GOWNS AND TRACK-SUITS

On the last day of each summer term was the Annual Speech Day with the masters parading with their gowns, hoods and mortar boards. Every year saw its Sports Day and boys running around in their track-suits. From time to time other special occasions might pop up during the year. This certainly gave spice and variety to the school calendar, even if the boys and, dare I say, also the parents preferred not to have to sit through a lot of speeches.

Speeches without end

What the pupils liked about Speech Day was that immediately it was over, the two month summer holiday began and the boys could go home with their parents. This ceremony always took place on a Sunday afternoon, since for the vast majority of people in England, Sunday was their day off.

A few days before each speech day, a marquee was erected, usually on the lawn behind the classroom block but on occasion on the lawn in front of the gymnasium. Even though speech day was held in the month of July, the weather could well be rainy and wintry. Indeed on a number of speech days, it poured with rain. On one occasion the weather was so nice, that the erected marquee was not used and the ceremony was held outdoors.

In contrast, one year there was a fierce gale raging on that Sunday afternoon. The marquee, which had been erected near the gymnasium, was full of people and at the same time to prevent it blowing over, senior boys were holding on to guy ropes to try and steady the marquee. It could have dangerous to have held the ceremony in the marquee under such conditions. Therefore Rabbi Rosen came in and told every person there to take his folding chair into the nearby gymnasium where the ceremony would be held. The pupils were told to stand in the gangway by the wall and the prizewinners in a nearby room adjacent to the dais. Rabbi Rosen was an expert at dealing with emergency situations.

All the boys had to wear their blazers for this ceremony. Towards the end of my stay at Carmel, grey school tunics, which had the school badge on their front pocket were issued and this was done towards the end of the summer term. That year, Rabbi Rosen had the idea that the prep school boys should wear them at the ceremony. However the matron then informed him that they had been packed in the pupils’ trunks and was therefore not possible.

The seating in the marquee was in three blocks. In the centre block sat the pupils and on the side two blocks the parents. After the marquee had been erected, Rabbi Rosen would assemble all the pupils there and decide on which seat each pupil would sit. The more presentable pupils would sit near the front and the less presentable ones further back. On one occasion, a boy said that his school blazer was dirty and torn, to which Rabbi Rosen replied that he would seat him in a place where the dirt and tears wouldn’t show. On one year I recollect him sitting a row of tallish boys in the middle and telling other boys whether to sit in front of or behind these boys.

The prize winners would be seated at the end of the rows to enable them to go out quickly when their names were called. He would also do a practice with a number of prize winners, by calling out their names and they would go out to him as if to receive their prize. On my first speech day, he called my name out in this practice session. The prize I received that year was for “General Proficiency” and was a book called “Brazilian Adventure.”

Another tradition in these prize days was for a senior boy to give a vote of thanks to the guest of honour and he would end by saying, “And now Carmelis, let us give our guest of honour the traditional school cry ‘Carmel College - ko lechai’.” The pupils would then call out in a loud voice “ko lechai.” Every year we practiced this several times until we did it to the satisfaction of Rabbi Rosen.

Parents were allowed to arrive on the morning of speech day at about eleven o’clock in the morning and take their boys out but they had to arrive back by the start of the ceremony, which was about two o’ clock. Once a boy, who was not going to get a prize, told me that he was not coming back to the ceremony and there would therefore be a spare seat where he was due to sit.

At my first speech day in the school, it was planned that the day would be combined with sports day. According to the programme, the afternoon would begin at about two o’ clock with the school’s rowing team giving a row past the school and this would be followed by the inter-house athletics competition and following this at about four o’clock, would be the speech day ceremony.

However there was torrential rain that day and the sports programme had to be cancelled and the speech ceremony was advanced to two o’clock. There was a personal silver lining to this. My father had not realised that the day would go on so late and he had therefore booked a coach ticket for six o’clock. Had there not been rain, we would have surely missed the coach.

