Sunday, 7 September 2008

My Early Schooling. (Memory Lane)

"Tell tale tit,
Your tongue shall be split
And every dog near this school
Shall have a little bit."

I was standing in the playground, mortified.
It wasn't another child saying this to me. It was a teacher!
I soon learned not to tell tales.

Although I cannot remember my first day at school, I do know that it was in September of 1947.
There was no gradual transition period, where parents stayed with children until they settled in. Mums would drop their children off at school and disappear fast. That was how it was then. Normal for that time.
The school was a Mixed Infant Church of England, with the local parish church standing next to it.
It was a stone building and the playground was tarmac with small white stones embedded in it.
Schools in those days were very strict and my older cousins had warned me in advance that the Headmaster, Mr Upward, had a cane that he used.
Being an anxious child by nature, I do not think that school was ever a pleasurable experience, nor did it ever boost my confidence, rather the opposite. However one of the teachers, Mrs Boardman, was very kind to me and used to take me under her wing. She taught me how to knit and sew and I remember that she was a slightly older motherly type of person.

Although my mum must have taken me on my first day at school, I can remember that my dad used to regularly take me on his large, black bike. It had a small saddle clipped onto the cross bar in front of him and two footrests anchored onto the front wheel frame. He used to drop me off at the school gate before turning round and heading to town and then work.
One day I took my feet off the foot rests, with disastrous results. I got my legs grazed by the spokes and Dad nearly fell off his bike. He was not too pleased and I went in to school with blooded legs, using Dad's hanky to mop up the mess.

Inside the classroom there were rows of wooden desks with seats, held together by a metal frame. Children had to remain seated at all times and there was to be no talking, which was difficult for me.
If a toilet trip was needed, we had to put up our hand and ask, 'Please may I be excused?' 
The toilet block was outside the main building, in the playground and there was a short trip across the tarmac to get there. The boys' toilets were on one side and the girls' was on the other. I can remember it was very cold during the winter.
If an unfortunate child wet their pants then the poor mite would be placed in a corner of the room, facing the wall. Even though this never happened to me, I noted that everyone laughed and made fun of all who did. There were no spare pants to change into, so the child just had to dry out naturally and was shunned by others.

There were many crazes at school, depending on whether you were a boy or a girl, as in those days there was a definite distinction between the sexes regarding, hobbies and play.
The girls collected beads and used to carry them around in tins, to swop or just to look at and show them off. The glass ones were highly desirable, with plastic being the least liked.
The boys collected cigarette cards  and unusual cigarette packets, and played marbles. They were encouraged to take part in sport activities and were taught simple woodwork.
Girls, on the other hand, were taught to knit and sew and later on, to cook.
Boys played football and cricket, while girls played hopscotch and skipping in the playground.
One of the rhymes, which is politically incorrect by today's standards, that we chanted while skipping was,
"My mother told me I never should
Play with the gypsies in the wood."
I cannot remember the rest which might be just as well. I would be interested to hear the ending, though, if there is some one out there who knew it.

I work in schools and find it so hard to imagine how today's children would have coped with the harsher conditions and discipline of the era of the post war days. Children today are more confident and have so many choices about everything. Maybe though, they are not so lucky as they don't have the freedom to go out on their own, as we did then. So maybe it is a question of swings and roundabouts!
My schooling was as different as chalk is from cheese!


CrazyCath said...

That is a remarkable memory. I am surprised at the similarities, for example (I started school in 1970) my first school had toilet blocks outside the school building, girls one side, boys the other. I also remember the cane. As I grew through my school years, we gradually were allowed to take on "boys'" topics - I had to do needlework and cookery, but by the time I was 13 I could do a modicum of metal and woodwork! (We WERE in the country and were being dragged into the 20th century when it was in it's last decades! lol)

I can't believe how cruel some of the teachers were though Maggie. To make fun of a child is cruel and unforgivable. I agree that sometimes children seem to have too much choice these days, but they also seem to have much more care from the society they live in. Well, sometimes anyway.

Excellently written and brilliant photo to accompany it. Hope all's well.

Retiredandcrazy said...

I am always surprised that our young children love going to school. I hated it. Things have changed much for the better.

aims said...

I started school when I was 4 and I remember walking to school on my own or with my siblings. My parents were too busy working to take me.

Things sure have changed with parents hovering over their children and driving them a few blocks to school.

Does it mean that eventually our legs will become useless? I see evidence everywhere that brains are becoming useless...oh well - you know what I mean.

Cuckoo said...

That is a remarkable memory. I don't remember such initial details of my school. :(

But later when I was 10-12 yrs, I remember almost everything.

Hey, I think we have met before. As I remember, I have come to your blog earlier too.

Thanks for dropping by my blog. Keep coming. :)

My blogger id will take you to my old blog. The new url is given below. Click on my name & you are there. :)


Suburbia said...

"if I did,
she would say,
naughty little girl to disobey"!!

I remember my mum singing this rhyme!

Thank goodness we have a little more compasion at school now.

dottie said...

