The Witriol Diaries, Part III (Hasmo Legends XXII)

A WALL IS A WALL AND A SCHOOL IS A SCHOOL: DECONSTRUCTING MARX

Wednesday, 26th November 1969, 9 p.m.

An uninterrupted treadmill at school, except for last Thursday, when eight or nine N.U.T. members of the staff went on strike. The rest of us were told by Stanton to report from 9.30 to 10.30 a.m. in order to qualify for pay as usual. I spent most of the day at school doing some marking and waiting for Naomi [school secretary?] to finish a typescript she was doing for me. I gave her £12 for it, but will get £60 from the Wellcome Foundation [for a translation].

Developed cold on Sunday. Stoic act at school on Monday, not completely cleared up, but managing.

Monday, 22nd December 1969, 6.40 p.m.

The cold mentioned in the previous entry cleared up, but last Friday week – the Friday before the Thursday (18th) on which we broke up – I developed what may have been some kind of “flu”y condition. I repeated the Spartan act, but on the Thursday on which we broke up I felt all-in, and had to cry off cheder in the evening.

I don’t seem to have recorded that we went to the Jewish Secondary Schools Movement 40th anniversary a few weeks ago. At the Central Hall, Westminster. Most impressive. About 400 guests, dinner-jacketed mostly. Organisation first-rate – Sam Balin said meal was mediocre, but for a non Lebemann like me, it was good enough. There was even wine – Israeli – which I found quite strong – Harrison had been alarmed at the prospect of the thing being completely “dry”.

Monday, 30th March 1970, 10.30 p.m.

We “recce’d U.C.S. [University College School] where Philip sits for his free-place examination to-morrow. As I told Edith, it is not vital he gets into U.C.S. – he will be able to get as good O & A levels from Hasmonean as from U.C.S. and will stand as good a chance of getting into University from either school. U.C.S. will enable him to pass as an English gentleman, a concept to which I personally still attach some importance. Hasmonean will make it easier for him to become a Talmid Chacham, which also represents an ideal.

Thursday, 16th April 1970, 9.30 a.m.

He didn’t get the U.C.S. place, my comments above still stand. It’s been a bit of a battle against E., who is not favourably disposed to Hasmonean. It’s understandable. Most of the staff, though worthy, do not speak the kind of “distinguished” English which might be able to influence Philip’s own London, semi-cockney accent. (I include myself in the speaker of non-distinguished English.) Also, I suspect, the proportion of boys not able to pass “11+” is higher in Hasmonean than in other grammar schools.

However, the fact remains that there are a number of bright boys in the school and every year we get our proportion of 6-9 “O” levels and 3 “A” level passes. (It is impossible to make comparisons with other schools. A high proportion of boys who sit the exam from Hasmonean pass, but to make significant comparisons one would have to know what proportion of an original 11+ plus intake sat and passed, and, if one wanted to refine the comparison, at what levels. In making an overall comparison, too, one would have to “debit” the Hasmonean performance with the amount of extra paid-for coaching some Hasmonean boys receive, often from Hasmonean masters. The proportion of boys receiving private coaching is higher at Hasmonean, I am pretty sure, than at other schools. This is not because Hasmonean teachers are worse, but because Hasmonean boys are dimmer and/or because Hasmonean parents can pay for extra coaching whereas other parents either can’t or won’t.)

There are the other disadvantages of Hasmonean: very little woodwork or art is taught, athletics and sport come off worse than they do in other schools. Even here, though, one must be fair. Boys do take “O” level art, though how Mr Rothschild can manage I don’t know. He must be over seventy, and he’s not a sprightly septuagenarian as Dr Lewis is a sprightly octogenarian – he shuffles around, nebbich, but still, he takes his classes and every year a couple of boys get “O” levels. Sport: two of our school teams did beat Hendon County recently, Jurke did represent Germany, I believe, in the Olympics, we do have a bona fide athletics afternoon and swimming gala, Jurke is chairman of the Barnet swimming association.

