Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Disappointing Mr Mikula : more recollections of Liff Road School in the 1950s

Sixty years on my schooldays at Liff Road School, Lochee still stir intense thoughts and feelings in me.

I remember a teacher at Liff Road called Mr Mikula. He taught there for about a year. I may not have the right spelling of his name but I believe he came from what was then Czechoslovakia. My fantasy is he may have escaped his country when it was invaded by Hitler's forces at the beginning of  World War II and fought alongside the allied forces in Normandy with the Free Czechoslovakian Brigade or that he was one the Czech pilots who flew with the RAF and had decided to stay on in Scotland to train as a teacher.  I see how even now that I idealise him not to say idolize him. He was my hero. I suppose I had a schoolboy crush on him.  I remember him always wearing a smart grey suit with a white collar and a red and white striped tie. He was tall, slim, good looking with blonde, becoming silvered hair.

I only ever encountered him at those times when I was in the dinner queue at the top end of playground where we waited to be summoned  to our sitting for school dinners. Once it was our turn we walked in pairs across  the street to the temporary building which acted as our dining hall.

Our  dinners were quite good. In those days we never got chips,  and the fish we had on Fridays wasn’t fried in batter, it was baked in milk and it came with mashed potatoes and peas, so this meal  was never, as far as we were concerned, as good as the fish suppers you'd get at Soaves, the fish & chip shop. My favourite dinner was mince, tatties and cabbage, though I didn’t like the cabbage that much.  My favourite pudding was rice with currants in it. One day of the week we didn’t get pudding. We started with soup followed by some bread and a lump of cheese. If you were in the last sitting for dinner you were sometimes offered second helpings. I guess in today’s terms it would be considered a balanced, healthy diet.

The first time I was addressed by Mr Mikula, he stopped at the dinner queue, looked at me and said “Charlie Sharpe, I’ve heard about you. I am told you are a very clever boy.” On later occasions he would say “Charlie, I am told you are doing well in all your subjects. You must keep it up”. 

On another occasion he congratulated me on getting full marks in my mental arithmetic test. He wasn’t my class teacher so I don’t know how he found these things out but I was pleased to be a favourite of Mr Mikula.

His admiration ended one day in the dinner queue. I was fighting with JR. I can’t remember what it was about. In one way or another as we wrestled ourselves to the ground JR had got on top of me but the result of the fight had not as yet been decided. I still thought I had possibilities for victory, but as I looked up I saw Mr. Mikula’s face looking down at me.

Of course with the sudden appearance of a teacher,  JR and I got up immediately. JR rejoined the queue but I stood with head bowed in front of Mr Mikula.

I remember to this day what he said to me, “Charlie Sharpe, you have disappointed me.” and he walked away.

His words were the most devastating I had ever heard. I was desolate. I was no longer special to Mr Mikula. I had disappointed him.

I feel the desolation now.
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