Perhaps Monday 3rd October 1955
1. My earlier understanding was that we moved to Thornton in early September 1955, perhaps on the 3rd; and straight away, arrangements were made for our Steven and me to start school. But according to my later-acquired first school report, the date of admission was “Oct[ober] 4th 1955.” If the first date is the true one, there may have been initial difficulties getting us into a school; if the second is to be accepted, then we may even have travelled from Preston to Thornton to our new home on Monday 3rd October 1955.
There were two schools in the neighbourhood: Baines’ Endowed on the corner of Station Road and School Road, and Church Road County Primary School (obviously) in Church Road. Both were about the same distance from our house, just short of a mile; and it was to the latter that we went.
Tuesday 4th October 1955
2. Presumably, on the first day there, and perhaps on subsequent days, my Mum took us, till we were used to going on the bus by ourselves; but I don’t remember this: my chief recollection is of waiting at the bus stop for the twenty-to-nine cream-and-green Blackpool Corporation Transport bus number 14 to arrive. We would be out of the house perhaps five minutes before the bus was due, and there would pass what seemed like an age till it arrived. At first, we would turn left out of our front gate, and walk the hundred yards or so along Fleetwood Road to the bus stop opposite and just beyond the entrance to Neville Drive.
When the bus appeared in the distance I would start to feel excited and anxious lest it would not stop, and I would stick my hand out to stop the bus probably before it even passed our house. Later on they erected a new bus stop to the right of our gate, just beyond Mrs. Webb’s house and before one came opposite the entrance to Beechwood Drive, so we used to wait for the bus there instead.
I think we would cross over Church Road at its entrance; I seem to remember that there was a “lollipop man” there. We would walk on the left-hand side, with metal railings to the left of us, past a field then the clinic; and the two separate buildings of the school were situated just where Church Road turns left to go down past the “big boys’” school.
 Lollipop man: An attendant who supervises schoolchildren crossing the road and who carries for the purpose of stopping traffic a round sign mounted on a pole, resembling a lollipop. The sign used to say, “STOP CHILDREN CROSSING”, which confused me; the purpose of the sign after all was to enable children to cross, not stop them.The school was surrounded by a fence of metal railings, and the entrance gate was just beyond the left turn in Church Road. More or less continuing the line Church Road takes before the turn, was narrower Marsh Road, down which were, on the left, the white-walled school canteen, and after that the school playing field.
4. I found journeys on double-decker buses somewhat alarming: there was a very tight bend to the left as the bus went past the windmill, and the bus used to lean over as it went round this bend; I was frightened that it would fall over. And when that was past there was the even tighter right-hand bend almost immediately afterwards at the corner where Church Road branched off. The bus never did fall over, though.
5. From 12 noon to half-past one was dinner time. Some of the children stayed for school dinners, but we didn’t; we used to catch the bus home. At this time two buses used to come at about the same time (we would catch the first that came): the red-liveried Ribble bus number 162, destination Poulton, or the Blackpool Corporation number 14A to Blackpool. If we caught the latter, it would be of a type unique in design to Blackpool Corporation Transport, having centre sliding double entrance doors and a full-fronted cab. These buses had a central staircase opposite the door, which divided the lower seating accommodation into a forward and rear saloon. They were finished inside with wooden frames and panels which squeaked continually as the bus went over irregularities in the road; and they had windows with an ill-fitting top part (this slid down for ventilation when a handle was turned) which also rattled all the time. If we caught a Ribble bus, it would as likely as not be of a more regular type, with an open rear entrance platform, rear staircase and a half-cab. Many Ribble buses, though, were of a “lowbridge” type, with four seats together upstairs and a sunken gangway to the right. There were the usual two rows of double seats with centre aisle downstairs. Because of the reduced height, there were signs behind each seat upstairs, and behind each right-hand seat downstairs, saying: “Please lower your head when leaving your seat.”
6. Fares on both buses were the same, three-ha’pence for a child’s half-fare. (Later on it went up to tuppence.) Sometimes on the Ribble bus there was a very comical conductor, who to the request for, say, “A tuppenny half, please”, would reply: “Two penn’orth, no salt!” At the time, this was unintelligible to me; it was only much later that I realised that the joking reference was to a purchase in a fish-and-chip shop. Then he would say: “Now here we have the windmill, just here round the corner!” instead of the just plain “Windmill!” that you might expect from another conductor. The r-colour in his pronunciation of “corner” was noticeable, even given that we were in Lancashire where such pronunciation is endemic. Then he would announce: “Now we’re just coming up to Four Lane Ends”; and he would add a whole catalogue of features: “traffic lights, lecture hall, library, war memorial, District Bank, Dr. Wylie’s—Four Lane Ends, next stop!” (Dr. Wylie was our family doctor, so his mention of him has stuck in my mind.)