Undoubtedly, too, Hasmonean enables a boy who is reasonably receptive, as Philip is, to practise Judaism if he feels so disposed. Although most of the Hasmonean boys either go to outside Chedarim on Sunday mornings and/or two or three evenings a week, or are in the “Yeshiva” stream – extra Jewish studies three evenings a week and Sunday mornings, and, I believe, shiurim every morning – or have extra morning shiurim at school, I am prepared to let Philip be content with the Jewish studies he receives during normal school hours.

Thursday, 21 May 1970, 7.30 p.m.

In bed yesterday and day before, as a result of sore throat followed by cold. My conscience is quite clear. In the 10+ terms I have been at Hasmo I have taken off, including the two days previously mentioned, only 3 days altogether; the other day was to assist in conducting an oral exam for the Institute of Linguists. On Tuesday, I could not even have staggered in, and on Wednesday I might have been able to stagger in but doubt whether I could have lasted out (Wednesday is the hardest day: no free periods and my toughest class – 2nd yr. C group French).

Saturday, 6th February 1971, 8.30 p.m.

The general picture is pretty gloomy. I smacked a boy on the cheek on Friday morning. As so often happens, a likeable, cheerful boy – a little high-spirited at times, so what. As also tends to happen, the situation was dramatised by his nose bleeding as a result. He himself didn’t say a word, no dumb insolence, nothing.

I don’t think there will be parental repercussions, but I can’t be sure, and as a result am going through a phase of humiliation which by now I ought not to have to go through. There is no excuse, or very, very little (the actual casus belli was the boy’s waving a playful finger at me, I forgot apropos of what), but it is appalling that I have so little self-control.

Wednesday, 10th February 1971, 9.45 p.m.

Mood of depression, arising from headaches accruing – figurative headaches, I mean – from school journey to Paris I have foolishly attempted to organise. One Hersh, who runs a Travel Agency in Golders Green Rd., offered to quote us – his son is in the first form. His quotation, I found was rather less favourable than the price I calculate I could have operated at myself, but on calling to discuss matters with him, he gave me the alarming, and I hope, alarmist news, that there might be no accommodation for us. His wife, French-Jewish, had phoned the Foyer at Paris, or rather Neuilly, where the Comité-whatever-it-is had said they could accommodate us, and the lady at the Foyer said they had booked about 30 boys for a party from London – on reflection I am hoping this may be the ‘about 20′ I had said I wanted to have accommodated, and perhaps 10 JFS pupils – I have an idea that I heard somewhere or other, I can’t think where, that the JFS were going to stay at the Neuilly Foyer, too.

There were no repercussions over the boy I smacked. Must, must try never to smack a boy again – impossible not to touch them – when they turn round I find I have to screw their heads back to face front again. But must try not to do this, even.

Parents evening last night. As always, touching to hear how they worry about their kids.

Sunday, 21st February 1971, 7 p.m.

I did crush a boy’s face into his desk on Friday – they will turn round. Nose-bleed. Jurke came into the lesson – did I have X and Y in my class? At first I said no, then realised they should in fact have been in my lesson. They were in fact in the P/G, where Jurke had caught them. Suggested J. take them to W.S.S., which he was going to do, anyway. I went up to the Headmaster’s study at the end of the period, where I found Jurke and the two culprits. W.S.S. asked me to cane them. I felt all in, my cold was recrudescent, and took off my jacket to do the job. This must have alarmed Stanton – he asked me not to lay it on too hard. Two strokes each. Yes, yes, it will make heroes of them, no, no, there was no sexual stimulation for me whatsoever, and I am pretty sure it will stop those two particular boys cutting any lessons in future.

Yes, our accommodation at Neuilly has evidently been pre-empted by JFS. A boy whose sister is going tells me they are paying £49-10-0 for 10 days, compared with the £30-0-0 I was charging for 7 days.

I rang up M. Paul Maidenberg, who had written to say he could accommodate us, to ask him to find out if he could get us other accommodation.

Thursday, 27th May 1971, 11 p.m.

