All required textbooks were issued free by the school at the start of each year. A list was taken home for parents to confirm receipt and sign for responsibility. Books were expected to be returned at the end of the year, and any losses charged at full cost despite the missing book having been possibly ten years old.
Printed inside the cover of each book was a table listing details of each successive owner, sometimes going back many years. At least one example was known of a Latin primer being issued to the son of a previous owner. Many interesting snippets of information, sometimes libellous, were to be found recorded by previous owners. Surprisingly accurate if not flattering sketches of teaching staff were also in evidence.
Some books were issued and returned a year later having never been opened, and others slowly developed a well worn, if unloved condition. The system meant that damaged or missing sections were never reported. Damage was inevitable since books were constantly being conveyed to and from home in the standard pattern school satchel.
This satchel was manufactured from leather so thick and unyielding that it is surprising the donating beast was ever vanquished. Strapped on both shoulders with rugby boots hanging by their laces, it encouraged an ape-like posture to counter the serious risk of falling backwards. A full range of imaginative art was applied to satchels in an attempt to display individuality.
A constant hazard was small, fragile glass bubbles holding a green liquid, which could be surreptitiously placed into satchels or blazer pockets. When smashed these released a unique aroma which lingered for some time. Travelling home on public transport was an experience not easily forgotten.
A pupil could be allocated a different class session for each subject within his year, reflecting individual performance and non-achievement. Occasionally a genetic mutant would step up a year in his chosen subject. This made sharing books to reduce transport problems very difficult.
There was a strange thrill in opening a new workbook. The crisp white virgin pages, pale pink horizontal lines, promised the start of new academic achievement. Inevitably however, ink stains and outbreaks of dot-and-line competition quickly dispelled this illusion. Ballpoint pens were rare, confiscated immediately, and considered to be tools of the devil.