However, this cancellation of the athletics competition was unfortunate for my house Gilbert. Before that day, the rival house Alexander was just leading Gilbert and it was expected that Gilbert would overtake them as a result of the athletics. So Alexander got the house cup that year by default.

The annual ceremony began with everybody rising when the guest of honour, staff and governors would enter the marquee. The staff would be in their academic robes - gowns, hoods and mortar boards. One year, one of the governors who was a graduate - he had a degree in economics - also wore his academic robes. Rabbi Rosen always acted as the master of ceremonies.

I cannot remember the exact order of events in these ceremonies but they included the following: presentation of a bouquet of flowers to the wife of the guest of honour, a speech by Rabbi Rosen, a speech by the guest of honour, declamations by pupils, distributing the prizes and trophies, and a vote of thanks by a senior boy to the guest of honour.

Obviously after about half a century, I personally cannot remember more than a few smatterings of the contents of the various speeches. [However those interested may find details in the Jewish press of that period.] In his speech on my first speech day, Rabbi Rosen spoke about the rowing activities of the school and that they were not able to enter regattas since they all took place on Shabbat. However, one day the rowing instructor came excitedly to Rabbi Rosen and told him that there was a regatta on Whit Monday. However, Rabbi Rosen had to inform him that that Whit Monday was Shavuot.

On one occasion, parents who had arrived late came into the centre block and pupils with good manners had offered them their seats. However Rabbi Rosen announced that these parents should remove to the side blocks set aside for parents.

One year the guest of honour was a judge - I think it was Judge Gillis. He spoke beautifully and clearly. During his speech he mentioned the tables of stone brought down by Moses. At this, I heard one of the pupils sitting near me say “tablets.” It was announced that day that he would become a governor of the school.

Another year, the Conservative M.P., Keith Joseph was guest of honour. He suggested that boys go into business. He pointed out that just like academic study, business also requires various skills.

In yet another year, John Collier was the guest of honour. His grandson who learned in the prep school presented the bouquet of flowers to Mrs. Collier. His speech was much much shorter than other guests of honour and was over in about two minutes. I don’t think anyone objected. Unfortunately, he had lost a leg and could only walk with the greatest of difficulty. His chauffeur brought his car - probably a Rolls Royce - on to the lawn behind the marquee and an opening was made in that part of the marquee for him to enter by. His chauffeur sat in the car throughout the ceremony, with the window open to hear the proceedings.

Declamations which I can recollect were Mordell Klein who recited the Song of Deborah and Jeremy Rosen, the passage in Ezekiel on the “Valley of Dry Bones.” One year Rabbi Rosen toyed with the idea of having the prep school recite in unison the Ten Commandments but this never came to fruition.

At my last speech day, Mr. Alexander had a group of pupils singing the Haftarah of Balak - the end of the book of Amos. Some parts were done in unison and others by individual pupils saying selected phrases. At the same speech day, Mr. Gabbay did something of a similar nature in French.

The prize winners were announced by Mr. Coles. Not only would he have a detailed typed list in front of him, but a name which would not be an English name, such as Yehudah, he would also have on his list written phonetically - Ye-hoo-dah. Prizes were usually awarded for “General Proficiency” or for a specific subject.

At the end of my lower fifth year, I was awarded a prize for Chemistry and after I received the book, I saw that it was a book from the school library complete with the library stamp and catalogue marks. I wondered what had happened and how would I be able to erase these marks! After the ceremony had finished, it was announced that the prize winners should remain behind. Mr. Coles then told us that not enough prizes had been bought and so he had quickly gone into the school library and taken books which looked newish, in order to give the impression that they were prizes. We therefore had to return the library books to him and he added that during the following term, they would purchase books for us.

For some reason, I then went to the Chemistry laboratory to speak to him. He mentioned to me that he had a new Chemistry book “Kaye and Laby” - a book of chemical constants - which I could have as my prize and I accepted it.