Holiday to-morrow. Harrison had been expostulating on beauty of a film “The Wanderer” (“Les Grand Meaulnes”) he had seen at a cinema in South Kensington. I said I would like to see it, but begrudged the time, to which he said – not superciliously, he is not supercilious, but that it was rather amusing of me to think my time so valuable – again I have got myself in a muddle – “to which he rejoined” perhaps, that there was nothing particularly important I could do with my time, anyway. Sub specie aeternitatis this is true, but sub specie of my mundane daily existence: I have a letter to write [a list of other tasks follows] . . . and I cannot see how I can [do all that] and shlepp to South Kensington.

Moreover, I’m supposed to be on what is a short enough holiday, and I don’t want to have to rush. Harrison will no doubt – not quite despise, he doesn’t despise, I rather think he likes me, secure in the knowledge of the superiority of his major’s rank to my lieutenant’s – this is probably a fair reflex of the difference between, or rather in, or does it matter, our calibres.

I “managed” school to-day, having had a fair night’s sleep. If I go to bed after midnight and don’t fall asleep straightaway, which I usually don’t, I’ve “had” it, and school becomes purgatory.

Wednesday, 14th July 1971, 10.50 p.m.

Wondering if I could get a 70% post at Hasmo or elsewhere from Sept 1972, and if so whether I could carry on on that basis for another ten years. In fact, with 13 free periods a week this year, I have had an “80%” job compared with my Friern Barnet or Barnsbury jobs, but next year I shall have only 8 free periods.

Tried to be bang on target with a lesson on the French Revolution to-day, but as usual, don’t really know the subject. Ah well, als naynter vee vaater, only 8 days to go.

Sunday, 18th July 1971, 7.15 p.m.

To a reception to EJF – Mr Frank, Deputy Head, Hasmo – given at the school to-day. A very nice affair, organised by Mitchell Taylor. Tea and bar professionally catered. Stanton made a good speech, in which he said he had little Latin and less Greek (not his ipsissima verbai), but he had raked out a quotation from Horace which he would quote in English, as (his words) the Philistines on the staff wouldn’t understand the Latin and he didn’t want to make Mr Frank wince by his (Stanton’s) scansion of the Latin. The quotation: Eheu fugaces etc and monumentum aeri – EJF had created his memorial by impressing his personality on generations of boys. He also said, what was very true, that Frank was the epitome of the ideal that the School had in view when it was founded: the pious Jew who had a wide secular culture.

EJF is indeed a remarkable character: A Cambridge classicist (I think he told me he once got the Parson prize for Greek verse – apropos of something or other, he wasn’t bragging), a musician (he taught himself the piano), a Wagnerian (I once said to him that Wagner could not be anything but anathema to anyone with a Jewish consciousness, but he was sublimely unbigoted in this respect), neo-Orthodox (he ran the school Minyan) and, not merely Orthodox, completely unruffled by his daughter’s marriage to a Stamford Hill Chassid and his grandchildren’s peoth, but peoth.

Sunday, 25th July 1971, for time see below

I estimate the time to be about 7 p.m. Finished school on Friday. Slept till midday in bed yesterday, and then most of the afternoon. Have felt extremely depressed, for a number of reasons. One, seeing people controlling their lives, e.g. Frank, Winter – at 60+ – young Macleochlon, deciding to spend two years in England and getting in a trip to the States as a member of the Hendon Rugby team en passant. He left to an ovation from the boys. He deserved well of them, really giving them a chance to do some games. He scored 43 for the Staff against the School, incidentally. The School won by 1 run with 2 balls to go – sorry, the Staff won, the first time I could remember them doing so, said Stanton. I did not distinguish myself. The Walter Mitty dream of, if not the brilliant catch, at least the sound, reliable catch, remained a dream. A fairly hard ball came for me, but like the stoat I seemed to be paralysed by fear. Had I run forward two yards I could have caught it. As it was, I partially atoned for the missed catch by stopping the ball with my jaw (or was that another ball; it was on the bounce, anyway, and not particularly painful) and thus stopping a possible extra three runs. Another reason for depression: Mitchell Taylor, who always captains the team, was flat on his back the next day, and dragged himself to school on the Friday afternoon with a stick. If only I could be sure of keeping as fit over the next 13 years as I have been over the last! Perhaps this is hubris – to use one of Harrison’s favourite words.

