1. I have drawn a plan of Church Road County Primary School based on photographs and from what I can remember of the school. It should suffice for the following articles covering the successive classes I was in.
2. There were two main buildings, both single-storey, but both quite tall. The older of the two, the one to the right of my plan, was probably built around the turn of the century or perhaps even before, of brownish, rough-surfaced bricks; it consisted of one large rectangular hall with its shorter sides facing towards and away from Church Road after the bend in the road, with other structures leading off in the direction further down Church Road. This main classroom may have been divisible into two halves by a glass and wooden-framed partition, the tall, narrow sections of which would be folded back on each other concertina-style, half against one wall and half against the other wall, when it was not in use; but I may be reduplicating the definite memory of a similar structure in the other building. Assuming that the room did divide into two, then through a door in the farther half from the road there was another classroom, part of the “other structures” I mentioned before. I think the school’s radio receiver was in there, which fed large wall-mounted loudspeakers in the other classrooms throughout the school. Beyond the door to this classroom was another door leading to the cloakroom and thence to the rear entrance door to the building; so to get into the main hall you had to go round the back, past the long wall of the hall (which bounded part of the boys’ playground), round the corner into the infants’ playground, to the cloakroom door just beyond the end wall of the hall. Beyond the cloakroom was the boiler room where Mr. Daniel the diminutive, toothless, weather-beaten caretaker would sometimes be seen shovelling coke from the heap that was there into a little hatch in the boiler. From the half of the hall nearer the road was a door leading to the headmaster Pop Kay’s study. I can’t remember if the office which housed, among other things, the
Banda spirit duplicator, was separate from Pop Kay’s, or part of it. Beyond all the rooms leading off the main hall was the caretaker’s house.
3. A description of the other of the main buildings I shall leave till
later.[more] Across Church Road and down Marsh Road, set back from Church Road quite a way, was the long, squat, whitewashed building of the canteen, with a roof of corrugated asbestos; its long wall faced Church Road, and its entrance in the middle of the short wall was at the end of a short path from the left side of Marsh Road. It was divided into two halves, the dining room and the kitchen. The canteen also doubled during the day as a classroom; I didn’t stay for school dinners but I remember being in class there on a number of occasions.
I didn’t have the advantage of Lancashire County Council’s Maps and Related
Information Online Aerial Photographs (1960’s photo), when I drew my plan.
Tuesday 4th October 1955
4. I don’t remember being taken to or starting at Church Road County Primary School on Tuesday 4th October 1955, and my recollections of Class 7 are rather vague and confused. Two memories vie with each other for priority in relation to my first days at the school, one where I am in the canteen and one where I am in the large classroom of the older of the main school buildings. (In later memory, the canteen is used by Mrs. Roscoe and Class 6 and the large classroom by Mr. Bastide and Class 1, but I suppose arrangements were changed from time to time.)
5. In the canteen memory, we sit at tables and we each have a rectangular box made of thick cardboard that we have been given, perhaps measuring about 25cm x 18cm x 5cm, with a detaching lid on the top of which is a printed label with large letters saying
“TIDY BOX”; this is to put our things in, like crayons and so on. (Is mine a new box whereas others’ seem a bit grubby and used-looking?)[ii] What makes me remember Tidy Boxes is that there is a little boy nearby, a bit scruffy with crew-cut hair and light green snot just beginning to bulge out beneath his nostrils, who seems to have become parted from his Tidy Box, because he says more than once, or attempts to say in a semi-articulate voice at once gruff but also suggestive of excessive nasal mucus-excretion:
“WHA MA BOK?…”, and a little later:
“WHA MA BOK?”[iii] The boy is James
- [ii] Is mine a new box whereas others’ seem a bit grubby and used-looking?: Because it has now come to light that I started school on 4 October 1955, I have excised the following from the text:
“If so, that means I have joined the class later than the others. I could be mistaken, though.” School terms started early in September, so many of the others could have been there for three or four weeks.
[iii] Wha ma bok?: In case you haven’t guessed, this means, “Where is my box?”
[iv] James Spedding: It was sad to read in the local newspaper, years later when he was in his teens, that he was killed when a car knocked him off his bike down New Lane while he was out delivering newspapers.
