John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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I go to school

Early Days

Friday 20th May 1955
 1. My fifth birthday came along; and the next day, Friday 20th May 1955, despite my tears, my Mum took us out of Fairfield Drive, turning right into Blackpool Road, crossing the road before it passed the Co-op stores and it bore right past Ashton Park. On the corner of Blackpool Road and the street which led off it sharply to the left, was a stone-built, single-storey school. Through the gates my Mum took me, apologising to the teacher who received me, that although she knew she should have brought me there yesterday, she didn’t do this because it was my birthday. The teacher understood this, it was all right; and my Mum left me to start this new phase of existence. And how strange this new existence was: a totally new set of ways of behaving, the first of which was having to leave one’s shoes in the entrance and put on the black pumps [gym shoes] provided.

 2. There was a classroom somewhere in the school and another one off it to the left. In the second room I sat near the middle of the left wall facing the centre of the room. Cards were handed out with pictures and simple words on them and a set of smaller cards or slips with words or pictures on them. We were supposed to match the slips into appropriate spaces on the card we had each been given. The trouble was, I hadn’t been given a card. So I just toyed with the slips that were before me, pushing them about on the table. I was a little worried that I didn’t have a card like everyone else. The teacher was displeased and she scolded me when she came round to check how everyone was getting on. “Why didn’t you tell me you didn’t have a card?” she said; but it hadn’t occurred to me to ask for one. I was new there and didn’t have much idea what was expected of me.

 3. Another time, we sat in the first classroom. We may have done drawing or painting there, or listened to stories, from time to time. But this time—I think it was shortly before we were due to go home—as I sat on the metal-framed chair with a wooden seat and wooden back, I got my little finger stuck in the gap between the seat and the back. I tried to pull it out—I pulled and pulled—but the skin of the knuckle was caught behind the gap. I began to get all hot and panicky; and fortunately eventually I managed to release the finger. What relief I felt! I looked around to see if I had been seen doing this, but apparently nobody, including the teacher, had noticed. And I was lucky because only the very surface of the knuckle had been skinned.

A note on the reverse of this photo, in my Mum’s hand, says, “John aged 5yrs. Taken in May 1955 at St. Andrew’s School”.

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