My song today is ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’. This is a show tune from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical ‘Oklahoma’ (1943). In the original Broadway production, the song was introduced by Alfred Drake and Joan Roberts.
In the plot, characters think, correctly, that Laurey (Joan Roberts) and Curly (Alfred Drake) are in love. In this song, they warn each other not to behave indiscreetly, lest people misinterpret their intentions. Neither wants to admit to the other - or themselves - his or her true feelings. Towards the end of the musical, the characters repeat the number after becoming engaged, saying "Let people say we're in love."
I well remember seeing this film at the Picture House (cinema) around 1956, one year after its initial release. Having occurred a very serious traffic accident when I was 11 years old (which left me unable to walk for three years), I had just about started to hobble around during my 14th year of life.
I had also missed almost three years of my schooling through being in the hospital for a period of nine months, followed by a lengthy educational absence afterward that involved many leg operations. I had taken and passed my 11 plus examinations before my life-threatening accident (when a wagon ran over me) but declined to attend the Grammar School in Heckmondwike. I then took the necessary examinations in the hospital to enable me to attend ‘Dewsbury Technical College’ when I was able to do so, and after passing these examinations, this is where I attended when I was aged 14 years. I had missed three years of education due to my lengthy stay as a hospital patient, plus my many leg operations over the following two years after leaving the hospital.
I missed the start of the new intake for my first Technical College year at Dewsbury due to having another operation on my leg, and I started at the Technical College six months into the course year. Having started the course six months after the rest of the class, left me playing ‘catch up’ for the remaining lessons up to Christmas 1957.
I was a bright lad who had grown accustomed since starting ‘First School’ at the age of nearly 6 years, to always being the best or second-best pupil in whatever subject I undertook or class I was in. This remained the case until my accident at the age of 11 years. In those days, one was educated in a class year which matched the pupil’s academic ability, not their age, and although only 11-years-old, I was in the top class of 14-year-old pupils (my Mensa IQ score was assessed as being 142 when I was tested during my 11th year of life that I spent as a hospital inpatient).
When I eventually started my education again by attending ‘Dewsbury Technical College’, I discovered that I was no longer the brightest pupil in the class and that there were a dozen or more of my classmates cleverer than I was in the subjects being taught. I found this wholly new experience too much to handle and my ego led me to throw in the towel and to withdraw from the educational forum completely. On the day of the Christmas party in 1957, when the musical ‘Oklahoma’ was being performed on stage by other pupils, I quietly gathered together all my textbooks and handed them in at the Headmaster’s Office, saying, “I’ve had enough of school. I need to get a job and earn some money to put some good shoes on my feet and to buy some fashionable clothes!”
I was surprised when the Headmaster, Mr. Ford (the same surname as myself, but without the ‘e’) smiled and wished me good luck instead of berating me and threatening to prosecute me if I left the Technical College six months before my educational contract had expired. The following Monday morning I had started work in a Cleckheaton Mill for the magnificent wage of £2 and 16 shillings a week.
I will never forget as I left ‘Dewsbury Technical College’ that December noon, how happy I felt to be joining the nation’s workforce. I was over the moon at the thought of being able to earn some money soon. Under normal circumstances, I would have willingly been a part of the ‘Oklahoma’ school production as I knew all the songs by heart and could sing them as well as the person who was to play the lead of Curly. The reason that I never auditioned for the part, however, was twofold. First, the entire cast had already been selected two months before I joined my other classmates. Second, even had I not joined my classmates six months into the educational term and had started at the same time as they did, I still would not have applied to play in the cast because of my ungainly walk at the time. Although I attended school daily, I limped exceedingly badly and was excused sport due to my disability in movement.
What I do recall, however, as vividly as though it happened today, is me singing ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ as I left school that final day with an empty satchel and happy at the thought of finally been able to get a job and earn some money. This is not the song I sing for you today from the same musical show, but one I shall sing for you at a future date.
Incidentally, years later in my late thirties, I returned to ‘Dewsbury Technical College’, the school I’d run away from as a pupil to teach an evening class of mature adults on a six-month course on ‘Assertion and Relaxation Training’. I had gained an Advanced Teacher’s Certificate to teach adult students during earlier years in my late thirties. Paradoxically, as I left the college following my first evening class as a teacher instead of a pupil, I cannot swear to it, but I was probably humming one of the songs from ‘Oklahoma’. It might even have been the song I choose to sing for you today.
Love and peace Bill xxx