This was my last year at Stogs, in Orpington, at the new premises completed at the end of 1967. I suppose that moving to the suburbs was a good way of putting barrow boys off from applying to go there. It was the headmaster’s monument.

St. Olave’s was a day day school but modeled itself after Britain’s public schools. Public schools are, in fact, private. They are mostly for boarders, and wealthy people have traditionally dumped their kids there as young as five years old. They seem to have improved now but in the past were responsible for producing a great number of sexually “confused” men who then went out to run the Empire and eventually send their sons to the same schools they attended. Abuse of boys was endemic.

I had a taste of that system at Stogs. Looking back, it is also clear to me that there were masters (teachers) who liked sitting small boys on their knees. One of my favorites, in fact, disappeared under a cloud, though I don’t believe he was prosecuted.

I have always liked the singer Al Stewart, whom I saw play in a corner of my university coffee bar before he became famous. There is a verse in his song “Love Chronicles” about his days at a minor boarding school:

“And at school would you believe three hundred boys
And no girls at all
But you’re a fool if you should leave
Just think of the joys of rugby football
And prep in the morning and Brylcreem and acne
And cross-country running to kill evil thoughts
I’m surprised that I survived
I ran ten thousand miles with my back to the wall.”

It is an experience that many thousands of older British males share. The film If… was a damning take on the boarding school system. It has finally been released on a special-edition DVD. I saw around the time I started university and it’s one of my favorite movies.

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