived in Matexa Street. He cerainly went to Porth County Grammar. I passed for the same school in the same class, but never went.

His father in those far-off yeas was Mr. Ivor Griffiths who was then "Under-manager" of Gelli Colliery, where I spent several years.

Professor Emeritus Vernon Griffiths of Montana University USA (retired) was a testimony that the Discipline, Attendance and Devotion of those long ago five years in Ton Boys School - was a "D.A.D." for life.

(The information applicable to Professor Emeritus Vernon Griffiths was kindly handed to myself by a close friend and member of that same class - namely Mr. Glanville Lewis of Ton Pentre. He also most certainly was one of that long-ago Front Row of Excellents.)

Tom Jenkins, 9th November 2002