Asbestos, High Alumina Cement & Related Matters
I started at Salvo in 74, just as there was an outbreak of asbestos removal going on and I think we had to take some classes at Sacred Heart.
I was indeed there when the Asbestos was removed. It was in the Main building above the dining hall. For at least a year we were crammed into the building above the labs, Doc's wing and elsewhere. I seem to remember the sixth formers had their lessons in Grant Road Community centre (next to Wealdstone Library). Unfortunately the Gym was still useable so we still had to suffer Spud, Jenkinson and Coughlan. My memory fails me I know Spud and Jenko didn't teach at the same time but I can't remember when the latter replaced the former.
I remember the asbestos saga, I was in the fourth or fifth year and we weren't allowed over the road into the Sacred Heart. My year was probably the most seething with testosterone at that time and the priests were probably worried that we'd embarrass the school by turning up with erections or something. That was the period where we'd actually started to treat the girls over the road a bit differently, realising that they had the potential to deliver what we wanted more than anything ... Looking back it's amazing just how much females filled my thoughts, and those of my mates, I remember it was the main topic of conversation for virtually all of my time at the school.
The asbestos was actually high alumina cement. We came back from the summer holiday in September 74 to be told that the school hall was close because it needed to be inspected. A week or so later the whole main body of the school had to be closed. The high alumina cement made the whole structure very weak.
Most of the sixth form were shipped down to Grant road and lessons were held in all sorts of cubby holes in the school and the Salvatorian Fathers house.
I was in the lower sixth at the time. Being out of sight at Grant was great.
Fortunately the Hall was passed as safe and re-opened fairly quickly after being loaded with several tons of sandbags.
Unfortunately the main building was deemed to be quite dangerous and was gutted so that large quantities of steel girders could be installed to stop it collapsing. This whole business lasted a year.
The consulting engineers in charge of the job gave the school a very interesting presentation on what was going on and why. My first exposure to real engineers!
It was the wrong sort of cement - high alumina cement. Reinforced concrete made with high alumina cement (instead of Portland cement) had the attraction of a more rapid build up of strength. The snag was that if too much water was used in the mix, the concrete eventually became porous allowing the steel reinforcement to corrode away. After some buildings collapsed in ca. 1973 its use in structural applications was banned and buildings that had used it came under suspicion and some were rebuilt with Portland cement concrete. It's better understood now and remains in use for specialist applications.
As a temporary measure they also installed 4 annexes in the playground to help with the loss of classroom space. These are still there!!!
Our form used to have an interesting game in the summer. You had to see how many pupils you could get out of the back door of the annexe, during a lesson, before the teacher (Bill Genders in most cases) would notice. Genders was always so wrapped up in what he was saying you could normally lose 6 pupils before he would notice.
I seem to remember the heaters in these huts used to occasionally catch fire, also the doors used to come off the hinges quite easily or that may have just been our class.
... the lower sixth (my year) had to use some buildings offsite near Wealdstone library for lessons.
The freedoms allowed us were amazing, but we were not ready for such a liberal regime. Lessons were cancelled, people disappeared for days on end and the enthusiasm of our year for academic pursuits spiralled downwards almost to that of the teachers. I spent much of the year in a café in (Graham Rd?) as Starbucks had not been invented. Many potential journeys into higher education crashed and burned as a result … Happy days.
Grant Road, as you say Happy Days, the dog roll in the cafe in Graham Rd was magnificent. Sadly the cafe is no longer and is an electrical repair shop. That year was to me total freedom, we played lots of darts, snooker and smoked too much (still do) but ultimately paid the price by not realising at the end of that year some form of examination would have to be taken, never my strong point, and left.
Portakabins ... they appeared after I joined in '76 ... my 4c/5c classes of 80/81 didn't leave much of them. I have a door handle on my shed, and find myself wishing I'd managed to nick a window!
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