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Schoolday memories

Published on September 7th, 2021

Wooden desks and inkwells, school milk and The Cane! Remember the best (and worst) of schooldays in the 1950s and 60s with this selection of our photographs and your memories.

Photo: Upper Beeding, A Classroom, Convent Of The Blessed Sacrament c.1955.

Growing Up British

"Almost from the moment I took my seat in Miss Gow's class at Roe Green Primary School, I had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. School and I were not a match made in heaven. The terrible tales of 'the cane' as administered to non-conformists by Head Mistress, Miss Hopkins, should have been enough to keep me in line. But before I knew it, the words were out - I had committed the unforgiveable. I had talked in class. Then came the sentence; 'Down to Miss Hopkins' office' - oh please let me die right here and now, thought I. By the time I knocked on Miss Hopkins' door, I was sobbing my heart out. She called me in and must have seen the utter fear that convulsed me, because she said, "If you don't tell anyone that I didn't cane you, I won't, but you must pretend I did. It'll be our little secret". How do YOU spell 'relief?!'"
Our thanks go to Heather Rohrer for sharing this memory about her escape from the cane!

Memory: Growing Up British

Photo: Crawley Down, Children At The School c.1955.

Langport Road And The School

"Mrs Williams ran my Infant's School in Somerton and she had a lovely Labrador dog called Sally. The school became a bit crowded so the little ones were sent around to the Drill Hall Behind Berry. Mrs Lareham was our teacher. We had to walk round the corner to the school two by two holding hands. It was a different era in those days if you were naughty Mrs Lareham hung a notice around your neck with things like “Keep away from me I bite” or “Keep away from me I tell lies” written on a board on strings. In those days we had school dinners, afterwards we had to get out the mats and have a rest. Then we were allowed out in the playground for play time. I remember there was a big wooden jungle gym in the play ground."
Thanks to Denise Lazenby for this memory of her days at Infant School!

Memory: Langport Road And The School

Photo: Kirkburton, Children In Playground, Church Of England School c.1950.

Early Schooldays

"Our village school must have had only about 50 children, if that. It had only two classes; the elder children were taught by Mr Jackson the headmaster and we younger ones by "Miss." Mr. Jackson used to sit on a very high lectern-like wooden desk, so could see everything that was going on. He terrified me. So did arithmetic, which he taught. In every annual report he commented that "Rosemarie must learn to overcome her fear of arithmetic". I never have.
We children had plenty of activities to keep us entertained. There was the wonderful playing fields below the church, where I spent hours on the swings and took many a tumble from the slide onto the gravel. There was no supervision, scabby knees were the norm, we simply cried then started again. My friend John Dunkley and I loved to go to the stream where we used to collect frog spawn and watch the tadpoles develop, catch minnows and sticklebacks, caterpillars, butterflies and ladybirds. I shudder to think how many of these creatures we destroyed in our attempts to understand how their anatomy worked!"
Our thanks go to Rosemarie Delaney for this memory of her schooldays at Byfield, Northamptonshire.

Memory: Early Schooldays

Photo: Leatherhead, Dining Room, St John's School c.1955.