Let us now to return to the speech day ceremonies. After having given out the book prizes, the various cups were awarded. One of them was the inter-house sports trophy. This was given to the house with the highest aggregate of points in the various sports.

There was also the Jerrold Roston cup. Jerrold Roston was the brother of Murray, an English teacher at the school and he had drowned aged 20 in a Study Group School in Switzerland. It was awarded to an exceptional pupil and was not necessarily awarded every year. Some years later, I met Jerrold’s mother in Israel and she told me that it was too upsetting for her to go to these Carmel prize days.

Following the vote of thanks, the ceremony ended with the singing of the school song. It was first sung in English, “Where e’re the road leads on from Carmel....” then in Hebrew (which was not a translation of the English), “B’chol derachecha da’aihu....” and then, the last two stanzas in English were sung again. The tune was that of “Shir Hapalmach” - the song of one of the pre-State of Israel armies. In the early speech days, the British National Anthem and Hatiqvah were sung, but later they were dropped from the proceedings. Rabbi Rosen explained that this was the custom in other schools.

At the end of the year when I was in the upper fifth form, the Sunday which normally would have been speech day was the fast of Tisha B’Av. The ceremony could obviously not be held on such a day. It was postponed to about the middle of the following academic year. Since it was in mid-winter, it was not practical to hold it in a marquee and instead it was held in the main hall. Since the seating capacity was far less than in a marquee, only the parents of prize winners were invited. There was also more time to purchase the prizes and the boys were able to choose their prize. Although I was to receive a prize for Chemistry, I chose the Hertz Chumash. Prizes awarded by the school were stamped on the front cover in gold with the school crest, but no label was put in them saying they were awarded as a prize. The person stamping the school crest on the cover obviously did not notice that my book was in Hebrew and so the school crest appears on the back cover!

Whilst I was at the school, there were other ceremonies on a one time basis. One, to which all the parents were invited occurred towards the end of my first term in Carmel and was the opening of the campus at Mongewell.

It took place in the gymnasium and by some ingenious arrangement it was able to seat a large number of people, including all the pupils. The prep school pupils were on the balcony overlooking the gymnasium. In front of this balcony there was a sloping area before one reached the gymnasium itself. Over this sloping area was erected some sort of scaffolding with seats. It was on these seats that the senior school pupils sat.

On the previous evening after Shabbat, Rabbi Rosen brought the school to the gymnasium and the boys were allocated where to sit. As I remember, it was between then and the ceremony that the scaffolding was painted a silvery colour.

The parents of the pupils were seated in the gymnasium. The guest of honour was the Israeli Ambassador to Britain, Eliahu Elath. Alongside one wall of the gymnasium were boys who took part in the ceremony. These were boys who lived outside Britain and they greeted the Ambassador in their native tongue.

There were boys in Carmel who at that time came from numerous countries in the world. To quote just a few - Israel, France, Persia, Gibraltar, Curacao. There were a number of boys from Israel, but, sadly almost all of them were totally irreligious. I suppose when one thinks about it, a religious parent in Israel, would not send his son to schooling outside Israel.

The first boy to greet the Ambassador was one from Israel. This was then followed the other boys. With one exception they were all from the senior school; the one exception was a boy in the prep school from Curacao.

At the same ceremony the Isaac Wolfson laboratories were named.

A number of years later when the new buildings were completed, there were ceremonies. I don’t think that there was a general invitation to all parents for these ceremonies. I recollect two of them which took place whilst I was at the school. One was for one of the new dormitory blocks but I can remember no details of the ceremony.

The other one was for the new sanatorium. When the school first moved to Mongewell, the sanatorium was in a room on the first floor of the main building. Afterwards it moved to the upper floor of the annex to the gymnasium. All these were intended as temporary locations. There was also a dispensary situated near the back entrance of the main building. Every morning it was open for pupils who needed medicines or medical treatment.