Wednesday, 8th September 1971, 6.05 p.m.

Back to school. It’s going to be a very hard year. The “honeymoon” last year, when I had 13 free periods, will not occur again – at least, it would be very unwise to assume it might. This week, sorry, year, only 8 free periods – and larger classes. Already a disastrous day yesterday, but better to-day.

Friday, 8th October 1971, 4 p.m.

I must brace myself to ten weeks, or just under, at school without a single break.

The 10% minimum increase awarded by Burnham [committee for determining teachers’ pay] as far back as July, perhaps earlier, will not be paid till the end of October.

There can be no question that I must try to semi-retire and re-engage with a 70% post from next September.

Wednesday, 5th January 1972, 10.15 p.m.

[Not Hasmo-related but this entry, on dad’s first trip to “Arets” since a period of leave during the War, bears reproduction here.]

Two incidents [from the trip] stand out. Friday evening went to the Kotel with EJF [Mr Frank]. As I had always envisaged the Kotel left me unmoved; it was a wall, and a wall is a wall is a wall. There were numerous minyanim davenning, the one we attached ourselves to comprising Stamford Hill types – boys with curled peot, men with shtreymlech, nothing to get excited about. Then a group of yeshiva bachurim came down and formed a circle, right hand on shoulder of bachur in front, chanting yasiss alayich elohayich kimsoss chatan al kallah from the lecha dodi. They beckoned to EJF and me to join them, which we did, and then I found the tears coming, or was it later, as I was walking home with EJF. Perhaps because, as EJF said, the boys were normal, well built most of them. After the davenning they formed up again, with us, and we all marched up some crude wooden steps constructed in the scaffolding – “like a film set” as EJF said – and went into their Yeshiva, the Yeshivat Ha-Kotel, where their Rosh Yeshiva – presumably – gave a derasha.

I boarded an Egged bus for the return journey [from Eyn Feshka on the Dead Sea]. The driver told me he had come down empty. I said sherut zeh sherut, service is service, and he said ken, sherut zeh sherut. I was the only passenger on the way back. He told me he was a sixth generation Jerusalemite, had been captured by the Jordanians in 1948. En bayot, he said, they’re no problems. Sadat’s talk about 1971 being a year of decision – ehya; I can’t reproduce the scornful sound. Kol zeh shayach li, he said, all this belongs to me, pointing to the Judean and the Jordanian hills. But if he claimed the Jordanian territory this was koach ha-egroff, I said; the power of the fist. Ma zeh koach ha-egroff, he said, what’s this about koach ha-egroff? The Iraqis expelled the Jews with only the clothes they stood up in, the Jews were driven out of Egypt, Morocco (?) – they could, we couldn’t? Don’t worry, he said, I bet I sleep more soundly than you do in London, our army is the finest in the world, if the Arabs want to work, O.K., if they want a fight (he used the English word ‘fight’) they’d get it, en bayot, bo-u bahamoneychem, come in your masses. And again I found the tears flowing.

Friday, April 21st 1972, 5.30 p.m.

Sixty! No philosophising.

A routine day at school, i.e., wandered around with class in search of an empty classroom, eventually entered art-room, for first period. Second period could find no classroom at all, was told afterwards that lower library was available (would be available this particular period in future?), also hall (workmen banging, fifth formers doing alleged private study) and gym changing room (!).

Nevertheless, got through day without having to close eyes after lunch; did, even, a little marking (marked a whole class’s [?] grammar [square brackets in original, presumably questioning apostrophe use] test in less than a period – in my only “free” period, in fact, when I sat in with a class who were mäusestill), and although breathing fire and slaughter, managed to avoid sending anybody to WWS. My general feeling, that particularly if I didn’t have to go to shool every school morning [his mother had died in March], I could manage full-time school quite easily.

Ikkar, almost, shachachti. We – 2W – had raised £75 for the J.N.F.and Dr Levy, the Director, had said he would like to present the certificate. Because it was such uphill work getting them to be quiet, I told the kids I would ask Dr Levy not to come. I did, and he didn’t, but he sent a Jewish Observer photographer, and so yours truly will have his phiz preserved for posterity, presumably, in next week’s issue.

