In June 1987, it was my husband’s (Robert C. Hallam’s) 50th birthday and prior to the event I had been racking my brain as to what special gift I could get him to mark the auspicious occasion. Then inspiration struck: He had long admired the “original” striped Old Boys’ blazer still worn by a few of the ‘elder statesmen’ of the OCs. Cap in hand I approached one of them in order to put my plan into action. I was allowed to borrow one of the “original” blazers, not before promising to guard it with my life!
The next step was to find someone who could replicate the material, with an existing blazer of Robert’s as a template for the fitting. The obvious first choice was R. J. Bryant’s Gentleman and School Outfitters in Caterham Valley. I expect many of you of a certain generation will remember their double-fronted premises opposite Browne’s, the Jewellers. After consultation with the manager I was shocked to find that it was not possible to have a small quantity of the striped fabric woven. Instead, I would have to order and pay for a whole bolt of cloth. When I see in OC newsletters the price of £50 for the OC blazer I remember, with a smile, how much that first “new” OC blazer cost.
Needless to say, Robert was absolutely delighted when presented with his very own OC blazer and always wore it with pride and I was delighted to return the “original” blazer unscathed.
To help use up the bolt of cloth held at Bryant’s, Robert immediately ordered blazers for our children, Lynn (OC 1981-1983), and Mark (OC 1978-1985).
There was still a great deal of material left but, thank goodness, the problem was then resolved in that the Old Cats Rugby Club wished to have the striped blazer as their uniform on tour. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief at last! I wonder how many bolts of cloth have been used since 1987?
Having got ‘the bit between my teeth’ I then planned to give Robert a striped Caterham boater for his 55th birthday. There was no need to borrow one as we have a rather dejected looking relic in our loft. Sadly this plan did not come to fruition as Robert was terminally ill with a brain tumour and passed away 17 days after his 55th birthday.
29 years after the project involving my purchase of a large quantity of striped material I am delighted to see photos of so many of the blazers, worn with pride, at every OC event. Other Projects involving Robert C Hallam
1. During his time as Chairman of the Parents Association a request was made to the Headmaster, Stephen Smith, for the use of the Speech Day marquee for the Summer Ball. As I am sure we all agree the marquee is a wonderful venue. Prior to that the Balls were held on other days and at other venues quite far afield e.g. Russ Hill Hotel, Effingham Park. I presume that the Committee still works flat out after Speech Day getting the marquee decorated and prepared for the evening festivity, as we did in our hats and finery.
2. Robert also initiated the Shooting competition between the School and OCs and contributed the Hallam Cup. Being a rather good shot himself he never missed the event on Old Boys Days, even when he was ill.
3. Robert also noticed that there was no competition between OCs and the Prep School so he thought up the idea of a Conker competition. He approached Bill Browne the Jeweller and commissioned a trophy. It was beautiful, a wonderful replica of a conker on a string being held in a silver hand.
4. Finally, during his last year/months, Robert put a great deal of thought, time and love into his research for, and production of, The Book of Remembrance which he presented to the School. Visits to Military Graveyards and archives were very much the order of the day. This was his final tribute to the School which had given him so much pleasure and support and which he loved so much. He requested that the School song of his generation, Debtors, be sung at his funeral. There was a huge School presence and it was sung with such great gusto, he would have been proud. The Book of Remembrance was displayed and read from for the first time since Remembrance Day 1992. My son Mark escorted me to the Service, as Lynn was living in Papua New Guinea at that time. We know Robert would have been very proud of his gargantuan achievement.
Fond memories of Caterham School and many thanks.
There are a number of OC blazers available to buy for £50, in a range of sizes. Please contact Eloise Väisänen, Alumni Officer, ( / tel: 01883 335091) for a list of sizes available.