A final fling

The summer of ’66 was over and I had finished my work experience at the Rhyl and Prestatyn Gazette and was preparing to return to the world of education.

The difference between my time at Rhyl Grammar School and the year I spent at Flintshire College of Technology was that at one I was treated as a child and at the other as an adult.

There was another difference.

At school the class had consisted of about 30 split roughly half and half between male and female.

At college there were 17 people in the group and I was the only one who used the male toilets.

Imagine it – a 16-year-old boy spending most of his time at college with a group of girls aged between 16 and 18.

The college was a train ride away from Rhyl, getting off at Flint and then catching the college bus. You knew you were approaching Kelsterton (as the college was always known) when you saw the cooling towers at the Shotton works (since demolished).

The old cooling towers opposite the college.

As I said the course was labelled as a commercial course and it went beyond secretarial subjects, shorthand and typing, to include commerce (invoicing, bills of lading, discounting); office practice (including rotas); general mathematics; and English Speaking.

The idea was not to turn out secretaries but to turn out office staff with the capability of becoming office managers. Although that might sound sexist now at that time it was a massive leap forward in the feminist stakes.

At this time one of my cousins, of the same age group as my classmates, was taking an actual secretarial course at an Essex college which really was churning out secretaries. Clearly we in Wales were more enlightened.

There I was – a lone male in a class with 16 women (I certainly wasn’t going to describe them as schoolgirls), the envy of all my male friends; and I spent the first week thinking about every word before I spoke in case it could be taken the wrong way.

In fact I needn’t have worried. In the main we all became good friends, although I must admit two or three did try to mother me. The real problem was that if I had met any of them at a disco I would have happily danced with them and asked them out on a date.

Not so easy when you meet them all together and don’t know if any are already dating and who might feel offended if I did not ask for a date.

As it happened I doubt if many were bothered. I know a couple were interested in taking things further because they made it abundantly clear. The situation was not that easy for an adolescent boy making his first real forays into the swinging sixties scene.

Meanwhile we all settled in to our classes. The mathematics were tailored to suit the business world and did not involve working out how quickly you could fill a 50-gallon bath if the taps filled it at 10 gallons a minute while the plughole released it at five gallons a minute.

To solve that you buy a plug. That’s business.

This was, of course, a time of new fashion and even in North Wales we had adopted much of the style of Carnaby Street.

Far from having only one tie – a school tie – I already had five, including a yellow floral kipper tie; a slim Jim in black and silver; a Paisley pattern kipper tie and two more simple ones.

The presence of so many young ladies around me tended to bring out the peacock in me and my shirts had floral patterns or collar and cuffs in darker material than the body and sleeves.

My pride and joy was a double-breasted Regency-style jacket in wide brown stripes – light and not so light. Flared hipster trousers with a wide black belt completed a very elegant ensemble which would have done Beau Brummel proud.

The Regency cut which was all the rage at the time.

Not that my flamboyant style left my classmates in the shade. They seemed to try and outdo each other in their choice of colours, materials, hem length and various patterned tights.

My male friends were surprised that at coffee breaks or lunch breaks I was perfectly happy hanging around with them rather than the ladies. Maybe some of them hoped for an introduction.

The year at college flew by and during that time my friendship with my classmates boosted my confidence when it came to dating. Not with “Robin’s Angels”, as some of the other students had started to call them, but with local girls I met at discos in Rhyl.

More about my boogy disco nights another time.

At the same time my friendship with my classmates made me more aware of the right ways and the wrong ways to treat potential dates.

College gave me an interesting break before I needed to really get down to settling my future. It also gave me a stack of certificates from WJEC, RSA, and Pitman’s many of which were counted as equivalent to GCEs.

That was basically what my parents and I had agreed I needed.

When college ended it was not a summer holiday that loomed – I needed to find a job.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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