6. In the classroom memory, I am feeling a bit forlorn, and a girl in a cotton dress, who seems older than I, sits me on her knee. (Whether she was in fact older than I was, I cannot now remember. The girl was Pat Denby; I think she was a bit rough and ready in her usual manner, but here she was kind to me and quite
- [v] The girl was Pat Denby; I think she was a bit rough and ready in her usual manner, but here she was kind to me and quite motherly: Because it has now come to light that I started school on 4 October 1955, I have excised the following from the text: “This memory tends to reinforce the impression from the canteen memory that the class was already established and that I was introduced into it.”
7. Most of the memories which present themselves now, are situated in that classroom. However, there are two from the canteen, which I shall deal with next.
First, we are drawing pictures, with the sky as a strip of blue at the top and the ground as a strip of green at the bottom. There is perhaps a square representing a house on top of the green, and in the blue a yellow circle with short lines radiating from it. I look and see the picture that Martin Tait is drawing, and notice a matchstick figure in the blue, and to the right of that another, with a scribbly head and four matchsticks pointing down and another pointing behind. The figure, he tells me, is God, and the other is God’s lion (God has a lion, you
Second, there is a larger group of us than usual, more than one class, in the canteen, and more than one teacher in front of us. We are sitting in rows, facing the canteen entrance door, and I am quite far back in the crowd. Perhaps we are to be addressed by a visiting speaker, a policeman talking about road safety, or something. I am experimenting with saliva, and discover that if I present a quantity of it with my tongue to the closed lips, then open them carefully, I can get a complete film of saliva to cover the aperture of my mouth. Just at this time, Mrs.
Steele[vii] is talking, and adds without a pause, as if it is part of her topic, “…and stop blowing bubbles, John Cooper!” This took me by surprise, first because I thought I was well hidden, and second because I was not aware that she knew my name; I was not in her class, after all, so how come she knew me?
- [vi] God’s lion…: Could he have been influenced by
C. S. Lewis’s
Chronicles of Narnia? The first of the seven books to be published was
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1950.
[vii] Mrs. Steele: She taught Class 5; see School: Class
8. Back at the classroom, in my memory, now: In the middle of the morning, we would have playtime, a period of about a quarter of an hour when we would have milk—a third of a pint, provided in individual bottles from which one drank with a waxed paper straw—then go out to play in the infants’ playground, which was behind the classroom and walled off from the older boys’ playground. Most of the children would be running around together in groups and making a noise, and the collective voice of the noise would say:
“Ay-aw-ay-aw-ay-aw-ay-aw-ay-aw-ay-aw-ay-aw-ay-aw!” This is what it sounded like to my ears then. I didn’t join them, perhaps because I was very shy. There was another boy, called Ernest, who also didn’t join in the fun and games. He just used to stand with his hands behind his back, leaning against the classroom wall midway between the cloakroom entrance and the dividing wall of the playgrounds. So I joined him, hands behind my back and leaning against the wall. The bricks felt very rough and scratchy, not at all like the smooth bricks at home. Ernest couldn’t talk; I would ask him something and seemingly in reply there would come single sounds, bubbling through his pursed lips.
9. After playtime we would go back into the classroom again, perhaps to learn our letters. I had already learned at home the names of the letters—
- /eɪ/, /biː/, /siː/,[viii]
—so it struck me as odd that Mrs. Haworth, the teacher in Class 7, called them
- /æ/, /bə/, /kə/,[ix]
Towards dinner time, I would start to feel the need for a wee-wee, but either it didn’t occur to me to, or else I was afraid to, put my hand up. (The custom was that you put your hand up and said, “Please, Miss!” Some in their eagerness to attract the teacher’s attention would start to thrust their hand into the air in repeated jerks, and the “Please, Miss!” would get shortened to “Plimiss! Plimiss!”) As my need grew greater, there would be little involuntary leakages into my pants; there would be a little emission of urine, then I would realise what was happening and check it. After some days of this occurring, Mrs. Haworth happened to notice that I was in some distress, and asked, “Do you want to go to the toilet?” And I think she added an encouragement simply to ask her next time; so that was the last I had of that particular problem.
