Fulfilled living in later life

Thursday 31st August 2023

Back to School

As the Autumn term rolls around again those living in our homes share memories of their own school days

Pilgrims Friend Shottermill House Pam

Pamela, Shottermill House, Haslemere

My earliest memory of school was walking with my mum to Beacon Hill School, it was a beautiful walk along the Golden Valley in the countryside. The teacher was very kind and there was a very large class of children, which was the way then. In fact, I later became a teacher and my first posting was at the primary school I started my school life at!

My secondary school education was at Farnham Girls Grammar. We wore a school uniform with a felt hat and had a leather satchel to carry. My secondary education was in part during the Second World War. Our school was joined by a school from London – that would have taken some organising! The children were billeted in homes close to the school, though we didn’t have any room to home anyone, however we made good friends with them.

School lunches during the war were great, as during a time of rationing the school took great care in ensuring that the children had one really good meal a day. I had a long bus journey to school, Hindhead to Farnham, which was about 40 minutes. It was a difficult journey especially in the winter, as the windows were blacked out and the lights were dipped. We told the bus driver as we got on where we needed to go. This was important as all street signs had had the names removed. The buses were always overcrowded, and we had been taught to give our seats to older people. Unfortunately, if we gave our seats to older people coming onto the bus there were then too many people wanting to travel on the bus and we were turned off… sometimes meaning that we were two hours late for school. The headmistress then advised that we stayed seated until the bus got going again so that we wouldn’t be turned off and we took her advice.

My lasting memory was of the excellent teachers. My favourite subjects were music, maths and history. I enjoyed education so much that I became a teacher, and even taught part-time at Shottermill Junior School. It was quite a surprise to me when I came to live at Shottermill House to discover we have a connection to the school through a games afternoon!

Pat, Bethany Christian Home, Plymouth

I remember my first day at school very well. There were 50 children in my class, all little tots barely five years old. The babies, as we were called, were kept separate and protected from the rough and tumble of the rest of the school. We had our own playground and climbing frame. In the afternoon we would have to lie down on raffia mats in the hall for an afternoon nap, whether you wanted to or not. Most did accept this and went to sleep as it was quite a long day – we would be dropped off at 9am and picked up at 4.15pm.

To write we used chalk on slates that had a wooden frame. The teachers kept control even though they had 50 children. By the time we went up to the next class at age six, we had a general knowledge of how to learn but we were afraid of the teacher. At breaktime the boys and girls were separated and had their own playgrounds.

Pilgrims Friend Bethany Christian Home Pat1
Pilgrims Friend Bethany Christian Home Beryl

Beryl, Bethany Christian Home, Plymouth

I really enjoyed playing netball and we had a hoop in the playground to practise with. Once a fortnight my class had the treat of having our lunch at what was called a ‘British’ restaurant. So many children had joined the school from the city during the war that the canteen couldn’t cope.

One week my domestic science teacher allowed my friend and I to make some raspberry buns unsupervised. We felt quite smug about this until after the buns were in the oven and we realised we hadn’t added the jam because we’d been so busy talking.

Once I was almost caught by my headteacher climbing in through a classroom window when I was a prefect. But my friends inside saved me by crowding around to cover up the fact that half of me was still in the playground.

At the end of an exam I made the mistake of practising a whistle but whistled so loud it disrupted the exam hall so I lost all my marks as a punishment.

Ursula, Bethany Christian Home, Plymouth

My earliest school days were pretty awful as I went to a very old-fashioned school where the toilets were just a plank with holes in and no lights so quite scary. My junior school teacher would also slap you on the hand if you got anything wrong.

At a different school I had one brilliantly organised teacher who would teach half of her class of 44 pupils then leave them work to do and go and teach the other half. She was very imaginative, encouraging us to be creative in our writing and giving us visual aids to help us.

I would take a packed lunch and would have a drink from the fountain. One treat was an ice cream man who came with a horse and cart and would stop just outside the school gates. So, we were allowed to go to him and buy ice lollies for a penny or ice cream for a halfpenny.

Pilgrims Friend Bethany Christian Home Ursula
Pilgrims Friend Middlefields House Joan

Joan, Middlefields House, Chippenham

I started school at the age of six. My mum kept me home an extra year because she wanted me to start school at the same time as my sister, so that we could go together as we were close and still are. We lived in a Devonshire village called Drewsteignton for 11 years on a farm of both cows and horses (my grandfather made his fortune by buying and selling horses in the First World War).

I enjoyed school and had a good relationship with the headmaster and did well at school. Later in years when I was married and moved into a butcher’s shop, I found the headmaster and his wife were our next-door neighbours. They had no family of their own and I remember that they taught me how to garden. They were our neighbours until they died.

Before school, I would help to deliver milk on a pony, which was named Boudicea. There was a trap driven by a milk maid named Maudy. One day it overturned and I still clearly remember my sister shouting ‘Maudy is dead’ but she wasn’t, she was unconscious from being hit as it overturned.

I went to a private secondary school for girls, paid for by my grandmother and I remember that it was a difficult time for and it took me a while to settle down. I took a keen interest in current affairs and politics and still do today. I still remember the semolina and rice puddings – ‘no thanks!’ to eating them again. Our staple diet was sausages and mash and stew. I took sandwiches to school which were filled with spreads that came from jars. Bread came from local bakers and I still remember the sound the van made when he had switched off his engine to coast down the hills, which they used to do to save on fuel as it was so scarce in the war. I left school at 16, which was unusual as generally most left at 14 years. I then went to work at library headquarters.

Jane, Finborough Court, Great Finborough

When I was about 14 or 15 we went on a school trip to London to visit the Festival of Britain on the South Bank. The aim of the festival was to make people feel good about Britain after the war and it was 100 years after the Great Exhibition. We visited lots of exhibitions in the Discovery Dome. I can remember that one of these was about how babies develop in the womb. We slept in a bunker under the ground where the soldiers had slept during the war. The beds were quite hard and we could hear trains rattling past above the ground, so we hardly slept the first night. We walked to a nearby school for breakfast. We stayed for three days and went to the cinema one night and watched ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.

Pilgrims Friend Finborough Court Jane
Pilgrims Friend Milward House Esther

Esther, Milward House, Tunbridge Wells

I was in a private school in Tonbridge called Fosse Bank even though my father couldn’t afford it – my auntie paid for us to go. We played tennis in the school and I won the cup twice in a row. We had to walk to get to school.

My brother called me mischief. When we had homework, we had to take our books home and do our homework. I then took up my maths book up to the teacher and she looked at it and said, “I will not mark such untidy work.” So I took the book back and wrote in it “so don’t then”. I forgot that I had written this and later, when I had to bring it up to the teacher again, she saw my writing and I lost a conduct mark. In those days, you had to stand up in assembly (it was done to shame the pupil).

Connie, Milward House, Tunbridge Wells

When I was in Whitley Bay Grammar School, I played hockey as right wing. I made some good friends there and kept the friendships. We had lots of fun.

Pilgrims Friend Milward House connie
Pilgrims Friend Milward House Ann

Ann, Milward House, Tunbridge Wells

I was born in 1928. There were five of us, four girls and one boy and we lived in Redhill in Surrey. I first went to a private school. Then we moved to Dulwich and I went to the Sydenham High School when it was all rather formal. My dad was a civil servant in the Admiralty and we moved to Bath in 1940. My parents lived in a hotel and we went to a boarding school because my mother wasn’t very well. I think I went to four different schools. In those days education wasn’t as standardised as it is now. It was good to have a variety of teaching methods and subjects. It helped to get on with different types of people.

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