Tuesday, 9th May, 1972, 6.30 p.m.

Going back from the school’s swimming gala in Jack Ordman’s car we heard that the Israelis had freed all the passengers and crew [of a Belgian plane hijacked at Lydda].

Rabbi Cooper and Gerald Lever were in the car. Obviously jubilation. A ness. Baruch Ha-Shem. As Rabbi Cooper said, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth among Israel’s enemies. Israeli policy seems to be vindicated all along the line. Even Mr Jacobson, an Israeli Shaliach on the staff, said Israel would have to accede to some of the terrorists’ demands, but J.O. was firm that Israel would be quite firm, and he was triumphantly right.

Monday, 12th June 1972, 6 p.m.

On Friday morning I conducted the French dictation and aural at the Hospital of St John and Elizabeth (Roman Catholic) for Eli Joseph, a pupil in my “B” set. I knew his parents came from Egypt and were French speaking, and in fact his French was fluent, though pitted with grammatical errors.

From what WS had told me the previous day (“he’s got a twisted testicle or something”) I had imagined he would be sitting up fairly cheerful. In fact, he did the 3-hr paper in bed, obviously under great strain. His mother, a young, pretty woman told me her G.P. had said he (Eli) had developed a condition which might be fatal if not tackled immediately.

For me it was a restful morning: the peace of a quiet room with one other person in it, keeping quiet, after the hurly-burly of coping with classes of 20-30 rowdy kids (“after the hurly-burly of the chaise longue, the deep deep peace of the double bed”, as I mentioned to WH [Woody Harrison] – Mrs Patrick Campbell, he said (what did she say it apropos of?)).

Friday, 30th June 1972, 7.15 p.m.

A terrible latter part of the day yesterday. It was the 17th of Tammuz, and all I had had was a cup of tea before leaving for shool. And yet I had got through the morning, and had only one lesson to take in the afternoon, when . . . A boy, one David Marx (3rd year MH) had, as his is wont, been one of the last to come in to the lesson. There was, as is still not unusual in Hasmonean, no chair for him. (I think we must be one of the few schools in which a teacher goes into a classroom without being sure there will be a chair and a desk for every pupil, and a chair for the teacher.) I told him to stand in a corner. He sat on a desk, a broken one I think. I cannot remember the exact sequence of events that followed: I imagine he argued (“What’s wrong with sitting on the desk?”) or was tardy in standing up – Anyway, I grabbed him by the lapels, pushed him against the wall and then cuffed him on the head. It’s no use: I vow every day I will not touch a boy, but hardly a day passes when I don’t clout someone. He came forward. I said: “Where are you going?”. He said: “I’m bleeding”. He was, and his shirt was bloodstained. He said, after the lesson, there was a nasty cut on his head. I suppose I was fortunate there was no delegation to WWS. I don’t know whether I’m out of the wood yet, but no parent breathing fire and slaughter turned up to-day, and the assumption is that by Monday the signs of the assault will be less prominent than they were to-day. I even had fears he might have had to stay at home owing to his injuries (which looked bad – blood and bruise always do, take it from a professional sadist who always tries to beat up his victims without leaving any traces).

The tragedy is that the boy is not the blackest of my bête noires. He had told me, before, that his father was seriously ill, and in fact a few days previously I had stormed at him in class and said that it was only because of this that I was showing him indulgence.

Sam [dad’s brother] had had a reversion to his I’ll-get-a-divorce mood, which I suppose didn’t help. However, I can’t make excuses. IT MUST NOT HAPPEN AGAIN (yes, H.L. [see 22nd December 1966 entry in Part I], keep your eyes open to see when it will).

I think perhaps I should have tried to retire on a 38/55 basis, which would have meant, presumably at least a 30% approx less chance of these incidents occurring.

Monday, 17th July 1972, 9.05 p.m.

Coals of fire. Stanton read out a letter from Mrs Marx to the staff on Wednesday or Thursday. She mentioned no name of any teacher; they were having Mr Marx at home – he has cancer – so that he could spend his last days in comfort. David was a helpful boy at home; she did not object to reasonable punishment (I think she even wrote she did not object to reasonable physical punishment), but no hitting on the head.

