An unintentional outcome of presenting a Barnsbury Boys School magazine online is the fact that we are also writing a social history of life in London in the middle of the twentieth century for posterity.
Our school lasted sixty-four years and I can honestly say that going to the school meant nothing to me, while leaving it was a relief. It was just what you had to do as you grew up. I know some people will differ with my opinion and that is fine; who said we were all the same?
Co-editing our magazine has made me realise that many of us had hard childhoods: no indoor toilets, no bathrooms and coal fires in the winter which heated just one room. A hot water bottle to take to bed wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity.
Then there was the abusive or drunken parent, they were always kept hidden. At least they were in the buildings that I grew up in. Family business was never discussed outside and God help you if you let something slip. Families who bragged about their ducking and diving or whose children got into trouble were practically ostracised by their neighbours. It was looked down upon, unlike today where taking the micky is a universal pastime.
Our lives were structured, from home to school and back again. Saturday was football for some and chores for others. Sometimes both. I well recall not being able to go downstairs to the grounds on a Saturday because my only pair of jeans were being washed. Come Sunday you really did wear your best clothes. It was de rigueur. One summer when I was about thirteen or fourteen my father insisted that I was bought his version of sports clothes to wear. Oh, the embarrassment. My best mate had a bum-freezer, three-button, Italian suit. Lesson learned: I got a paper round, then two. My money - my money so I could buy my own clothes.
We relate these tales when we respond to the various emails that circulate to all the members. We tell it as it was, as it took place. You cannot bulls**t us as we were all around when these things happened. From corporal punishment at school, personal histories, what we did when we went to work, how we spent the money we earned, bespoke suits, scooters and music. I could go on. But the point is, without really knowing it, we created a social phenomenon; young people with money to spend and places to go, and thus, we became the voice of the sixties. The unrecognised power of it. For ordinary people, it subjectively became the best decade of our lives. We lived through a time of creativity where we all played a passive role yet became part of the tapestry.
Now we write about it in our magazine and just recently, as another birthday looms, I realised that our magazine might hopefully be recognised one day as a true voice of us baby boomers brought up in the inner London Borough of Islington.
James Sanderson, October 2018 - Contact: email - Barnsburyboys1@gmail.com
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