Chris Anderson (1972 – 1976)

Alumnus, Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson first contacted us in his quest to seek out old photographs of Lowestoft Grammar School’s basketball and rugby teams in which he played as a student.

Chris told us that he was a Canadian living in Lowestoft. He said: “I was actually very good friends with Terry Butcher (drove him to his first try out) and best friends with Julian Pretty (who I am still in touch with).” You will be aware that Terry Butcher and Professor Jules Pretty are both celebrated on our alumni page. Chris is now the Vice President of Business Development at 8Sigma Energy Services in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

“The education I received from Denes High, and the mentorship from teachers like Mr Gibbs and Mrs Goody truly helped,” he said.

Following a bit of investigation, we discovered that Chris was a student here at the same time as Kevin Ayers who is our Custodian. Kevin played in the same team as Chris and remembers him well

Chris’ story

I remember our rugby teams (one of which went undefeated) and in particular the friends I gained from our experiences together in 1974, lads like (in the front row) Glen Harris, Nigel Darling, Nicky Brooker, Richard Overy, Charlie Riddleson and (in the back row, to my left) Terry Butcher, Kevin Brown and Stephen Rushmere. It was a great group and Mr Maddocks was our coach; he was very tough, but fair.

1974 rugby team

In the photograph below from 1975, the front row shows (left to right) “Brackie” Brackenbury, Kevin Ayers, Stephen Rushmere, Richard Overy, Terry Butcher, Chris Anderson and Chris Balls. I need help with the back row because I only chummed around with Barry McCallion (back centre).

1975 rugby team

I remember the basketball team well too, and again the friends I gained from our experiences together… “Brackie” Brackenbury, Chris Balls, Jules Pretty, Terry Butcher and Barry McCallion. We won the league two years straight. We had a strong team and as we wrapped up that second season, we were challenged to a match by the PE teachers and we subsequently beat them handily. Bragging rights were then earned! Those kinds of things bring everyone very close together and create life-long memories. Those were fun times with two great groups of guys.”

How it all started

My dad was transferred from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Lowestoft, Suffolk, England by Shell in 1972. I was 14 years old. Dad came over to set up the Bacton Gas Plant and start the North Sea England Production for Shell.

When we arrived we could not find any available housing at first, so we had to move into the Victoria Hotel while they built our house at 176 Yarmouth Road.

There was a coal miners’ strike going on when we arrived in England, so they would turn off the power for an hour, every three or four hours, I think, and then all night long. Ugh! You can imagine at 14 years old, being pulled out of school in February, leaving your friends behind, moving across the ocean into a hotel (and when the power went out, it was very cold and dark) and starting a new school – obviously not knowing anyone, and everyone had a funny accent, except me of course. What the heck is a lorry or a boot? LOL.

I remember driving up to the front of Denes High School at that time, meeting with Mr Beacock (headmaster) and Mr Chamberlain (assistant headmaster), being told about the strict school rules and having to leave my blue jeans behind and now wear a uniform every day. Quite a shock. Then waiting in the library to be assigned a home class while feeling so alone and uncertain.

The first year was very tough, I was an outsider, and got teased and bullied every day (I was known as the Yank), but I learned to keep a positive attitude and be mentally tough. There seemed to be a lot of bitterness from the Second World War towards Americans, from the parents of the kids, which somehow got transferred towards me. I guess Lowestoft had a US Air Force base nearby and the Americans came into town with their money and chased the local ladies; then left abruptly after the war ended. Even though I was not an American, my accent was reason enough to be singled out and harassed. I think this did two things for me, it taught me how to cope (toughened me mentally) and how important it is to always keep a positive attitude. This has helped me in business and when I was diagnosed with stage three prostate cancer at 49 years of age. This definitely helped me. I stayed positive, never got down or became a victim (I would not allow myself to wallow in self-pity) and I’ve been cancer-free for four years now (at the time of writing, February 2015).

I tried out for every school sports team, mostly because I loved sports, but also in an effort to become part of a group; to almost force inclusion. Once I made the rugby team, everything changed for me. My teammates were forced to get to know me. I was quickly included and now when the bullies met me at the gates of the school, it wasn’t me against two, three, four or five. It was even. So they left me alone but unfortunately found someone else. I watched that poor lad take the bullying every day. I was just glad it was no longer me. This was another lesson learned. Later on in my life I tried hard to step in and stop bullying when I saw it, but I should have done more, earlier.

The groups of lads that were on those teams were absolutely terrific. We had so much fun together, while at school and after school. This is where I met Terry Butcher (who I drove to his first professional soccer try-out in my first car, a 1958 Morris Minor (now known as a Mini). Jules Pretty and I drove my old Mini to London to watch the Harlem Globe Trotters play.

Outside of the teams I got to know so many other wonderful people. Kevin Allen (now a photographer), Trevor Day, Fizzy Crickmore, Nigel Stewart and Mark Dorling, while hanging out or going to dances at Boston Lodge after school.

“There were two classmates in particular that taught me about how life can be very unfair and cruel. One was a terrific guy, good looking, athletic and happy. A good friend. However when his older brother died in a motorbike accident, unfortunately his parents didn’t handle it very well and in turn it really affected him. He put on a brave face for a couple of years. I saw him and talked to him at a motorcycle shop only days before he committed suicide. You just never know what is going on inside someone’s head. He never said a word to any of us, but internally he was obviously in so much pain. Another friend left school after completing his O Levels, joined the army and was stationed in Northern Ireland during those very dangerous times. Unfortunately he was killed over there. So at a very early age I learned about tragedy, death and how valuable life was. You must live every day to the fullest. Enjoy it. Have fun.

So many firsts for me were in England… I learned to drive in England, I went to my first pub, had my first beer and learned to play darts there. The Wherry pub was my favourite.

It was the early summer of 1976, I remember it being very hot and Jules and I spent hours, days, even weeks studying together for our A Levels. Then we took them, and suddenly it was over, high school was completed. I then went on a school-sponsored trip to canoe down the Ardeche Gorge in Southern France to St. Tropez, with a bunch of girls and boys from Denes High School, with Bruce Waylan as our chaperone. What a fantastic time.

Then my dad got transferred to Aberdeen, Scotland and I was sent back to Canada, to go to university in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Again… all my friends were across the ocean. It was time to adapt, to change again, to fit in and meet new people. Work hard. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Keep a positive attitude. Life moves on. These are the fundamental lessons that I have used my whole life. I have always been a positive person, always believed I would succeed. Every time there was a bump in the road or a hurdle, I kept my perspective, and stepped over it and moved forward. Most importantly, I truly learned to value family and friends; and now my health. I am happily married, four grown kids, and four grand kids with two more on the way. This is what it is all about! I am a lucky man!

Our thanks go to Chris for his support and we send him our very best wishes.

February 2015

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