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2 / 16 The Long Arm Law: Brooke House

'The Long Arm Law stated that anybody big enough to bully you did bully you and therefore had the right to bully you. If teachers got you to do what they commanded then they had the right; if they couldn't then they didn't. Probably the most successful enforcer of the Long Arm Law was Mr. Price. Mr. Price was a tall curly-haired man of about fifty. According to others he was a reasonable, good natured man while teaching his sixth form English students. He hated first years.

There was nowhere outside Mr. Price's jurisdiction. He would tell boys off on the stairs for whistling, in the dinner room for talking and in the playground for playing. To him childhood was something to be cured of. The first time I encountered him was about a month into that first term. We were all cavorting and yelling in the hall's entrance waiting for the Drama teacher to arrive.

Suddenly Mr. Price, like Moses discovering the party going on at the bottom of the mountain, loomed at the doorway hands at angry sides.
'Get in order at once!' he bellowed, 'You awful children.'

The result was as quick as it was amazing: Like a tangled ball of string pulled taut into perfect unknotted order all the boys jumped into correct position. Position of class, height, age, size of shoes, just about everything to appease the wrath of this unknown avenger.
Everyone that is except for me. It was all so astounding that I stood where I was rooted to the floor, perfectly still amidst the panic with a smile on my face.

Soon I was balancing on my toes, my top button popping and my face tomato red. Mr. Price, on seeing this insolent wretch with a smirk on his face, had grabbed me by the knot of the tie and hauled me up.

'Do you think it's funny?' he shouted at point blank range. Now he may have been a hard man or even a violent man but at least he had given me a choice. I could either lie and be set free with nothing but a scolding or I could tell the truth, 'Yes, I thought it was bloody hilarious', and receive a caning at the very least. 'No sir,' I told him.'

From A Comprehensive Education by Roger Mills, who attended Brooke House between 1965 and 1971.  At school, ‘discipline was maintained with a stick. Outside its walls were the Beatles, the New Labour Government, Mary Quant and the mini skirt'.  Roger said, ‘Any one of the thousand boys there could have written this story, only maybe they would have had different interpretations and put more emphasis on things I may have missed out altogether.’

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Roger Mills (left) with his friend Alan Gilbey, 1970s, supplied courtesy of Brick Lane bookshop