I started school in 1973, when the cane was still very much in evidence. But what horrified me most was seeing the kids who had to go for "Remedial" (Learning Support these days) crossing the empty playground during class time to the temporary classrooms where the extra help was given. This was in full view of all the classrooms from P4 up, so everyone could see the people who were "behind". Surely some thought could have been given to the feelings of these folk? My heart bled for them, one in particular, who had to raise his hand in the ElevenPlus exam and explain out loud that he could not read. Thank goodness we have left those times behind.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post Maggie - how is everthing going, I often wonder how your little family is coping

Lavinia said...

What memories. How very different things were back then. It's like chalk and cheese as you say, or night and day. Some Dickensian aspects here. I think the pendulum has swung too far the other way nowadays. My daughter informs me that one of her high school teachers has asked the students to address him by his first name! That would have been unheard of in my day.

One school memory that stands out is my grade seven teacher told us that whoever figured out a trick question would win a dollar. Well I won the dollar. At lunchtime I raced home and waved the dollar bill proudly to my mom. She was appalled that I should take money from a teacher and sternly ordered me to give the dollar back the minute I went into afternoon classes. Which I did, of course. There was no question back then but you obeyed your parents. Sadly different, these days.

RiverPoet said...

Now what we need to do is find a hybrid model between what your schooling was like and what schooling is like today. It amazes me that anyone learns anything in today's world, and all of the kids seem to be out of control because everyone is afraid to discipline them!


Anyway, it's cool that you wrote about this. I hope that a few younger people read it and realize that things used to be quite different.

Peace - D

Expatmum said...

Great post Maggie. I went to a very old Victorian school in the sixties that sounds just like yours. In fact, there's a great working museum in County Durham called Beamish Museum, which has a replica of a Victorian school room and it's exactly the same as mine. My kids can't believe I experienced such Dickensian conditions. Outside loos, massive big blackboards, milk in bottles that used to be frozen in winter. (Ugh - frozen milk.)

Anonymous said...

You have a very vivid memory of your school days. Your school sounds a little like mine insofar as it was a CofE and situated next to the church.

Lovely story.
CJ xx

The Rotten Correspondent said...

This is absolutely fascinating to me. You have a wonderful memory to be able to recall all of this.

Anonymous said...

I wrote about my first day at school too;the experiences were not too different. Isn't it amazing how, the older one gets, the clearer the past becomes. Don't ask me what I did yesterday, I could tell you but it wouldn't be instant recall.
Lovely post.

nanatrish said...

Great post! I started school in the 50's and I walked by myself sometimes. We would not think of letting our granddaughter walk to anywhere by herself. Times are different. There is too much crime and too many sick people to let small children just walk around by themselves. It's sad, but true.

OvaGirl said...

Great post MM!

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's so interesting to learn about people's different school experiences. Not sure that I could've coped with canes etc. I went to infant school in the 80s at some point, I think I blocked it out! School wasn't too stressful for me - I believe that kids get things easier nowadays that I did, and much easier than when you did. How life changes, eh?
Take care,

Granny Smith said...

I love your reminiscences! Actually, back in 1926 when I entered kindergarten, California schools were somewhat more enlightened than what you describe - but not much. I remember being humiliated by a teacher for climbing up on the fire slide in order to slide down again(it was for rapid evacuation of the second floor in case fire). I had never been told it wasn't a piece of playground equipment.

I have left an award for you on my blog. Fell free to use it or not.

Angel said...

wonderful, wonderful memories. Love to hear about other's school days.

They really are the best days of your life...
Would be interesting to see what my boys would think to life in school in those days!

Omykiss said...

Wow! You did stir up old memories. I don't know but I've just calculated that I must have started school in 1953. I don't remember a cane but all the teachers had a 'strap' - a scary black leather belt with a forked tongue at the end.

I did love the skipping at paly time. We had a rhyme to sing too. Cups and saucers, plates and dishes; See the wee man with the tartan fishes; One, two sky blue; All out but you! No mention of gypsies ;)

Anonymous said...

I loved this post and this wonderful memory! You recall such vivid details, I could just picture it in my mind. Times have really changed in schools, thou, I am not sure all for the good. The disrespect I see in schools now really bothers me.
Thanks for this enjoyable memory!

Robin said...

After reading your post, I thought the good old days were both good and bad. Just like now, I guess. I wonder what my kids will remember.

Debra in France said...

Great to read of your early school days Maggie. I remember my first day at school. Dad took me, I was just going for the morning and he would collect me at lunchtime. I didn't like him leaving me, but I was more excited than upset. We had little hexagonal tables to sit at. I don;t remember what we did but I DO remember my Dad dening in the doorway and the teacher saying 'Debra, your daddy is here for you'. I jumped up and ran to him bashing knee on the table grazing it. I carried a little scar for years until time seems to have faded it.

Jenny said...

I went to school in Clevedon years ago, the rhyme goes
My mother told me I never should
play with the gypsies in the wood
if I did then she would say
"Naughty little girl to disobey"
Jenny ;-)

Jenny said...

I went to school in Clevedon years ago! The rhyme goes
My mother told me I never should
play with the gypsies in the wood
If I did then she would say
"Naughty little girl to disobey". Jenny :-)

Jenny said...

I went to school in Clevedon years ago, the rhyme goes
My mother told me I never should
play with the gypsies in the wood
if I did then she would say
"Naughty little girl to disobey"
Jenny ;-)