Cleveland Road School

"Our headmaster was a very kind man called Mr Edwards and our teacher was Mrs Strachan (pronouned Strawn). We were very well behaved so at the end of lessons we hurried to get out into the plaground. This involved descending the many granite stairs to the ground floor at breakneck speed. The roar of this exodus as kids sped to freedom is something I will never forget. Thank you Mr Edwards and Mrs Strachan for making our school years happy. They also taught us something because I passed the 11+ exam and was sent to the best school in the borough, Ilford County High School. We went to ICHS before the war ended and the corridors were still reinforced with brick blast barriers to protect pupils against bomb blast. The barriers were removed however shortly after the war ended. Headmaster of the school was Mr Harry S Kenward who was a stern disciplinarian although gentle when you got to know him. The head teacher was Mr MacPherson, a very likeable man who taught economics. Every morning we had assembly when Mr Kenward gave announcments and led most of the boys in hymns and prayers. Music was provided by Mr Selwyn Lowe on the grand piano who used to turn bright red if the boys substituted a rude version for the words of the hymns!
We attempted to learn French but it was difficult as none of us then could see the point of it. The French teacher was a Dr Bryant who explained that he was born in the part of Belgium where French was the first language. He kept a small cane in the back of his cupboard that he called "the stimulator". We had a good education at ICHS and I owe much to it, having now retired after a successful career in journalism. I still see some of my old school friends monthly at a pub in Epping, Essex. Considering that we left ICHS in 1949 this says something for the strength of friendships made at school."
Thank you Alan Massam for sharing this great memory of going to school in Essex in the 1930s and 1940s.

Memory: Cleveland Road School

Photo: Bisley, The School c.1955.

St John's C Of E Primary School

"I attended St John's from 1952 to 1959. This was an all girl's church school with about 60 children in three classrooms, with a hall where we had dinner and danced to the BBC's "Music and Movement". To start with I was in the infant's classroom at the front of the school where we used to have a nap in the afternoon after listening to "Listen with Mother" - can't imagine 5 year old's having a little nap in the afternoon these days! When I was 9 I moved to the top class with Miss Richards. We had gas lighting and an open fire. The windows were high up in the wall and the walls were painted green at the bottom and yellow at the top. Our desks had ink wells and we wrote with pens with detachable nibs. There was an ink monitor and a milk monitor. The milk monitor had the fun job of piercing the milk bottle tops with a knitting needle. Our morning milk came in a third of a pint bottle. In freezing weather it was put by the fire to thaw out. Unfortunately those bottles nearest the fire were half boiled and tasted awful. Our sewing lessons included darning socks and sewing on buttons. On Friday afternoons we put our heads down on the desk and listened to 78rpm records of Peter and the Wolf or poems like Under Milkwood and Macavity the Mystery cat. We had nature walks, around the Welsh Harp I think, collecting twigs and berries. I remember a lady giving us a slide show in the hall across the road of her holiday in South Africa - I was very impressed by Table Mountain! Our dinner was delivered in large aluminium canisters. It was mostly inedible! I used to tuck bits of food I couldn't eat into my blouse pocket under my gym slip! The toilets were in the small playground at the back of the school. They were absolutely freezing in the winter! The playground was tarmacked and had a climbing frame in the middle - no soft landing for us if we fell! We played games with hula hoops, jacks, five stones and balls."
Great thanks go to Lorraine Allen for sharing her wonderfully evocative memories of her primary school days!

Memory: St John's C Of E Primary School

Photo: Aylsham, Aylsham School c.1955.

Good Old Days At Symington Primary School

"My fondest memory is going to the old primary school on Symington Road North with my brother Arthur. The class rooms were big with big high ceilings, the toilets were outside across the playground and you had to hold on till playtime to go to the toliet. Playtime was the best time because you were able to skip with your pals and the boys played tag. I remember when the nit nurse would come in to check our heads and the dreaded brown envelope we had to take home to our parents if we had any nits!"
Our thanks go to Agnes Mawhinney for this memory of happy days at primary school!

Memory: Good Old Days At Symington Primary School

Photo: Crawley Down, The School And Church c.1955.

Post Office And Boy's School

"I loved going to school but my worst memory is of school milk. We used to be given 1/3 pint every day. In winter the frozen milk was brought in and placed near the big stoves in the class rooms to thaw out. I was one of those strange children that had allergies and wasn’t supposed to have milk – I used to try and sit next to someone that loved milk so that I could swap my full bottle for their empty one but I often got caught and was made to drink it – it always made me sick!"
Our thanks go to Denise Lazenby for this (bad!) memory of having school milk at primary school.

Memory: Post Office And Boy's School

Photo: Reigate, Salmons Cross School c.1955.

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