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The Wimbledon champion's son who joined my class in Dudley

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 06, 2014

  • Park School cricket side, 1948. Back row, from left:

  • Park School football side, 1947/48. Back row, from left: Tony Willetts, Frankie Thomas, Roy Dyke, Tony Pym, John Westwood, Teddy Thomas, Joey Wilkes, Mr Johns.

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FORMER pupil of the Park Schools in Dudley, Ray Stokes, has written in with his memories of old school days, having seen our piece on page 18 of the May 8 edition. Ray, a pupil there between 1942 and 1948, begins:

"The school 'at the top end of Wolverhampton Street, near the junction with Grange Road' was, in fact, the Jessons Junior School! The Park Schools were actually in Nelson Road, which ran between Russell Street and School Street.

"Park Senior was one of the largest secondary schools in Dudley and taught both boys and girls aged 11 to 15, with a large catchment area spreading as far as the Priory Estate.

"The boys and girls were segregated and had separate Head Teachers. In the late 1940s the Headmistress of the girls school was Miss Napier who, like many in her time, was a strict disciplinarian, dedicated to her girls, and well respected. One of her particular interests was the Park Girls Choir, which became renowned in the area. Two of my cousins were in that choir, Betty Dutton and Dorothy Dutton, and also their younger sister Judith who went on to a singing career as Judy Shannon with the Stan Fielding Band, performing at many venues including Dudley Town Hall.

"In the senior boys school a prominent master for many years was Mr Ron Nash who also believed in discipline. He was deeply involved in the school sports and was responsible for developing the natural talents of his boys into some of the top football and cricket teams in the county, and several lads played for the Dudley Schoolboys team.

"During the second World War, Park Infants school was just that – an infants school for 5 to 8 year olds. From 1945 however it was 'grown' each year until in 1947/8 it had become a junior school also, and became known as Park Primary School. (Previously pupils left at age 8 and went to Jessons Junior.)

"In the mid to late 1940s the Headmistress was Miss E. M. Parry, succeeded by Miss Girling. Both believed in discipline and the traditional teaching of the Three Rs.

"The only male teacher was a Welshman, Mr Johns, who taught all subjects to the top class and organised the sports teams which again were basically football and cricket.

"With a shortage of investment in the post war years the school numbers expanded quicker than the buildings and for some terms classes had to be held in the senior school building, and even in vacant classrooms in the Wolverhampton Street Schools. The pupils affected met at the Park School in Nelson Road and walked in a 'crocodile' to Wolverhampton Street for lessons.

"In around 1946/47 a boy joined our class in the junior school who had been sent to live in Canada for the 'duration' for obvious reasons. His name was Ian Little and he lived with his parents, Dr and Mrs Little in St James's Road. Mrs Little was, of course, Dudley's Wimbledon tennis champion Dorothy Round.

"Another pupil in that class was Valerie Merritt whose father was the Kiwi cricketer Bill Merritt, who had played for Northants and New Zealand before settling down to league cricket in Dudley, where he also kept a sports shop in The Arcade.

"Yet another celebrity-to-be at Park Primary was a girl named Ann Haycock who also lived near to the school. She went to London to become a showgirl and took the stage name of Annabelle Lee. She later married a Swedish millionaire, Dan Axel Bostrom, and went to live in Sweden. We didn't see much of her in Dudley after that."

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