Reflections - Schooldays
.....you'd to be there on time. You'd to line up in the playground, didn't matter whether it was pouring with rain or what, the teacher would come out about five to nine and blow the whistle. You'd to go into lines then. You knew your right places and you marched in. And as you went through the door one of the teachers would glance down to see that your clogs were clean and if they weren't she got hold of you - `you stand here' and then when you got inside - there was another teacher inside - and as you went past you'd to take your cap off and she went like that in your hair to make sure it was clean. And she also looked down your ears. And she used to say `I do that because I know a lot of you wash your head... wash your faces with your caps on'.
I started at six in morning when I were twelve - and worked 'til twelve, for dinner, half-an-hour for breakfast - eight 'til half-past. Get back home, get the dinner and go to school then in the afternoon. If I were on mornings I worked Saturday morning, I worked six and a half days. And week after does afternoons. I had to get home from school at twelve o'clock have my dinner and walk it to work. It were two mile. Then I used to get there at one o'clock and work 'til half-past five at night.
And how much did you get paid for that?
About five and nine-pence a week (about 28p).
When you first went to school at three, what sort of things would you do?
I don't think we did much only draw and things like that you know. I don't think we did any... many lessons if you understand. And then I should be older... I should be about four I daresay when we changed to come here. But I mean .... then we started with proper lessons.
What would you sit at?
Desks. Little.. well just a little seat as you might say. Great iron... you know to keep it steady and then a little back on it.
Was it attached to the desk?
No. I don't think it was in those days. I think we could move them and, of course, when we got into the next class they were all fastened down and what's more our classes, they went up steps to the top of the class as you might say. There were many rows, about ten rows, and they were all raised - the pupils at the top I mean - they were quite high up, oh about six or seven steps up. And we'd about... I don't know how many scholars in the class but I were reckoning up the other day and I think we'd about forty in a class.
Did you just have one teacher?
Yes. In that class and there were four classes round the hall, the baby class, second class, third class th'other and then it went through a partition - there were a partition divided that... that was the infants. Then it started with Standard One and there about five Standards in the big hall.
Now were all these classes in separate rooms?
Was there a blackboard?
Yes, on the wall as a rule
It was a fixture on the wall?
A fixture on the wall - in my day anyway.
Now what was the procedure for the school day to start and how did you get into the school.
Well you went in the playground, I mean it just depended on what time you got there, you played out until the whistle blew.
Whistle. It was a penny whistle. And then the teacher came.... on the door step and she blew her whistle and then you all had to file - of course we'd been trained for this - you'd to file into your own file and it was girls on this side, boys on the other in the big school and in the infants the little girls were on one side and the big boys... little boys on the other. And then the teacher said, you know, kind of said `now, standard one - so and so - now come along' and you all filed into the cloakroom which was there the first thing you came across and you all had a number on your thing - painted on your hook - and you all put your things in and then you filed into your classroom. And in the baby class there was a lovely roasting fire in winter time and a big fire guard round it with a brass top and if it was a cold day she always put you there to tell you a little story to get you warmed up you see and then the little lesson started.
Was there any assembly of the whole school?
No... for the big school there was always an assembly that sort of thing, you see all the boys on one side and all the girls on the other. And a lady teacher could play the piano and there was always a piano in the hall and she sat down and played the opening hymn, it was generally.... Because at the beginning our Headmaster was a very big Wesleyan and he believed in a service, you see, and we always had this hymn and then went to... into our classrooms as she played a tune like while number so and so set... and so we all went into the classroom and then generally at dinner time when we came back - we went home for our dinner of course, and then - there were no cookery things, then when you went back of course you'd to assemble in the hall again from the yard and you sang the Thanksgiving Hymn for your... Lord bless This food which Thou we take and Thank You Lord for giving us food and one thing and another. Then back to you classrooms for your afternoon session.
Was there a mid morning or mid afternoon break?
Yes. Generally about... now what time... half past two I think it was and you just got a little... quarter of an hour's break to go to the toilets and just have a little play out and then back again and then it was coming home time at four o'clock.
And what time did school start?
Nine in the morning and was it quarter past one in the afternoon.
So lunchtime would be from....?
Twelve o'clock until one, when, of course, you came back into the yard and played until the teacher wanted you to go into the classroom.
Were these classes mixed?
The classes were mixed but when you were outside...
You played apart, yes. Oh, yes I mean we'd... that's what I were doing the other day, I don't know why, but I just sat down and thought about schooldays and I reckoned up about twenty and twenty five - twenty boys and about twenty five girls and I can see them now all sat in their seats, all the boys on one side and the girls on the other but a mixed class.