- [viii] /eɪ/, /biː/, /siː/: Using the International Phonetic Alphabet
[ix] /æ/, /bə/, /kə/: Using the International Phonetic Alphabet
10. One Saturday my Mum and Dad took us to Preston; I can’t remember why. We got the train from Thornton Station, and it wasn’t a steam train, it was one of the new diesels that had been introduced. I had never been on one of these before. Instead of being made up of carriages pulled by an engine, it was just two carriages; and it was dark green instead of the maroon of steam-train carriages. And Mrs. Haworth was on the train. As far as I was concerned she was my teacher whom I saw only in the school, and who had no independent existence outside; and I couldn’t handle the situation of her being there. She said, “Hello, John!” but I was struck dumb, despite my Mum’s urging me to say hello back.
Back at school, although Mrs. Haworth didn’t mention my not having spoken to her the previous weekend, reference was made to my journey, for I had to draw a picture with that theme. So I crayoned two coaches in green and tried to fit them on to a line below—I probably had my tongue stuck out as I was drawing the outlines then swinging the crayon to and fro to fill in with colour—and when she saw the finished effort, she asked, “Was one of the carriages really shorter than the other?” and I replied, “No, I just drew it like that.”
“Michael Norman Lee”
11. I remember being in the classroom one day, when Mrs. Haworth introduced a new boy to us. “This is Michael Norman
Lee,”[x] she said. I remember distinctly that she included his middle name in the introduction.
- [x] Michael Norman Lee: He would later on be in
Woodhead’s class at Baines’ Grammar School and become a friend of his. At this later time, Chris was a year behind me; compare
September 1956 to July 1957 for possible circumstances of how we got into different classes. See also
24th March 1967: Your best friend (a-hem!).
12. Every year, just before the school broke up for the Christmas Holidays, each class would have a Christmas party, where there would be sandwiches and jelly to eat, orange squash to drink, and some sort of fun and games to keep us all amused. I remember that we had to bring our own… (Now what was it? because I brought more than I needed to: I brought a beaker and some cutlery.) And while I was walking through the cloakroom I tripped, and dropped the brown-paper wrapped bundle I was carrying on the stone floor just by the step leading up to the classroom; and when I unwrapped the parcel my beaker was broken. And that was when Mrs. Haworth, or someone, told me that I hadn’t needed to bring the cutlery, or whatever it was I didn’t have to bring. I was naturally upset about this accident, but a cup or glass was provided for me to drink out of.
12A. According to the “General report on the child’s progress since admission”, completed on a
Banda spirit-duplicated stencil and signed by “M. Haworth”, Class Teacher, for the half-year ending February 1956, “John works very hard and is making excellent progress, both in Reading and Number.”
The “signature” of the Headmaster (“Ernest A. Kay”) always intrigued me on these reports, because it was not a signature at all; it was part of the duplicated report-form.
13. I came top of the class in the June of that school year,[xi] as I did every year at Primary School except one, and in July as First Prize I was given a big, though thin, colourful book: My Enid Blyton Story Book. Inside the front cover is stuck a label, printed off on the school’s spirit duplicator, with turquoise cursive writing (or “real writing” as we called it) and a yellow rectangle as a border. My name “John Cooper” and the class number “7” have been added in the kind of blue-grey ink that used to be used in the desk ink-wells.[xii] The text of the label is as follows:
|Church Road County Primary
School , Thornton.
First Prize Awarded to:
John Cooper Class
[xi] I came top of the class in the June of that school year: See my school report for the half-year ending June 1956, below:
How does one account for the discrepancy between the “No. Examined” (18), above, and the number of pupils in the class photograph (24), par.15, below?
[xii] The kind of blue-grey ink that used to be used in the desk
ink-wells—though not in Class 7: we used a pencil to write with in Class 7; we would not use ink till
3. The ink was supplied to the school in powder form and made up with water. It was considered unsuitable for use with fountain pens, but all right for the nib pens that we were provided with.
14. Someone from the local weekly newspaper Thornton Cleveleys Times came to the school and took a photograph of a group of twenty-two children. They were of various ages, and I was one of them. Presumably it was a record of those who had done well that year.
15. A photograph was also taken actually of my classmates and me.