I wrote a letter to her making the amende honorable, as far as any amende was possible, and as far as any amende could be honorable. The idea was my own, though A.M. had said he would have done this in my place, “though you don’t have to do what I would do,” etc.

To-day I was completely in control, including at cheder, though I gave formal lessons (some masters have started on the be-reading-quietly-while-I-get-on-with-this-marking/these-reports a few days ago). Almost certainly because I was in bed by 10.45 last night. If I could do this every night there will almost certainly be no trouble.

[For The Witriol Diaries, Parts I – followed by A (Hasmo) Son’s Introduction – and II (of V), click here and here. Coming soon on melchett mike . . . The Witriol Diaries, Part IV: Chich, Bosoms, and a Bearded Cockney: Hasmo, the Next Generation.]

15 responses to “The Witriol Diaries, Part III (Hasmo Legends XXII)

  1. “I did crush a boy’s face into his desk on Friday – they will turn round.”

    Quote of the Diaries, so far!

  2. “Wednesday is the hardest day: no free periods and my toughest class – 2nd yr. C group French”

    So proud I was part of that class in May 1970. How wonderful to know that all our hard work at being so disruptive paid off that we are mentioned as his toughest class. Just proves if you put in the effort you get the reward!!

    Mike Hinden

  3. Mike – “Chich, Bosoms, and a Bearded Cockney: Hasmo, the Next Generation”……I’m looking forward to this next instalment, which will at least step substantially into my own lifetime, and my elder brother’s Hasmo years. Do I take it the bearded cockney is the late, great Joe Paley o.b.m?

    D

  4. Michael

    You ignored the rest of the paragraph . . .

    “felt all in, my cold was recrudescent, and took off my jacket to do the job. This must have alarmed Stanton – he asked me not to lay it on too hard. Two strokes each. Yes, yes, it will make heroes of them, no, no, there was no sexual stimulation for me whatsoever.”

    and . . .

    “Tried to be bang on target with a lesson on the French Revolution to-day, but as usual, don’t really know the subject.”

    I was never taught by the late Mr. Witriol. I commend his son for not editing or airbrushing what is a very honest portrayal of the frustrations of a high school teacher, and in particular a teacher at Hasmo.

  5. Also . . .

    “I smacked a boy on the cheek on Friday morning . . . As also tends to happen, the situation was dramatised by his nose bleeding as a result.”

    Interesting how our diarist manages to distance himself from the result of his actions – nose bleeding, apparently, merely “tends to happen.”

    Coincidentally, the main “bloodstained” hero of the piece, David Marx, was a good friend of my brother, Jonny (the “Dave” in my post about him). And I have asked Dave for a response.

    Re the identity of the “Bearded Cockney,” Dan, you will just have to wait and see . . . it could just as easily be referring to Mrs. B!

  6. I wonder if Joe will ever mention the day he wore his brand new cream blazer for a German class and went back to the staffroom to be told the back was covered in ink splatter – a piece of work that would have done Jackson Pollack proud. Cost me a two week suspension, a good caning, and a hefty dry cleaning bill. Still,it was all worth it. Joe was just such great wind up material, and our year, of which David Marx was a member, never let him down. As for telling your parents you`d been whacked by a teacher – unheard of!

  7. Martin – did you not see Part 2 where that vignette is featured?!

  8. Looks like an ex-Hasmo boy could well be the next Israeli Ambassador in London:

    http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/45228/lieberman-arad-wont-replace-prosor-israeli-ambassador-uk

    Jeremy Issacharoff and Mark Sofer – Hochhauser in Hasmo days – were in the same year in Holders Hill Road:

    http://www.thejc.com/news/people/jeremy-issacharoff-and-mark-sofer-go-being-best-friends-hasmonean-diplomatic-ambassadors

    From the photos, as the man with the far more impressive tie knot, the post would have to go to Sofer. Issacharoff by contrast – also still sporting a button-down collar – looks like he has just been “tagged.”

