SCHOOL DAYS IS HAPPY DAZE
"School is a dirge that everyone hates, to learn
words in French and historical datesÖ"
David Garritt - Wakefield Tutorial School c
wrote David, an old school pal of mine when we were being asked to write a
poem as part of an English assignment. Pretty clever we all thought, but
all of this came later when I went to school in Wakefield.
CHAPEL STREET SCHOOL
school days in Knottingley started in 1949 when I was dragged one morning
by my mother at the unearthly hour of 08.45 to commence my education at
Chapel Street School. I had been Ďdrip fedí, warned about this for
almost a year before it actually happened, and in truth I was not too
certain what it all meant. Up to the actual day of starting my little pal
Alan and me did all of the things that four year old tots do like
splashing through pools, mixing mud pies, roaming around enjoying
ourselves and generally getting mucky. Afternoons were usually taken up
with getting cleaned up after the morning escapades, visiting granny at
Pear Tree Cottage in Spawd Bone Lane and playing with the local children
in the farmyard opposite. And that usually meant another clean up before
returning home. Halcyon
a bright September morning in 1949 at the age of 4 years and 10
months, all of this tomfoolery stopped suddenly and forever. To
make things worse Granny moved to the new Manor Fields bungalows.
I still saw Alan but less so than before because he was to start
school in Pontefract. Why this should have been I never discovered
because he only lived twelve doors away from me and I was to start
my schooling in Knottingley.
was upset, I objected, in fact I think I went on protesting for
many weeks after.
will like school" I was told by my mother, my grandmother, my
aunts uncles, cousins, even the old lady next door who must have been well
into her eighties. What
did they know?
will make new friends". But I had a
friend, I did not need anymore. "There will be new friends boys
and girls of your own age", I was told repeatedly.
who needed girls? Up to then this was a species I had rarely encountered.
The only girls that I knew were my three cousins and they were very old,
teenagers by this time. In
truth, I was suspicious.
you at lunch time", said my mother
giving my hand a squeeze, "I will be here to collect you to go
home for dinner". Well that did not sound too bad, I thought, as I
trudged reluctantly through the large wrought iron gates and down the
short drive. Home at lunchtime eh, little knowing that I would be
returning in the afternoon and every other day for the next three years.
am sure the first thing that I must have noticed was the large play area.
What I wasnít prepared for was the mass of children; some my own age,
others bigger, clearly older and wiser. The surprising thing was they all
appeared to be enjoying themselves. I must have recognised this very
quickly because I can remember just chasing around aimlessly with everyone
else, until suddenly from nowhere a large hand bell was rung.
am Miss Grimshaw and I want all the new ones to come with me."
I looked around to see what would happen next. Did that mean me? No one
moved. Suddenly I was being pushed forward by older children. "That
means you lot", and other words of encouragement from those who
could afford by virtue of their age and seniority to be smart and
were about 25 of us, girls and boys all of similar size and age. Some were
dressed smartly in lumber jackets and ties, others not so well dressed.
Some wore spectacles; some of us even wore caps on our heads. What we all
had in common was we were new, we looked dazed, some were even crying.
Above all we were each fearful in our own expectation and bewilderment. We
gathered near the door in front of a youthful looking teacher bespectacled
in rimless glasses.
am Miss Grimshaw your teacher and if it helps I am also new today."
stooped, and then whispered this with a kindly smile as we all gathered
around her; "Just follow me, girls to
the left hand cloak room, and boys to the right".
were told to hang up anything that we did not need on the metal pegs
provided. "Just find a peg and hang up your hats and coats and if
you have brought gloves, get your mums to sew them onto the sleeve of your
coats then you will not lose them."
remember clearly that she then whisked us off across the playground to
visit the toilets. These were in a narrow corridor with a long gutter for
the boys on one side and doors to toilets on the other. The roof was open
to the sky, so if it rained we would all get wet. The only experience I
had at that time of an outdoor privy was the one at the bottom of the
garden at Pear Tree Cottage, and my mother always went with me to stand
guard in the dark outside the door. However, the next surprise came later
when I went off to wee after my playtime bottle of milk. There was a queue
and a line of boys standing silently at the wall each one enveloped in
clouds of steam rising from the trough. I suppose now I would recognise
this as being my first culture shock, the first of many that were to
Street school was the forbidding territory of its Headmistress, Miss Wake.
Or was Miss Wake the forbidding Headmistress of Chapel Street School? We
were soon to find out. First we were herded into the first year infantís
classroom on that sunny September morn. The room smelled of the blazing
coal fire and hints of the bare wooden floor having been recently
scrubbed. There were other strange new aromas which later became
associated with chalk, powder paint and school milk. Then of course the
inevitable body smells that unfortunately emanate from a group of four and
five year olds.
we were nervous then so was Miss Grimshaw, whom as we learned later was
fresh as a daisy straight out of teacher training college. She was my
first teacher and like ones first girl friend never to be forgotten. My
first girl friend was Angela or so my Mother told me years later. She
remembers me coming home from school one day and blurting out. "Donít
worry about having a little sister Mum, Iíve got Angela now". Such
was my first encounter with the opposite sex, so that didnít take long
of my recollections of those early years at Chapel Street School revolved
around first encounters with many new friends, teachers, classroom
discipline and the way by which early learning was introduced to us.
1952, King George the sixth died. I can recollect very little other than
it was an event that happened during my last year at Chapel Street School,
if that is the correct phrase. By then, I was one of the big boys being
taught by Miss Wake in the top class. All this was soon to change when in
a short time we were all to move to the junior school. Once again we would
become the new children. Isnít it funny how this status repeated itself
throughout school life?
that particular morning it was clear something was afoot because assembly
was gloomier than usual, not that this early morning ritual was ever
anything other than a sombre occasion. From what I recall we sang "Onward
Christian Soldiers" for the second time that week. It took me
fourteen years to recognise that every school had its own hymn and this
was certainly Chapel Streetís way of encouraging our spiritual lives.
had finally stopped singing, exhilarated as ever by thoughts of "marching
on before". This by the way we did every play time, particularly
as some of the children in the early 50ís still had fathers and elder
brothers serving abroad in some war, somewhere. That or, racing around the
covered wagon that stood in the middle of the playground, whooping and
shooting imaginary arrows at a group of girls twirling a long skipping
rope. As the hymn finished, Miss Wake announced quite simply that the King
was very poorly and that we should all pray for him. This of course we
did, whilst at the same time peeping to see which one of us was not
closing their eyes or placing hands together in the time honoured manner
that we had been taught.
our young minds, the King was a very distant figure who worked in London.
Exactly what he did or where he lived we were not too sure, but as some
one whispered. "He earns more than my Dad does at Bagley's". We
also knew that he wore a crown on his head because he did in the school
play that we had acted in front of our parents at the end of last term.
Anyway, by morning play time he was dead. We were told this by Mrs
Wiltshire the school care taker who lived in the house next to the
playground. She leaned over the wall and told us not to make too much
noise that morning because the King was dead. So, I suppose we shot fewer
arrows at the girls and yelled quieter war cries. By lunchtime everything
was back to normal and I am unable to recall anymore until a young Queen
Elizabeth succeeded him on that cold wet June day in 1953 when we all
became the "New Elizabethans".
| PART THREE
Also by Roger Ellis:
Sunday School Days
Legend of the Iron Man