What would you be using for writing?
Well in the infants kind of thing we had lead pen... not lead pencils, slate, a slate with a slate pencil and then we went on to pen and ink, that was a great day you know and er... yes I can always remember that and we had composition and things like that you know, you could tell a story if you wanted on your paper. And, you know, some of the ink was very black in those days, it wasn't very nice and sometimes there were blobs on your paper... well not blobs on your pen, er nib, it got a little blob on and it made a thick mark. I always remember one girl, she always used to put hers in her mouth and get it wet then dip it in and her `?' writing was very pale then you see because it had been in... diluted with spit. And she... I always thought her writing was very nice and I can see her to day now doing it, putting her pen in her mouth... and her writing was nice and pale and mine were all dark blobs... Oh dear!
What was discipline like in the school?
Discipline? Well very good in those days. Because, I say like, with a Wesleyan Headmaster and nearly all his teachers were Wesleyan, somebody that he knew and he got them there and... well as I say he used to sit at a table in the big hall doing his books, you know, I expect... his register one thing and another, we had to tip-toe across that hall to get past him you see and if he looked up you had to say `excuse me Sir' but nowadays as I say they don't bother you see, they call the headmaster by his first name, they don't bother, oh we had to be very careful like, I mean,... well as I say they were better mannered in those days, they really were. And your teachers, I mean, you thought the world of them, as a rule. There were a few bad boys and that in our class. I always remember them, oh I forget his name really, but he was always having to be sent out because he'd done something, then he'd go up to the headmaster's room and he'd get caned, few whacks on the hand, and he'd come back sucking his hand because it was sore! I can always remember those... there were some naughty boys but I don't think half like they are now.
Would the teacher ever administer a punishment?
Well I never seen one do it. Not in my time. Not the teacher, you were always sent out to the headmaster - `you get into the hall, the headmaster will attend to you.'
So, how shall I say, punishment short of caning, within the classroom, what sort of things did teachers use to...
Well as I say like, I don't think I ever saw... whether we had a good class or not I don't know but I don't think I ever saw any teacher administer any... a good telling off seemed to do you good, you know. Oh yes, I mean you might have to come out and she'd tell you off in front of the class but I don't think I ever saw a teacher hit anybody.
I wasn't thinking so much then as physical, hitting or.... I was just thinking was there things like one had to stand outside the classroom door for ten minutes of quarter of an hour before you were allowed back in the class or in a corner or anything of that sort...
Well as I say if there were anything it were just a case of `come here and stand in that corner a minute', you know, till you... and then she'd let them go back. But I don't think I ever saw anybody... there was just one or two lads as I saying... and you can imagine them. They came from a certain quarter, and they were generally sent up to the Master's room, then they come back as I saying and they'd be sucking their hands as though they'd had a right good caning. I don't know whether they had or not!
...recreation ground, shaled rec, that used always to be the school playground area and when it came to time to go into school, the whistle used to blow and all the pupils regardless immediately froze, they became statues until the second whistle and then they lined up in their class formation and there was another freeze and when you got instructions from the teacher you'd march into the main hall for the assembly, stood to attention, headmaster used to come in and take the brief prayers and then away to your classroom.
You said `stood to attention' ... as in military style?
As in military... well I think... it wasn't. I suppose it was a form of discipline that the teacher... they were the guide for the period of your school time. If they said... they blew a whistle everybody was... I suppose like a fire drill of a boat drill. And when the whistle blew you stopped, waited for your next instruction. Your next instruction was again whistled and then you went into your line formation into... ready to proceed into school. Then your teacher used to take over and give you instruction according to your class order to go into assembly and it was a case of you would have short prayers and then there would be a short inspection then that your teacher would go round and check that your hands were clean, your shoes were clean, your hair was tidy. Mind you your hair didn't always take a lot of tidying up because most of the haircuts then was a case of a bit off, all off. A basin on top of your head, the lot was shaved and you were left with locks on the top of your forehead. That was for most of us. It was a cheap form of haircut, a hygienic form, aye. But if any misdemeanours, say about dirty shoes, you were told about it, but if say on the next day, it came again then it was a case of the headmaster's report, or if you'd been talking in class of whatever it was a headmaster's report and he decided then, as minor offender, if it was a talking to, or if you persisted, you didn't take notice of the instruction given to you then it was two hand together, palm upraised and out came the strap...
Did teachers ever administer punishment of that sort?
Oh, yes, yes.
It wasn't just the headmaster.
