John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Class 3

Early Days
See also School: Class 3

September 1958 to July 1959
 1. At the back of the room occupied by Class 4 at Church Road County Primary School, in the far corner, was a door leading to another classroom; and, indeed, it was through this door that I and my classmates went in September 1958 to start in Class 3.
 The impression of memory is that the previous year—in Mrs. Jackson’s class, Class 4—was a good one, much better than in the present one: that of Miss Hough, a plump woman with a reddish face. It was in her class that I got the ruler on my legs, the first time I’d experienced corporal punishment at school: several strikes with her twelve-inch rule (quite a thick one) on my calves. I must have done something wrong; I can’t remember what. (I seem to remember, in fact, that her ruler broke when she was punishing Billy Redman in similar manner.)
 Any discontent that I felt in this class, though, was not reflected in my examination performance: I came first in the class, both in February and in July. And Miss Hough’s school reports had nothing untoward to say: the February one simply stated: “A very good result”; and the July one: “John continues to make excellent progress but he must work a little faster!” “Must work a little faster”—nothing new there, then!

 2. If in Mrs. Jackson’s class we learned all about the Greeks and their myths, then in Miss Hough’s we learned about the Romans and their military exploits. We heard about the war with Carthage, and of the Carthaginian general Hannibal who performed the feat of crossing the Alps with his elephants, to invade Italy the “back” way.
 I remember having to write a “composition” (the word we used at that time for what would later be called an “essay”) about Horatius. I knew all the facts of the story, but couldn’t get them down on paper fast enough—and how impatient I felt when only part of the tale was written, and there was so much left! The Etruscan army attempted to capture Rome by crossing a bridge. This was the only vulnerable spot, because the raging currents of the River Tiber made it impossible to get across otherwise. Horatius was the brave Roman hero, who with two comrades fought the Etruscans and held them back from the bridge. Meanwhile, the Romans hacked the bridge behind him. When it was nearly ready to collapse, Horatius sent his comrades over and stood alone until it fell. Then he leapt into the Tiber, and even with his armour on managed to swim, amid enemy arrows, to the other side. There was such a sense of relief when I at last finished writing the story!

23rd July 1959
 3. At the annual prize-giving, I again went forward, when called, to receive a book as First Prize; but whereas in previous years, the books had been large-format, brightly colour-illustrated, thin with few pages, obviously-for-children, this one was ordinary-book sized (19cm x 13cm x 2cm), 144 pages long, mostly text (though with some black-and-white illustrations). It had the imposing title: The True Book about Inventions.
[1] Yes, I was mightily impressed about its being a true book!—though I didn’t actually trouble myself to read it for several years. Inside the front cover was stuck a label, typed:
Class 3.      First Prize.  
Awarded to :            
    John Cooper    
         23rd July, 1959.
[1] Egon Larsen, The True Book about Inventions (London: Frederick Muller Ltd, 1954 [4th impression, Jan. 1958]).

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