: the autobiography of Paul Korda
by Paul Korda
© 2010 Paul Korda Music
(Not to be reproduced without authors permission)
Victoria College 1959
My mother had booked a residency at the islands best hotel called Swanson’s, singing for the first summer that I was a boarder at the College House, and other than her nightly cabaret style show, she represented Swanson’s Hotel in the annual Jersey Battle of Flowers, where she sang on one of the flower arranged motorized floats. So after we arrived by turboprop airplane she brought me to the College House where I prepared for my future ‘internment’!
The College House
Paul arrives at the austere College Boarding House
The matron led me off after my mum had gone. The boarding house was constructed of cold hard granite. Footsteps on the stone floors echoed as low volume voices murmured in the shadows that were growing in the approaching evening.. The ceilings were high, the walls painted a cream colour with shoulder height green. I was led by a large busted matron to my dormitory, where I was to sleep. I felt overwhelmed by the formality and the awkwardness. I felt I was already growing distant from this environment, and escaping into my world of the cushion and the tea chest at Skippers. The clanging sound of a hand bell pierced the air as the boys began to line up to go into the dining room for the evening meal. The juniors were at my table and they talking about the older ‘prefect’ boys that they had been assigned to ‘fag’ for. I had no idea what they were talking about, as I had failed to look on the notice board to see the list that had been posted there, regarding being a ‘boy servant’ to an older boy. It entailed pressing their cadet force uniform, polishing their brass on their army belt and shining their boots until they had a mirror glaze that they could see their face in. It also entailed making their bed in the morning, tidying up their study etc. If you didn’t do a good enough job, they could punish you with ‘reporting early’ whereby you had to rise in the morning on the first hand bell ringing, at 7:15 am, instead of being able to lay in until the second hand bell at 7:30. In that 15 minutes you had to shower, get dressed and make your bed, then report to the prefect by the second hand bell, as for every minute you were late, you would have to do one more day of reporting early. The boys who had already spent a term before I had arrived told me the routine as I choked down my first meal at College House.
Many of the boys came from wealthy families, who I’d imagine could well afford the fees and I began to realize that my working class background as the child of entertainers would have normally seen my schooling as being at a local ‘secondary modern’ school, had my parents remained married, but as I had taken on the duty of my upbringing, I was learning the kind of education that the upper classes would normally only receive. In those days entertainers were generally not looked on as celebrities as they are now. At least, if my parents were looked upon as celebrities, I was never around to see it, and both my parents rarely spoke of their careers. There was much more of a generation gap in those days, and children were just that, and the adult world was a place that youngsters wanted to go, but were not privy to. As time went on, when I returned to stay with him on my holidays, I began to feel my father’s aggravation at picking up the costs of my education, although my scholarship had probably reduced my fees somewhat.
It would be possible
to write a book about life at Victoria, but the
important aspect for me was my joining the local band as
their singer. “The Intruders” had supported one of the
first shows of The Rolling Stones at Jersey’s soccer
stadium, and shortly after, the two brothers, Craig and
Mark Anders that had formed the band, , had decided to
let someone else perform the vocal duties. Craig and
Mark were around 14 years old and I was 12 and the
drummer was only 10. At that time, no boarder who lived
at the College House had ever been allowed to join a
band, let alone be allowed out at night to play a gig.
Well, prior to it happening, when I was about eleven, I had been reported by one of the school boy’s mothers, for she had seen me kissing a girl, in my school uniform, on the doorstep of her parent’s hotel. As her son was the head prefect, a notice had gone up on the prefect’s notice board, saying I should appear in the prefects study during the morning break, which took place at the college from 11 to 11:15 am every school day. As there were over 500 day boys, who lived locally on the island, the gossip about my appearance was rife.
At 11:05 I went in to their office to be faced with about ten fifteen and sixteen year olds, who are trying desperately hard to keep a straight authoritarian face. All of them are dressed in black gowns. The head prefect began with an opening statement about how I’d been reported by a parent for… his voice trailed off as he gathered his composure… kissing a girl in a public place, wearing your uniform. I said nothing, as I surveyed these tight lipped bundles of inhibition. Eventually, not knowing what punishment would fit the deed, he told me that I had been referred to the headmaster, who will see me later.