    Fortunately, however, I am not that superficial, and am actually giving my vote (well, I would if I had one) to Issacharoff. He, after all, has been a regular contributor to melchett mike . . .

    His first comment actually recounts the Malin/Witriol story (two comments above) from “the middle of a solemn diplomatic meeting on the iranian nuclear threat” (good to see that he’s got his priorities right!):

    http://melchettmike.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/hasmo-legends-i-an-introduction-to-an-institution/#comment-1143

    Another comment contains an amusing anecdote involving him, Hochhauser and Cyril:

    http://melchettmike.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/hasmo-legends-iii-cyril-aka-mr-bloomberg/#comment-1233

    There is a nice Woody story, too:

    http://melchettmike.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/hasmo-legends-vii-woody-woodthorpe-harrison/#comment-1554

    Anyway, if ex-classmates have got any good Issacharoff or Hochhauser tales – and/or worthless opinions on which of the two would make a better Ambassador – you know where to post ‘em . . .

  9. “Two strokes each…..there was no sexual stimulation for me whatsoever.”

    I’m sure that I was not alone in being shocked to the core, indeed, this revelation has caused me to rethink my opinion regarding the beatings that took place while I was at Hasmonean.

    Exactly two years ago I wrote:

    “Whether they were truly sadists, I would have to say that for the most part I doubt it. I don’t think that most of them were gratifying themselves sexually by hitting us….”

    I should reiterate that Joe Witriol was not considered to be particularly violent by the standards of Hasmonean in the 60s and 70s. If I’m not mistaken his name was hardly mentioned among the many posting that ex-students have written regarding beatings. I, for example, was a terrible brat and, in two or three years of his teaching me don’t remember being hit once.

    At the end of a gemara lesson today, I paraphrased the above quote and asked two Israeli friends what they understood him to be saying. They both responded immediately that “there was no sexual stimulation for me” meant that while there wasn’t (sexual stimulation) that time, there was on other occasions.

    I disagree, and understand him to be saying “no, no” to others who had caused the possibility that beating young boys causes sexual stimulation to be raised.

    If I am right, I dread to think who those others were. Were they liberal reformers who opposed teacher-pupil violence? Or were they fellow members of staff who appeared to be sexually stimulated from beating us?

    In short, it’s hard to find a way to put a positive spin on this rather bizarre utterance and while I join Aharon in commending Philip Witriol’s honestly in not editing these lines out, I am not sure that in this case, there are no halachic issues relating to parental respect to consider.

  10. Talking of “spin,” how Marksy Boy didn’t end up as a Sunday People or News of the World journo is anyone’s guess . . .

    Having tried, but failed, to get Eli Joseph’s knickers in as much of a twist as his testicle (anyone else wonder whether our diarist’s “might be fatal if not tackled immediately” was deliberate?), the Ma’ale Adumim rabble-rouser then “paraphrases” Joe Witriol’s words, written a few days off 40 years ago, to “two Israeli friends” (with their obvious deep understanding of the social and cultural milieu in which they were written) . . .

    “They both responded immediately that “there was no sexual stimulation for me” meant that while there wasn’t (sexual stimulation) that time, there was on other occasions.”

    We can only hope that Marksy Boy’s students are rather more adept at interpreting the gemara than his friends are the diary entries, and suspected perversions, of former teachers at Holders Hill Road.

