Peter Thomas Oral History Recording


Peter Thomas Oral History Recording


Peter Thomas


An oral history interview with Peter Thomas


Michael Romyn


Kent's Sporting Memories


Interview recorded on 5 July, 2019


Peter Thomas; Michael Romyn


Kent's Sporting Memories


MP3; also available in WAV (55:36)




Sound Recording


Peter Thomas


Kent’s Sporting Memories Oral History Summary
Interviewee: Peter Thomas
Interviewer: Michael Romyn
Date: 5 July, 2019
Location: Peter’s home in Folkestone, Kent

0:00 Name, place and date of birth (Peter Thomas, West Bromwich, 1936); Peter spent his youth in West Bromwich, until the age of seventeen, when his parents retired and the family moved to Weston-super-Mare; after five years in Weston he moved to Slough to work for ICI (Imperial Chemicals Industry), before being called up for National Service; Peter signed up and stayed on in the RAF for three years, two years of which he spent in Singapore and Malaya, during the Malayan Emergency; Peter was an air radar fitter
2:30 On Peter’s return, he got into teaching – despite his earlier reservations – spending a couple of terms at his father’s school in Bath, before going to teaching college.
3:30 Recollections of Peter’s school days – ‘basically I quite enjoyed it…just did the work, had some good mates’; he played football and cricket at school, but said those were the only options available.
4:50 Peter’s mother was from Swindon, Wiltshire, as was his father, although his father’s family hailed from Manchester, and originally Wales; his father got into teaching after WW1 and taught for forty years; his mother was a housewife; Peter had two brothers who were both sporty.
6:00 His support of West Bromwich Albion, who he used to go and watch as a child; going to teacher training college in Cheltenham for two years followed by a supplementary course in Bristol; he started teaching in 1962, in Hornchurch, Essex (Abbs Cross Technical High School), where he spent four years; Peter then moved to the Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone.
8:20 Moving to Folkestone in 1966; his memories of a floating petrol station in the harbor at Folkestone; his impressions of Folkestone at the time and comparisons with today – ‘now it’s starting to boom, it really is, but we had many years when it was pretty flat, shall we say’; how the town was still feeling – and showing – the effects of WW2 when he moved there – ‘it takes time to rebuild’; the recent expansion of Hawkinge.
11:25 The relative lack of industry in the town at that time (1960s) – ‘most of the Harvey Grammar School boys and girls would tend to leave Folkestone because there weren’t the jobs’; there were a number of insurance firms in the town at that time, although these began to dwindle.
12:50 Peter’s recollections of the opening of Folkestone Sports Centre – Peter thought the centre opened in 1971, rather than ’72; how exciting it was to have the sports centre, and how it was a boon for local schools and the town.
13:35 Peter’s first foray into skiing, in the mid-1960s, on a school trip abroad while still at his first school in Essex, when the equipment was still very basic; hearing about the Crystal Palace ski slope – the first of it s kind in England – and the possibilities this presented in terms of acquiring the basics of the sport before embarking on a ski trip abroad.
15:45 The popularity of sport at Harvey Grammar School, and yet, when Peter first moved there, they had yet to do any skiing; the early, less than ideal surfaces at Folkestone Ski Slope; Peter’s carrying out of an Artificial Ski Slope Instructors Course (ASSI), making him one of two instructors in Kent at that time; the work put into the slope (changing the surfaces, equipment etc.) that Peter and his team (mainly Harvey Grammar boys) carried out in the early years; the fact that there wasn’t a ski lift – ‘it was good in one way because it means you got fit!’.
18:45 In the late 1970’s, Folkestone Ski Centre eventually installed Dendix, a modern and far superior surface, and a lift; how Peter’s pupils worked at the centre - learning about the equipment and providing instruction – and how their skiing improved dramatically as a result; ski trips to Italy with the school, and the tutelage of a top Italian ski instructor in one particular resort.
21:30 The building up of a racing squad at Harvey Grammar, which eventually became National Champions; skiing against Scotland in Edinburgh and visiting Norway; how some of Peter’s pupils went on to ski professionally, and the importance of Folkestone Ski Centre to this – ‘it wouldn’t of happened, well, it wouldn’t have happened through me’.
22:50 The regular trips to Tisana, Italy, with the school, but also to France, Switzerland, and Bulgaria in the early days; the popularity of skiing and the ski trips among the boys, as well as the girls from both the grammar and technical schools – ‘a whole load of boys and a whole load of girls – great fun’.
25:00 Peter retired from the school in 1996; he left the sports centre in 1985, due to a promotion at work and a busier schedule - he only skied with the school intermittently after this point; he gave up skiing entirely upon his retirement, focussing on travelling to the Far East instead.
26:36 Peter’s working relationship with the sports centre – he was eventually employed in the 1970s, when it installed Dendix and the ski lift – ‘every evening, all weekends, I was there’; the popularity of the ski centre among the public; Peter’s wife was in charge of the ‘cabin’, organising the clothes and bookings – ‘that’s why it worked, because the two of us worked together’
27:40 The booking system at Folkestone Sports Centre ski slope; how it was ‘always’ busy during the evenings and on weekends; age range and affordability – ‘like other things at the sports centre it was there to attract people in’; Peter’s first ski trip at Harvey Grammar School cost thirty pounds a head – ‘these days we’re talking hundreds’; the centre’s openness and inclusivity – ‘it was open to anybody’ – and how introduced the sport to many people in Folkestone.
32:00 Peter’s belief in the importance of good instruction, and how ‘the first few hours on the slope are so important’, and how his teaching experience lent to this; the moment when Peter realised he wanted to be a teacher, while in Singapore; how he believes in ‘teaching’ rather than ‘instructing’, and how building confidence on the skis is of paramount importance for a beginner
34:10 Peter explains that many of his pupils became instructors themselves, several of them going on to teach abroad; the reason he went on his first ski trip – ‘they were short of somebody!’; Peter says that many of his pupils who didn’t typically enjoy sport loved skiing and thus, after building confidence, often went back to other sports – ‘it’s just that initial impact is so important’.
35:40 The pupils that attended the ski slope often then accessed other provisions at the sports centre, such as badminton, and other activities unavailable at the school; Peter himself played golf and a bit of badminton at the centre; what Peter made of the sports centre when it first opened, and how well used it was.
38:00 How the ski equipment changed from when Peter first started, most notably the reduction in length and the quality of the bindings; the relative lack of injuries on the school trips due, in part, to the proper training they received in Folkestone; how attitudes have changed in regard to children’s freedom.
41:50 How Peter managed to keep Folkestone Ski Centre relatively up to date in terms of ski equipment, despite a lack of resources; Peter describes the heady mix of sun, air and high mountains; following his retirement from skiing, Peter played more golf (which he took up in the 1970s), and did so until the age of 82.
45:00 Peter’s children, and their talents for skiing, which they learned to do in Folkestone; travelling in Singapore and South East Asia upon retiring; the food scene in Folkestone and the progress the town has made, particularly in terms of provision for young people; how the age profile of Folkestone has changed, from a much older population to one more even in age.
53:10 Peter’s fondest memories from his skiing career – school trips, watching his pupils develop in the sport, ‘to see them progress was tremendous, and the confidence they got of course’; Peter’s own skiing ability, but his greater strength in teaching.