At lunchtime, a notice had appeared on the headmaster’s notice board, which said I must report to him at the College House. By now the whole school was a buzz over the event, and I had absolutely no idea why. To me I was doing what came naturally, uniform or not.
After finishing lunch, which included being served spaghetti by the matron whom had a certain amount of difficulty in raising the unraveling strands over her perked up chestedness, I reported to the head’s office at the boarding school.
His part of the house was one of the wings, where he had a comfortable carpeted home. He beckoned me to come in and sit down. Ronald Postille was quite an imposing figure. His grey hair was quite full, and not conservative, and he was cultured. He knew that my parents were in showbiz, so I suppose he was relaxed with me. At this occasion, he seemed annoyed about my kissing. He said that he had no option but to “gate” me to the college grounds for the whole of the summer, so I wouldn’t be able to go to the beach, or visit my girl friend, or go into town.
Up to this point in
time, I had had a history of allergies and asthma, and
instead of doing sports I had become the official
college photographer for the Jersey Evening Post, taking
pictures at school events and delivering my film to
their offices and receiving four pounds for my work.
When Mr. Postille told me I had been gated, I stood up
furiously and said that I was going to pack my bags and
call the Jersey Evening Post about the whole affair! At
that he completely reversed his position and told me I
could take her to the cinema that weekend! Now who says
standing up for your rights doesn’t get you anywhere. So
when the band position came along he agreed that I could
do it. Not only was I singing in the evening, but after
church on Sundays I would often ride my bicycle to a
village hall for a lunchtime dance. Of course with that
freedom, when I returned to the starched formality of
college life, I couldn’t deal with it.
So I made my home in the aero modeling room, where kids used to glue plastic kit WW2 planes together and balsa wood gliders. Nobody seemed to be doing that anymore, probably because of the new addition of a colour television in the library. That allowed me to set up a darkroom and a place to write and record songs. My cousin Roy, who was a photographer, had given me an MPP Microtechnical enlarger and I began to take pictures of the boys to send home to their parents, for ten shillings a 10x8 black and white enlargement. I would also record my songs on a plastic reel to reel recorder that looked like the first portable valve radios.
I didn’t like the college house food, so I began to buy my own food at a local shop and eat it in the modeling room. Often when I’d get allergies, the matron would tell me to take off from school, and she would give me phenol-barbitone pills which were supposed to be anti histamine, but they would make me high as a kite, and so often I would sit at the piano in the library and play all day.
The freedom I was enjoying was getting out of hand, when I was caught for talking after ‘lights out’ in my dormitory, for the third time. Someone had said that they were going to beat the hell out of me! Beatings by the teachers and headmaster were with a split cane, where a boy had to lean forward whiles being ‘caned’ from the rear, and often would leave black and blue stripes that would take almost a week to go. Beatings by the prefects took place at the College House, when the boarders had broken their rules. Those beatings were a great deal more painful and were usually inflicted on bare buttocks where by the victim had to kneel on a chair with his pajamas down, as they were performed after the child had gone to bed. The prefect, who could be a strapping 16 year old, would run across the room with his arm raised, in his hand a rubber soled running shoe. The victim would get hit so hard that the chair almost keeled over. Six times he would go through this motion, and it was a nightmare for any 11 year old.
Well, talking after
lights out was a serious offense, and three times was
That day, while down at the College, I asked my friend Richard Gardner, whose father was a doctor, whether he still had his Dads boat, and could he take me over to France in it, that night. As the beating had been scheduled for the following night, he told me to be at his place after we went to bed at the College House. So about 11pm, after I believed everyone had fallen asleep, I got dressed and slipped unseen out of the dormitory, down the shadowy stone corridors, and out onto the hill that lead to Gardner’s home. I walked about 5 miles and finally saw his house in view. Once there I found some small stones and began throwing them, one at a time up to his 2nd floor window. No answer. Another stone, and another, and still no answer. I guess he didn’t believe I would really show up. So I sprawled out in a hilly ditch, trying to think how I could awaken him, without waking his parents. The night sky was full of stars, as I faced my predicament. After throwing a few more stones I gave up, walked all the way back, climbed into bed, and no-one ever knew I had left.
