A note by Cliff Archer

I have written this short note of Vernon Crouch's time as Head Master of Chidham School based on my own memory as a parent of children who attended the School and as a governor at the School. I have drawn extensively on information from Sylvia Hubbard (previously Mrs Ullmer), a former teacher at the School.

Mr Crouch was famous in the Parish for coming to the School from Bognor either on his old James motorbike, wearing a war-time despatch rider's coat and goggles (!), or in his VW campervan. The School football team would crowd into his campervan (including the parcel shelf) to be taken to matches with other local schools. If something was needed for the School, Mr Crouch would often make it himself. He made all the gadgets (and many of the sideshows) needed for the School Summer Fetes, such as ‘Splat the Rat' (‘Chase the Rat down the Drainpipe') and the Tombola Wheel. Delph and I have seen some of his creations at the School very recently.

Mr Crouch and the PTFA masterminded the preparations for each Summer Fete and the School dads, myself included, were dragooned into erecting massive tea tents and beer tents (yes!) that were really big enough to be called marquees. One year, the Morris Dancers he had recruited were needed to eject some likely lads from the beer tent. Unfortunately for them, the lads did not know that the Dancers were all policemen and initially refused to leave the School field. Two hefty sergeants soon had them out on their ears in Chidham Lane.

The School swimming pool was Mr Crouch's initiative and every child learnt to swim; every summer there was a competitive swimming gala. He believed in preparing children for life's challenges! The pool was open to the weather and was unheated, as the mums and dads learned to their cost when Mr Crouch asked us to supervise the swimming sessions during the summer holidays. I seem to remember that windy weather was not allowed to disrupt a session, but we were not permitted to run a session if the pool water temperature fell below 13° C. You try being splashed by children with water at this low temperature for two hours!

Each year, the children gave two performances of the School Christmas Play in the packed Village Hall under the overall control of Mr Crouch. The rear stairs of the Hall gave direct access to the first floor stage, so the children could change downstairs and creep up the stairs to make their dramatic entrances.

Mr Crouch was a strict disciplinarian, but had a strong sense of fun and was much respected and loved by all the children and staff. We remember that each child would be allowed to raise the School Flag on his or her birthday and how much the children enjoyed this as mark of recognition of each of them as an individual.

Vernon Crouch believed in hard work by the pupils and succeeded in getting the best out of each child. He had strong Christian values and the School's daily morning assemblies reflected these. He was held in high esteem by his fellow head teachers; an indication of this was the fact that he was chairman of the local branch of the National Association of Head Teachers. Outside of School life, Vernon enjoyed his family and playing squash well.

To sum up, Mr Crouch was the epitome of a well-rounded man and will be missed by all who knew him.

Cliff Archer

PS If you spot any errors or have any other memories of Mr Crouch, please email Cliff Archer.

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