  11. It is most disappointing that Joe Witriol did not regard me as the very blackest of his bête noires. Obviously I wasn’t trying hard enough. Sadly I have little recollection of the incident he mentions in his diary. One must remember that there was a whole assortment of mindless thugs employed by the school at the time and such incidents were commonplace. As Joe himself testifies, he was prone to losing it, but there was nothing malicious in his actions. He was a decent guy and if he were to have been given the opportunity to teach in a proper school, I am confident he would have excelled. Stanton was a bit of an oddball. He was essentially a fair man, but had a very strange way of administering justice. Going back to the thugs on the teaching staff, there was a particular lunatic called Clapolz. He held himself out to be a deeply religious man and went about proving it by lashing out wildly with little or no provocation at the nearest pupil to him, using the edge of a hardback register as a weapon. On one occasion I became the unfortunate recipient and was within a fraction of a centimetre of losing my eye, a huge gash appearing immediately below it. As was his usual way, Stanton chose to take no action. Another time however I was only gently set upon by a Mr. Ballam who I pushed away with no great force, only for him to stumble comically over a chair. It was not a major incident, but word spread around the school that I had punched Ballam in the face and knocked him to the ground. Stanton called me in and inquired whether I had in fact hit Ballam. I told him that I had merely pushed him away in self defence. He asked me to wait outside and I feared the worst. Lo and behold, the next thing I knew was that it was Ballam and not me who would be making an ungracious exit from the school. I always feel that I did him a big favour. I am only sorry I couldn’t have done the same for Joe Witriol. He deserved much better than Hasmonean could ever offer. Then again, didn’t we all?

  12. Since it’s our dad’s Yahrzeit tonight/tomorrow thought I’d say a quick thank you to all those who have read the diaries and of course to Mike for publishing them. The response has been incredible, many people commenting on how well written they are and how interesting it is after all these years to see Hasmo from a teacher’s point of view. Many have affirmed what my brother Philip originally said that the diaries are an excellent record of their era and simply how unique it was to write them so concientiously and with such consistency.

    For me the most gratifying aspect has been the unanimous verdict that our Dad was a good bloke, nice guy etc which hasn’t been diminished in my opinion by his candid reflections, warts ‘n all being published.

    If he felt a failure for not being more succesful (see Phil’s intro to part 1 of the diaries) then I can only say “Tov shaim tov mishmen tov” – “A good name is better than good oil” (Ecclisiastes I think). Olov Hasholom.

  13. Mark Sofer (Hochhauser)

    I have started scouring the Indian sub-continent for ex-Hasmos, and have just finished checking West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Bihar. Screaming “Cyril, Cyril, wherefore art thou Cyril?” didn’t uncover a single one. Could I be the only one? I mean what are the chances that out of 1.3 billion people there’s only me? God, it’s so lonely here.

    Mind you, I haven’t reached Goa or Manali yet, and I’m bound to find there thousands of them, pierced from head to toe, inhaling incessantly lots of fascinating substances and about to fly out of India without using an aeroplane.

    Palpably, and sadly,”melchettmike” like so many other wonderful things such as Blooms roast beef (what with all those holy cows and all), slowing down or even (perish the thought) stopping at zebra crossings, and that refreshingly cleansing London drizzle, have not been part of my life here in sunny downtown Delhi.

    Now that you are, I actually read your past posts. Laughed out loud at Joe Weiss’s memory of Ms. Pick, the French “assistante” and can only recall the size of her nose to which her name was so relevant. Remembered vividly Cyril calling me and Jeremy “H” and “I” and then Bertie Meyers (he of fluent Hebrew fame) always calling me “Muck” and then wondering what an awful position he would be in if my name was Sark or even Fark.

    Oh, and that Ambassador position? No contest. Jeremy’s your man. (Hey, Jeremy, now that your present job’s opening up, put in a good word for me. Been 4 years in India. I’m outta here.)

  14. Welcome to melchett mike, Your Excellency (for all those ex-Hasmos who went straight into estate agency: http://melchettmike.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/the-witriol-diaries-part-iii-hasmo-legends-xxii/#comment-7290) . . . but, India or not, you took your bloody time! ;-)

    On your return, can I look forward to a beer with an ex-Hasmo who actually did something interesting with his life (no, John, accountancy doesn’t count!)

    Best from non-smelly TA,

    Mike

    PS Re your search for ex-Hasmos, have you thought to look behind the bike sheds?

  15. Mark Sofer (Hochhauser)

    a. Mine’s a corona, slice of lemon, no glass.

    b. “non-smelly Tel Aviv”? My kids live there. Pull the other one. I come back to Delhi to actually breathe. (erm, on second thoughts….)

    c. Does anyone remember the chemistry lesson, with Joe Frank I think, when in comes Frank pushing a rattling trolley of test-tubes, and Andy Segal calls out “tea up everyone!” Hilarious. Frank didn’t think so.

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