The next morning I was about to confront him at school, when he shoved a small envelope in my hand, saying “Put this on about five minutes before the beating, and you won’t feel a thing. My mum uses it for her hemorrhoids, and it’s an anesthetic”. I returned the envelope to the sanctuary of my pocket and awaited the evening of doom.
That evening, during our communal homework period, I was called out and taken down to the games room. I knew that I needed to make an excuse to use the bathroom, and due to the nature of beating of my rear end, I inflected the idea that it might be unsanitary if they don’t let me go before. The prefect agreed that I should go.I immediately went to the toilets and in a cubicle I opened up the envelope to find a card folded over, and in the fold was this gooey paste. I didn’t even look at the substance, but just applied globs of it to my posterior. It started to feel warm, as I pulled up my short trousers. I realized that it might need time to work, so I waited, until one of the prefects came to the toilet and yelled “Are you putting padding in your pants? We’ll check you after if you have, and beat you again”. I replied that of course I wasn’t using padding.
Back in the games room, the lights were low, as a half dozen prefects were standing in a line facing the sacrificial chair. “Kneel on the chair Kunstler” he ordered. I did so and he began running toward me. I could see his shadow with his arm raised high, as the gym shoe struck, the chair tilted forward and rocked back. Was that it? I had felt the force of the hit, but no pain. It was working. Normally when I was beaten I howled in pain, but this time I made not a whimper. That infuriated him, and the next time he ran even harder and the chair almost fell over. The prefects were aghast that their athletic idol was unable to even garner a cry from me. After the sixth assault, I was ordered to go to my dormitory with one of the prefects to check whether I had used padding. We went upstairs, and I had to pull down my trousers. The prefect, a fellow by the name of Chris Puddy, issued a loud measure of disgust and I realized the paste must have been a brown colour. Oh I replied, I’ve been seeing matron about my diarrhea. That was the end of that. I don’t remember getting anymore beatings by prefects after that.
The following term, my father had moved to Jersey to find work, and had I was to spend one term as a dayboy living with him. Up to that point any abuses that he had caused my mother I must have buried in my subconscious, for I remember very little about my early childhood before I was five, so when I lived with him, I began to find out how mean he could be. His temper would sometimes cause him to strike me, until the school ordered both him and me for psychiatric evaluation at the Jersey General Hospital. It may have been after he whipped me with some wire, and the marks were seen on my back during physical training. After he did it, he broke down sobbing saying how sorry he was. I don’t know how I could feel sorry for him at that time, because he had really hurt me, and as he cried, I felt that he disgusted me. I don’t know the results of his interview with the hospital, but the next term I was back at the College House as a boarder again.
After being with The Intruders for around six months, Mark and Craig told me that in order for me to remain the singer; I needed to get my own professional microphone. In my weekly letter to my father I mentioned it, as I was going to stay with him in London, as my mum had a tour of France. It was Christmas time, and after I had arrived at his semi-detached house in Kingsbury, which was close to Wembley Stadium in North London, he said he was going to take me out to buy me a professional microphone. Whatever mistrust I had of him dissolved with his words, as we left the house on our journey in his car to the music area of Tin Pan Alley, known as Denmark Street, off London’s Tottenham Court Road. Once we were there he went to a bargain basement type shop that had the latest in cheap consumer toys, like a portable reel to reel recorder, which had a tiny crystal lapel microphone that you could clip on your lapel. He pointed to it, and said that I needed one like that. I knew that being a professional musician, he must have been kidding, for the tiny little plug wouldn’t even plug into a PA system, for they had mini jack plugs and those types of microphone were very low quality,. I told him that that kind of microphone would never work, and he replied that either I get one like that or I can forget getting one at all. By this point we had already left the shop, and were heading back home. Being with the band was the highlight of my life, and to be kicked out due to not having a decent microphone was more than I could take, so summoning up my regained mistrust of his word I called him a swine. At this he lunged toward me and was about to strike me when he realized he was driving on a major thoroughfare, the Edgware Road. He pulled the car to the side of the road to get out and come round to my side of the car, and as he came round the car I locked my door, and then when he went back to his door, I locked his door too! He lost it and was screaming so loud that a crowd had gathered. Suddenly realizing that they were looking at him, he pulled himself together, I unlocked his door, and he climbed in and began driving again. He turned to me yelling “you wait until we get home” in his broad Hungarian accent.
