Seven school pals meet 50 years on

MEMORIES abounded and boyhood nicknames recalled as seven old school chums met up again for the first time in over 50 years.

The former Bexhill Grammar School pals, all bar two now 70, lost touch when they all left Bexhill for their National Service.

Last Wednesday the gang of seven met again over lunch at Dr Beechings in Terminus Road and the years fell away.

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Half a century older they may have been, their hair tinged with grey and thinning. But around the lunch table they were Poppy Cooper, Bricky Brice and Moggy Morris from the class of '48 once again.

The retired gentlemen came from as far afield as Birmingham in the UK and Nova Scotia in Canada.

Peter Ashenden, from Wilton Road, said: "We all went around together at school. But when we went on to do our National Service we never met again.

"I left Bexhill in 1951 and have lived and worked in Hong Kong, Switzerland and London with the police force. I retired to Bexhill 18 months ago and started to trace my old chums. I found a friend who had stayed and worked in Bexhill. We then started tracking down the others. We had an old picture of five of us so we started from that."

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John Turner, from Birmingham, worked for the Home Office. His father owned Turner's Forge, the blacksmiths in Sidley.

Doug (Moggy) Morris, used to live at Mountfield and longed to lose himself among the trees. He emigrated to Nova Scotia in Canada in 1952 and became a forest ranger, working in wildlife rescue, with beaver, moose and bears. He later became a draftsman and now lives in Stewiacke (Winding River). He timed a visit to his sister and brother in the UK with the reunion.

Ron (Hypo) Hollyfield, from Reading, lived in Australia for 18 years after National Service. Retiring as sales manager for pharmaceutical companies, his father had a photographic shop near the station.

Recently back from the Philippines, he said: "This is a great idea. They all recognised me instantly but I didn't recognise any of them."

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John (Bricky) Brice spent many years with the foreign office with postings to Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Paris and New York. Looking around as the chatter got more animated and laughter increased as memories flooded back, he remarked: "It doesn't seem like 50 years since we left Bexhill. It seems like yesterday."

Bricky's father used to run the Conservative Club in Amherst Road.

Derek (Spider) Rhodes, recalled Hypo, was a good sportsman. "He was always tall and thin, and a good 100 and 200 yard runner."

Still willowy, Spider came back to Bexhill after national service and worked for many years with the Eastbourne Health Authority in the finance department.

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Frank (Poppy Pooper) Cooper lives in Rustington. He has worked in the Metropolitan Police and aggregates and waste industries locally.

He said: "It was a shame we were not able to trace any more from our class. It would be nice to have more for next year. We were all in the same class and perhaps because of the wartime and the doodlebugs flying over we became good friends."

"We were the worst kids in our year," recalled John Turner. "But we had a great time. It was a great school and we had some wonderful teachers."