Oh, no. The headmaster, that was in, corporal. That was your corporal punishment, that was... if you didn't respond to teachers instructions then, if your were persistent or you ignored the teacher's punishment, you thought you were bigger than they were, then your next step of course was headmaster's report...
But this is what I'm saying, did teachers deliver the strap?
No, not the strap, usually the teacher probably had a wood ruler or something like that, or in the case of talk, let's say, a piece of chalk was thrown about the head and invariably that was enough, he caught your attention and he wagged his finger and that was it. Then the next step if you were more persistent, if you were probably playing about in school you might suddenly find that you suddenly get a rap across the knuckles with a ruler but your headmaster was the man that administered the corporal punishment.
How did you sit in the classrooms?
Sit in the classroom? We had desks, desks... I'm not sure, I think there were four desks... four positions to a desk and you used to sit in... the desks were formed in rows, the average class was round, round about 40, 45 to a class, and then there was rows of desks and each desk was sort of made into a four position desk. So you sat separately and yet your desk was mounted side by side so you had usually four people.
Did you sort of have your exercise books and things of that kind and keep them in your desk?
Yes. Yes. They were kept in your desk. The... on the top of the desk you had recesses for the ink well and a groove to keep your pen. Your pens were collected up nightly and they were put into the school cupboard for the safekeeping, I suppose as much as anything.
They were supplied, they weren't your own?
No, no, they were supplied. The ink wells were little pots, little white pots, ink well sat in the recess, if you were one of the brighter pupils perhaps you'd get the job as what we call the ink monitor. Now the ink monitors job was to er once a week that was to wash out all the ink wells and make sure clear out all the sediment. The ink that they had was made out of powder. I don't remember any of the pupils ever making the ink, I think the teachers themselves made the ink, made it up into a bottle and the ink monitor made lsure that the ink wells were topped up, and say once a week they were cleaned out to remove any... The pens themselves were just an ordinary finger of wood shall we say, like a pencil but on the end was a metal recepticle, your nib was just an ordinary loose nib that slotted in there. One of the things we used to do if we'd been writing too hard or deliberately used to break the nib so that you got a replacement. Then if you managed to wangle a replacement, what we used to do... if you pressed the nib down, there were two little... on the point of the nib, just on the side of the point, there were two little slots like two little cuts, probably to give the nib a little bit more flexibility. But if you pressed the point of the nib down that broke up and it left you the shank of your nib with half of your nib with two prongs .... it to Dracula'a teeth, you had these prongs and then if you got the base of the nib and probably lifted your desk lid up, trapped it, pressed it down, it used to cause a crack in the shank of your nib and with a piece of paper used to form a set of flights and you'd a useful dart and that was my favourite game.
Where would you play with these darts incidently?
Wherever we found that they would stick in, door, piece of wood.
I mean would they be taken home or would you do this quite openly at school?
Oh, no, no, no, these were kept most secret, I suppose as about as secret as having a catapult or a pea-shooter or something like that.
Line up and then you'd parade into school.
But in your case, you say, there was an inspection once you'd lined up.
What was the inspection of?
Clogs. Make sure they was cleaned and polished, on backs and all. Very very strict on that.
Do you mean on the clogs as a whole or on the backs in particular?
On the clogs as a whole and the tidiness of the pupil.
So it wouldn't just be clogs...?
... it would be total dress?
What would happen if they found fault?
Well, you would get the cane. You'd get the cane. You ever have the cane at your school?
Would you get the cane in the playground or would you get it in...
The class room. She'd say, `right now, you've not cleaned your clogs this morning, and you haven't had a wash'. Then she'd either give you some extra homework or give you the cane on your hand.
How once you'd got into school, how did the school day begin?
You went straight into your classroom?
Yes, and you'd have scripture lesson.
So there was no assembly.
No, no, not at that school.
What was the school like?
One big room, it was only a tiny place, there was one big room, there was about, I should imagain, about thirty five, forty youngsters, that's all.
They would be different ages, wouldn't they?
Well they'd have to be in classes wouldn't they?
Oh, yes, they were separate in this room, there was only two teachers for the lot.
Well how many classes would the teacher be supervising at any one time?
I think she had about two.
Each teacher had two classes each. Sort of simultaneously.
Yes, that's right. In this one big room it was in them days.
What was the sort of routine of the school? I mean you turned up in the morning, what then? Did you play,just play outside for a bit...
Oh we er... no you went in for lessons.
No I mean this is before lessons start, you've just arrived at the school...
Oh, you just play about in the yard, you know but...
How would you be called... taken into... how would you go into school?
Oh, with a bell. She used to ring a bell, a big bell, you could hear it all over the bloody village when it went, `bong', you know, and everybody piled in you see.