Well, I remembered that he had given me the house keys when we had left earlier, to go back in the house to get something, so I still had them. As soon as we arrived home, as he was steaming by then, I jumped out of the car and ran in the house, locking the front door, so he couldn’t hurt me. I could hear him yelling and I rushed into the kitchen, grabbed some food, and put it in my room, and was preparing to let him in, and run into my room, locking the door. Before I could get to letting him in, I heard a loud crash coming from his bedroom, at the rear of the house. I rushed into his bedroom to see that he had broken the widow with a brick, but had broken one behind the wardrobe, and to get in he had tried pushing the wardrobe, that began falling, and breaking into its constituent parts, that began splintering all over the bedroom. By this time he was in a fuming rage. He came toward me as I ran out of the bedroom, locking the door, so he couldn’t go any further. After several minutes I quickly unlocked the door, and ran into my room, locking it. The following morning of Christmas Eve, I opened my door, and was repairing a camera with a tiny eye glass screwdriver, for the focus had gone out on the camera, which I intended to sell, to buy a train ticket to my Auntie Maidie’s house, in Kingston, Surrey. “What are you doing with that camera” he screamed, and I told him, to which he lunged again toward me, as I sat cross-legged on the carpet. My first reaction was to throw my arms in the air to protect myself from being hit, forgetting that I had the eyeglass screwdriver in my hand, which pricked him in his upper abdomen. He raised his shirt to reveal a pinprick sized globule of blood. “You stabbed me” he shouted. Then he left the house and drove off. Well, at the time he had been seeing a woman called Ivy, whose work involved being a matron at a boy’s juvenile detention center, known as a remand home. It turns out that she suggested that he have a tetanus shot and report me to the police as being ‘out of control’, which would mean they would arrest me. Then he returned home, gave me the fare to Auntie Maidie’s, and shortly after I arrived at her place, there was a knock at the front door. A policeman in plain clothes told her that he had a warrant for my arrest, and was going to take me to the police station, and from there I would go on to a remand home to await a hearing at a juvenile court. Auntie Maidie, who was busy cooking, agreed to letting the stranger take me, waved goodbye, and then I was on my way to Kingston Police Station. Being an avid photographer, I had smuggled a tiny half frame camera in my shoe, for I had thought I could make the best out of this new experience. At the station, everyone was very friendly and gave me two meals during the six hours that I waited in a cell. After all, it was Christmas Eve, and I was being driven across London to Enfield, arriving at a somber looking mansion type house with not only bars on the windows, but as I walked past a TV lounge there were even bars on the box that it had been placed in. I was led into a shower room, which I was told to undress, in front of an old warden, who discovered my spy camera. After I showered he took me to the head wardens study. “What did you do?’ he asked. I told him I had done nothing, and asked him to call the judge right away, so that I could go back home. Of course, I didn’t know where home was anymore. Maidie had just said goodbye, I didn’t want to go near my father, and my mother was still on tour in France. I lay in my bed that night, looking through the bars on the window, at the moon, feeling lost and alone and crying myself to sleep. The next day my father and Ivy tried to see me, and I refused. After several days of having to wrestle with boys that were tougher and bigger than me, in matches set up by the wardens, I finally was driven to the court. All my mothers’ sisters were there, and my mum had returned from France. My father told the story of how I stabbed him and how he had to get a tetanus shot. My aunts looked at me in horror, as I tried to say my side of the story, but was stopped by the judge. “You realize Mr. Kunstler that these charges are very serious, and you must decide now, whether you wish to continue with this matter.” My father looked at all my aunts, and then said that he was going to drop the charges. Again I tried to speak out on my behalf, to tell my aunts what really happened, but by then they were just relieved that he did the right thing and dropped the charges. After that, many of my aunts weren’t sure what to believe about me, and probably thought that I was more my fathers son than their sister Shirley’s child.
All I know was that I loved singing in the band.
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