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The History Man – final part of the Ken Brooks story

Ken aged 9, recovering from osteomyelitis in the Buchanan Hospital.

Ken aged 9, recovering from osteomyelitis in the Buchanan Hospital.

Ex-St Paul’s teacher and passionate local historian Ken Brooks is interviewed for ‘Bohemia Village Voice’. This final part of covers his childhood battle with osteomyelitis, bullying at work, and his struggle to get ‘O’ levels and get qualified to teach.

What was Ken’s own education like? “I had rather a difficult time, in a way, because at the age of nine, I got a serious illness and ended up in hospital. It just got worse and worse, affecting one leg and one arm. The doctors thought it was polio at first, and it just got worse. I found out later, that the doctors told my mother and father that there was nothing more they could do, and they didn’t think I’d survive – and if I did, I’d spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. Then one of the doctors, almost by chance, looked at some x-rays of my leg and recognised the disease as osteomyelitis, which is a disease of the marrow of the bone. So he started treating me with what was then a comparatively new drug – penicillin. I was given six injections a day, and very slowly I recovered.  This would have been in 1949. I actually had my tenth birthday in hospital. For a year after, I was either pushed round in a wheelchair or I was in crutches. So I missed about two years of school. That meant that I didn’t get the chance to take the eleven plus exam. So I was sent to a secondary school, which was Tower Road secondary school. In those days, at secondary schools, you didn’t do ‘O’ levels, they were done at the grammar schools.
BULLYING
And Ken’s first job? “With no ‘O’ levels, I ended up working as a stonemason’s apprentice, which I did for five years. But, during that time, I was bullied, mainly by the older apprentices at the stonemasons. I had a really bad time. Every day was a nightmare for me. It got to the point in the end, when I thought, ‘I’ve had enough of this’. So I joined the Hastings Judo Club. I didn’t tell anyone. After a few months, bullying started, and I ended up having a tussle with one of these big chaps on the floor and I ended up with a judo arm lock on him. And from that day on, things changed.”

GETTING QUALIFIED
“While I was at the judo club I was asked if I would be prepared to become an instructor for a junior section that they wanted to start. At that time it was just adults. So that’s what happened and that’s when I realised that what I really wanted to do was to teach. But I had no qualifications, no ‘O’ levels. I managed to get an interview with the principal of the Hastings College of Further Education, to ask if I could go there as a full-time student – to do my ‘O’ levels. At the end of the interview, he said to me ‘Well, Mr Brooks, to be perfectly honest, with your background, you’d be wasting your time trying to get to a teachers’ training college. My advice to you is to go back to your stonemasonry.’ And then I thought, ‘Well, they can’t stop me going to night school’. So I went to night school to do English Language at ‘O’ level, and after just six months, I took the exam and passed. And on the strength of that, they more or less had to let me go full-time to Hastings College.” Ken still had another hurdle to get over – money. “So then I had to try and get a grant. When I applied for a grant, the grants’ officer said ‘Hastings College is for people who want to continue their education, not repair it.’ I’m not angry about this now, but at the time, it really knocked me down. Anyway, I did get the grant, went to the college, and got the required ‘O’ levels. Then I applied to teachers’ training college and did my three years teacher training. Then, I went into teaching – at the age of about 25. And I spent the rest of my working life teaching.”

“ Ken Brooks was born in November 1939, a ‘war baby’. He lives with his partner Diana in Clive Vale, Hastings.

Ken aged 17, working as a stonemasons apprentice.

Ken aged 17, working as a stonemasons apprentice.


Ken Brooks pictured today in September 2006.

Ken Brooks pictured today in September 2006.

2 Comments

  1. Well done Ken

  2. Well done Ken.

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