You didn't go in in any particular order?
Yes, you lined up each er... each section lined up... (?) your own place. There was nothing haphazard about that.
What would sit at when you got inside?
A little desk. A little tiny desk. One that you to lift lid, you lift the lid up..
Lift the lid... What would you write on or with when you'd sort of learned to write?
Well we had books to write in.
One of them that you dip in the... the old fashioned pen that you dipped in the ink well there, you know. And then each week it become, as you got older, it was your turn to go round on a Monday morning and fill all the ink wells up.
Where would you get the ink from?
It was all in a huge container there with a lip on, you'd tip the... and fill all the ink wells up.
What, sort of, was discipline like at a school like this, with all these classes in the one room. It must have been somewhat difficult to maintain, one might think.
It was rather strict, rather strict.
Again, how do you mean by that.
Well there were no talking at all. You concentrated on what you were doing otherwise you got your clip round the ear without any compunction whatsoever.
How long was the school day?
Nine while half past three.
And what about lunch time?
Oh, well you all took your lunches there. There was a huge oven and took your... a little dish with er... like potato pie, you pushed it in in the morning then the teacher switched it... put the... you know, lights the oven .... warm your dinners up, you see.
And where would you eat them?
Sat at your desk, you ate your dinner there, there and then. Then you took your plate to the sink and you washed your plate and put it in your bag to take home in the evening.
You'd take eating utensils with you from home, would you?
That's right, oh yes, yes, oh yes.
And how did the teachers eat? Did they eat with you so to speak?
What I'm getting at is that if it was only one big room, they would have to be physically eating at the same time as you.
That's right, that's right, yes. And we had the old fashioned toilets outside in a line, you know, the old dolly varden the old tin.
Was it any way.... let me put the question the other way, was it a mixed school or were boys and girls kept separate?
Oh, mixed. Mixed school, yes.
What about punishments at school? I'm talking about Partington school now.
No, there wasn't much punishment, but you daren't step out of line.
What would happen if you did?
You'd get the cane.
Oh yes, no messing about.
You mentioned these two teachers. Was there a sort of a headmaster or headmistress about?
No, no, no. There was just the two teachers, I think one was higher than... I don't know. There was just the two.
Did you ever have, how can I describe it, anything other than lessons. I mean sports and things like that?
Not at the infant school we didn't.
No way, no sport at all.
Did you have any outings?
No, oh no.
We seemed to have more exams than what they do nowadays. We used to have one at summer holidays, one at Christmas and one at Easter I think. I think we had three in the year. Just each... we had three rooms there then, what they called `big school', classroom and little school, well little school didn't have exams they were only tinies...
Yes, this is Barrow school...
Yes, next door. And so we used to have exams for all our subjects - reading, writing, arithmetic, mental, composition, writing and all things, lots of things that they don't... oh and say poetry, lots of things... I go into that school quite a lot and have a cup of coffee with them and when David Brookes were there we used to discuss, you know, the difference and the different things they do and there's quite a lot of things they don't do nowadays as we do, as I think they should do really.
What other lessons did you have?
History and geography and we learnt to sew and darn socks, girls. We used to do that lesson Monday and Wednesday. And while we did the sewing on a Monday, boys did... it was only half way through the day, you know, half way through the first session of the afternoon that we did mending, darning and patching, learning all that. And the boys did... we called it geometry. And then at Wednesday well we there the first half right up to playtime making garments, we used to call it garment day that and the boys did clay modelling. Well you see they don't do those sort of things at school now do they? If fact some of them don't even know how to stitch a button on.
Well I never do now. You know I had a big family, I had a lot of sewing and mending and making and knitting to do for them so I won't even stitch a button on myself nowadays if I can help it.
Do you remember... did you used to go up to Barrow gardens as well, at all?
Oh yes we had a gardening class.
You had a gardening class did you?
We had a gardening class, and when I first remember it, it were across the road, you know where the farm is across the road? Well it was at that side, it was the garden and it... really it was only for boys were that but there were never enough boys there at that age. You see there were no leaving when you were eleven in those days, just stopped here. And if they couldn't get enough boys, well then the girls was allowed to join then it moved across the road to where... you know where Carter's bungalow is, and Gladwin's? Just passed Birchview, well it used to be somewhere about there did they garden then. And we used to have gardening... was it... Monday and Friday afternoons I think.
And what did you used to do in this garden? Grow vegetables...?
Oh we used to grow vegetables and all that and then we used to... he used to give them to us to bring home, you see, what we cultivated he give to us to bring home. So there isn't even that nowdays.