Towards the end of my stay at Carmel, the cost of a sanatorium was donated by (as far as I remember) the Wix family. This was built near to the road close to the gate. The matron once told me that it needed to be near to the road in case an ambulance had to take someone from it.

This building was of one story and included beds for ill boys and a dispensary. I hardly ever used it and so I cannot give any further details of its interior.

The opening ceremony was held in the main hall. A senior boy speaking at this ceremony said that it would now be a pleasure to be ill. After the ceremony, the boys lined the sides of the road from the main building to the sanatorium. The donor, the headmaster and other guests then walked to the sanatorium and as they passed the boys clapped. Two high bushes in flowerpots lined either side of the main entrance to the sanatorium that day. But they were not a permanent fixture there.

Thank you donors

There was an occasion when certain parents and other visitors were invited one Sunday to the school - they were potential donors. Before that day, Rabbi Rosen announced to the school that this was not a general visiting day for all the parents but only for those people who might be able to assist the school financially.

Amongst the activities specially arranged for these invitees were displays put on by the various laboratories. I was one of the boys involved in one of the displays in the Chemistry laboratory. We all wore our white laboratory coats and Rabbi Rosen told us to ensure that they were clean.

Mr. Coles, the Chemistry master, had arranged a number of interesting displays. In some cases he attached a notice which read that to prevent danger to the guests, the actual chemicals had not been used. I was using a projector to show pictures. Instead of the usual straight projection of a picture from projector to screen, we utilised a mirror to turn the picture through ninety degrees.

Just before that day, and with no connection to it, Marks and Spencers had bought new furniture and other materials for their laboratories and they offered their old ones to Carmel College. This “old” furniture was certainly superior to the furniture in the junior science laboratory. This furniture arrived and the Carmel maintenance men went to work to install it in the laboratory. Also, the roof of the laboratory needed a coat of paint. Rabbi Rosen then told the maintenance staff that the visitors won’t notice if there is a bench missing - they will notice an unpainted roof. So get on with the latter.

The potential donors arrived and viewed all the displays put on for their honour. They then went in the dining room for tea and a talk by Rabbi Rosen. As the time, one of the masters then commented. People can come to Carmel when there are the most horrible weather conditions, yet Rabbi Rosen will charm them into giving money to the school.

The cakes which were from Grodzinski’s were superb. I can say that, because what was left over was given to the boys during their supper that day. They also borrowed from the same place beautiful crockery. It had already been placed on the side when we came into the dining room and being much nicer than the school mugs, some boys started using it - until the kitchen staff put a stop to it.

Whilst they were sipping their tea and munching their cakes, Rabbi Rosen addressed the visitors and they then pledged sums of money. I heard that these proceedings came over the school loud speaker system into the classrooms. I don’t know whether this was by design or accident - but I didn’t know about this until afterwards; otherwise I am sure that I would have also listened!

Hop step and jump

The annual sports days were another occasion when the parents were invited to the school. More accurately it should have been called “athletics days,” since it was the day when there was the inter-house athletics competition.

It took place yearly about one month before the end of the summer term. This gave a leeway should this day be rainy. This was obviously learned from the first planned sports day in Mongewell, which was scheduled to take place on the last day of term - but was “washed out.”

The athletics included running various distances ranging from 100 yards to the one mile, relay races, high jump, long jump, throwing the javelin and the discus and putting the shot.

The groundsmen had marked out running tracks on the athletics field. This included an oval running track of length 440 yards and it had four lanes on it. They also marked out an area for putting the shot. This was in the shape of a circle with a line dividing it into two equal halves. After putting the shot, the putter had to leave this circle via the back half, otherwise one’s put would not be valid. As Mr. Bunney pointed out during one of the competitions - even if you go out via the front half next week, your shot will be disqualified.

