John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Lynn Johnson

Early Days

 1. I think it was in the first year at Fleetwood Grammar School, in 1961, when I was 11 years old, that I developed my first, true, adolescent crush on a girl.
 Up to—and even around—this time, to be sure, there were childhood crushes, where I couldn’t stop thinking about a certain girl or woman, and imagined circumstances in which she and I met. These fantasies were usually of a heroic nature—as, for example, when I rescued Princess Anne from the wreck of the royal train at Thornton station (along with her mum, dad and brother).
 But what marked out this as an “adolescent” crush, and the others as “childhood” ones, was that, for the first time, I started feeling urges, initially nameless and goal-less, but urges strong and sometimes almost unbearable.
[1] See Crushes.
The Christmas soirée
 2. The object of this affection, and, what would have been (if I had recognised it as such), desire, was Lynn Johnson, a freckled redhead of no especial physical pulchritude. She was in my year, though I think not in my form.
 It happened during the run-up to the school Christmas party. (Strange to my ears was the referring to it by some—the “posh” ones, the “mature”, “cultured” ones—as the Christmas “soirée”
[2].) For a number of weeks, Physical Education (P.E.) was replaced by dancing lessons. (Boys and girls were together for most lessons, but P.E. in the school hall was single-sex; so I don’t know—don’t remember—what class the girls would normally be having at this time.)
 We were ranged round the hall, seated on benches, the boys together and the girls together. Then we were told to “take your partners for” whatever dance it was to be; that is, each boy had to rise, walk across the hall, approach the young lady of his choice, bow, and ask her, “May I have the pleasure of this dance?” It was initially all very embarrassing. There were fewer boys than girls, so quite of lot of the girls ended up dancing together. At the end of the dance we each had to escort our partner back to her place. And I kept on choosing and dancing with Lynn Johnson, and she even came up to me in the occasional “ladies’ choice”.
[2] Soirée: Not so posh, really, because they pronounced it “swarry” (i.e., rhyming with “quarry”)!
 3. Thoughts of her filled my waking moments, and I had the feeling of “butterflies in the stomach” all the time. But when dancing with her there was silence between us—I couldn’t think what to say. I was content just to dance, in silence. I didn’t venture to talk—talking to girls was a phenomenon unknown to personal experience.

Thursday 14th December 1961
 4. The Christmas Party for first years was held on Thursday 14th December 1961. I have only a vague recollection of it. It was in the school hall, now suitably adorned with Christmas trimmings. Some of the boys wore different clothes for the occasion, but I only had my school uniform: short, grey trousers and blue blazer. I can’t remember what Lynn Johnson wore: a frock, I think, not a blouse and skirt or a gymslip. The pattern of dancing with her and not speaking was repeated, and then it was over.

“Our John’s got a girlfriend!”
 5. My brief obsession for Lynn Johnson was obvious to all. It even became known at home, despite my reticence to reveal such things there. “Our John’s got a girlfriend!” they exclaimed, to my embarrassment. But they went too far in calling her my girlfriend, for that implies that there was a mutual understanding between us—and how could there be, when we never had a conversation together? I have no idea if she had any feelings for me; we didn’t speak to each other.

 6. It amuses me a little bit to think how the crush on Lynn Johnson ended shortly afterwards: her wavy red hair was cut quite short, and the nape of her neck was visible; and somehow the sight of that put me off her.

Lesley Brown
 7. Soon after I noticed Lynn Johnson’s neck and lost my passion for her, my attention was transferred to Lesley Brown.
 The scene of this was at “Broadway”, the building down the road from the main Grammar-school site where most of the first-years had their form-rooms. I was talking to the boys in our part of the classroom, the part nearest the entrance door. The girls, who were in the majority, were occupying most of the rest of the space away from the door. And in the centre of that space, dressed in a light blue blouse, the drape of which was still uninterrupted by any hint of a bust, bespectacled, with straight, brown hair in quite a severe bob, was Lesley Brown—not the obvious candidate for one’s ardent affection! And a closer inspection under her bobbed hair would have revealed an exposed nape just like Lynn’s. Yet I indicated my interest in her to the boys around me.
 “You don’t like her!” came the protest.
 “Yes, I do!” I asserted.
 But this chance-noticing of Lesley Brown didn’t develop into any kind of real crush.
[1] Lesley Brown: She had an article, My Bull Terrier, published in the first Fleetwood Grammar School magazine that we received, The Georgian, Spring 1962, page 29.

 8. Strangely, her sister Olwen[2] escaped my notice at this time. With her superb figure—her bust thrusting out into her schoolgirl gymslip—she was, in terms of adolescent attraction, much more worthy of my attention. She was in the same year as Lesley—the first—but not in the same form, so they must have been twins, though evidently, given their totally different physique, not monozygous twins.

[2] Olwen: She too had something published in The Georgian, Spring 1962, page 33, a poem A Psalm of School.

I mentioned Lesley and Olwen Brown in Early days at Fleetwood Grammar School: Lesley Brown and her sister Olwen.

Lesley Brown. Is there a hint of bust in this class photo, taken in September 1962, almost a year later than the events described above, or is it just the way the fabric of the gym-slip has rumpled?

Olwen Brown

John, I have to say it was a little cringing to read your comments about my cousins Olwen and Lesley Brown. As you observed they were both very clever, indeed Lesley went on to edit the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in the early 80s.

I also knew David Woodhead, Alan Swann & Martin Davidson who all lived down Ascot (we never called it Ascot Road). They wouldn't remember me, myself and my friends were a couple of years younger, but we were all part of a general gang of kids who hung around Ascot and on Hawthorne Field.

As you're naming names I'll mention another lad called William Smith on Ascot, further down than the Woodheads but before the Swanns. William was a bully and if he spotted us he wouldn't allow us to pass his house. I always disliked those spineless types who picked on the younger boys.
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