Sweat ate away very quickly at the inferior material in the socks. The only option was constant darning using even cruder wool. The toes and heels were the main areas that needed repair and before long the darn seemed to be more substantial than the socks. You could feel the lumpy darn pushing against your shoes (if you had any.) Luckily our feet were so calloused by this time that they didn’t blister.
The one benefit that I had over the lads was that all their school socks were the same and it was a case of the strongest getting the best.
This didn’t save Toshy from humiliation, one day.
In the mornings, on the teacher’s whistle the classes would have to line up according to age before entering the school. This was combined with an inspection to enable any slovenliness to be put right.
On this particular day the headmaster, warty-nosed Mr Wright, came out to look over the children. He moved up and down the lines with his cane, stopping at children who were dirty and hitting them.
He soon got to Toshy, standing, seemingly unabashed, with his socks about his ankles. “Lewington,” he called, “Pull your socks up.” Toshy stood there looking straight ahead.
Mr Wright, incensed by Toshy apparently ignoring him, caned him on the back of the legs, calling, “You’ll do as you’re told boy! Pull those socks up.” The other kids would laugh later, but for now they all shrank away at the ferocity of the cane strokes.
Toshy was a tough kid and he held on for as long as he could until finally he couldn’t bear the stinging of the cane any longer. After a final blow he bent over and pulled the tops of his socks up to his knees -- only the tops. There was nothing else left, no feet in the socks -- no material at all.
Knowing that he’d be punished for going into school sockless, Toshy had taken the remnants of an old pair and tucked them over the top of his boots. All that was left of them was a little woolly band that sat now at the top of his knees.
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