Peter Thomas Oral History Summary


Peter Thomas Oral History Summary


Peter Thomas


Summary of an Oral History Recording with interviewee Peter Thomas


Michael Romyn



Kent's Sporting Memories


17 July, 2019


Peter Thomas; Michael Romyn


Kent's Sporting Memories


Peter Thomas Oral History Recording


Microsoft Word Document




Typed Summary


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.