There was also a sandpit for the long jump and to receive the high jumpers. Since it was assumed that the long jumpers would jump at least a few feet, the sandpit only began a few feet after the take-off board.

During the course of the P.E. lessons and games periods, there was plenty of opportunity to practice these activities and receive instruction. The school had bought a number of javelins, discuses (both wooden and rubber) and shots, all of different sizes or weights, in order to accommodate the different ages found in the school.

We were firmly instructed that one must always hold the javelin in a vertical manner, so as not to poke, or even worse, anybody who might be in the vicinity. We were taught how to throw it and that its point had to make a mark in the ground for the throw to be valid.

In the relay races, one runner passes a wooden baton to the next runner. Failure to pass the baton would disqualify that team. There is a certain knack in passing this baton with the maximum of speed otherwise valuable seconds can be lost with a poor pass. Before the sports day, training was given to the runners on how to pass the baton most efficiently.

Before the sports day there were inter-house heats to determine who would run in the finals on sports day. After my first few years at Carmel, there were three sports houses - Gilbert, Alexander and Montefiore. Each house could initially enter two boys for the races. However since there were only four running lanes, two boys had to be eliminated, and the fastest four runners would enter the finals on sports day. This was done as follows. They were divided into two groups of three boys each and they would then run the race. In each race the times for the second and the third boys would be timed and the fastest overall two boys would reach the finals, together with the boy who came first in each heat. Thus it was possible, and indeed did happen, that the four boys were two each from two of the houses and the third house did not have a representative in the finals.

Sports are not just winning but there is also the question of sportsmanship and one incident still sticks in my mind. It occurred in I believe in one of these heats. One of the runners during the course of the race, put one foot outside his lane. This could cause disqualification. The judge, as he was bound to do, reported this fact to the master supervising the race. The master then called the captains of all the houses together and asked those of the houses in which the boy was not in, whether they wanted to demand a disqualification and they immediately said of course not.

Sports day arrived, the parents arrived, the competitors arrived and everything could thus begin. The programme of the events had been duplicated out with the details of the event, the competitors and the house which they represented. This was followed by the record for this event in past years.

There is an event which still remains in my memory from these sports days. One of the competitors in the 880 yards began with a very fast sprint as if he was running just 220 yards and thus got well ahead of the runners. At the time people were commenting that doesn’t he realise that it is 880 yards. However he managed to keep his lead and came in first to the consternation of the other runners who were sure that they would catch him up.

In one of my early years at Carmel, Rabbi Rosen’s youngest son, David, who was then aged about 4 or 5 came out dressed in his running kit and raced against the other runners. Although for his age, he ran well, he of course was beaten by the other runners. His was awarded a consolation prize for his efforts.

Following all the events, the prizes would then be awarded to the winner of each event. This consisted of a miniature cup. The individual points awarded for each event would be added up according to houses and from the total it would be determined which house came first, second and third. On this basis, they would receive points for the overall inter-house sports competition.

As I said earlier, making sports day one month before the end of term was an “insurance policy” should it rain on the day itself. One year this indeed happened and the athletics had to be cancelled that day. A letter went out to the parents telling them that the postponed sports day would take place on a certain weekday afternoon about a week or so later. The letter concluded that should there be rain that day, there would be no athletics, and lessons would take place as usual. I remember hearing comments at the time that even if there is rain in Mongewell, who said it won’t be fine in, for example, London. How are parents supposed to know. Long distance telephone calls were not like those of today! The bottom line was that the athletics were able to go on that day.

Another thing which took place whilst I was at the school to encourage the boys to practice athletics was “standards.” A table was drawn up according to the ages of pupils specifying how fast they should run a certain distance, or how high or long they should jump, or how far they should throw something. Boys reaching these standards would get points for their houses.

Many boys (and this included myself) were not good at sports. However,. we were rightly told by our house captains and house sports masters that we should go out and cheer on our house when they were playing. This I endeavoured to do.

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