 Three-ha’pence: 1½d (one-and-a-half pence in the old money), or 0.625p.7. To me the homeward journey was safer than the outward; the bus didn’t have time to pick up any speed from Gardeners Arms to the first of the tight corners. I used to hope that there was someone at the next bus stop, to impede the bus’s acceleration to the windmill. After that, there was no particular danger, so I could relax.
8. Dinner at our house was at quarter-past twelve, and Dad (or Daddy, I suppose he was called then) would come home from work, too. I hated it if we had mashed potatoes, and would make sculptures out of it with my knife and fork till I was told off. Then I would try to dissolve as much as possible of it in the gravy to avoid eating it. Rissoles were not bad; I liked the crispy outsides, even if the rest of them got quite boring to eat. Afterwards, rice pudding was enjoyable, but not as much as— We called it tapioca, but I’m not sure if it was sago. We usually had “little tapioca”, which had tiny round lumps in it, but sometimes had “big tapioca” with frog-spawn size lumps in it. With milk puddings there was competition between Steven and me for the right to “scrape the dish out”: the bowl in which it had been cooked, which had the tasty skin formed during cooking stuck to the sides.
9. Afterwards, it was back to school on the 14 bus for the afternoon. I seem to remember that the younger children were released at half-past three, and the older ones at quarter-to four. (I can’t remember what I did when Steven came out later than me; presumably I waited for him.)
10. Now what of school itself? I remember that the classes were numbered the “wrong” way, so that one did not start in Class 1 and proceed through Class 2, Class 3, and so on; the classes were numbered the other way, so that the youngest pupils were in Class 7 and the oldest in Class 1.
11. Class 7 was taught by Mrs. Haworth. I can just about picture her, but a description on paper eludes me. As to her age, well, everybody was old in those days who was grown up, but I suppose she was just beyond middle-age but not quite elderly. The word “kindly” springs to mind in connection with her. I seem to remember somebody mentioning about her husband, saying that he’d had part of his leg or legs cut off, and that they kept on having to take a bit more and a bit more off. (The question is, would that be a teacher telling the class? That’s the impression that I have, even though it seems unlikely.)
12. Class 6 was taught by Mrs. Roscoe. Now she would be described as being in the elderly bracket. She was immensely fat; she didn’t walk, she careened; and she seemed barely able to fit through the entrance door, I observed once when she emerged to lead her flock across the road to the canteen where she taught them. I was never in Mrs. Roscoe’s class; I went straight from Class 7 to Class 5.
13. Class 5 was taught by Mrs. Steele. She left before I got into Class 5, and I don’t have a very clear picture of her—young, I suppose she would be. In her place came Mrs. Kershaw, who was also fairly young. She had an upturned nose and short, curly hair, but her most noticeable feature was her sizeable bosom. It was remarked in later years that she walked around with her arms folded, and it was suggested that she did that “to hold her tits up.”
 Mrs. Steele… left before I got into Class 5: But see Class 5.Class 4
14. Mrs. Jackson of Class 4 was somewhat older. She also had short, curly hair, only hers had grey streaks in it. The terminal phalanx of her—was it her right?—index finger was deformed, and bent inwards towards the other fingers. I picture her as quite bold-featured; and in this mental image she is wearing a two-piece suit, tailored jacket and skirt. Come to think of it, my image of Mrs. Kershaw is in a suit; but Mrs. Jackson’s doesn’t bulge as much at the chest! Mr. Jackson was also a teacher, at the Secondary Modern school up the road. It was in Class 4 that I really started to enjoy school; I started to feel at home and no longer uneasy.
It was into Class 4 that Steve went when we first moved to Thornton from Preston. In contrast to my experience, he didn’t like Mrs. Jackson much; he found her a bit strict.
15. The year after that, Steve was in Class 3, and Mrs. Hodgkinson, who took that class, was a bit “soft”; they took advantage of her. Steve’s remembering that is in stark contrast with my impression of her, though. My recollection is that she talked with a kind of bark, and I especially remember this when she accused me, or us, once, of misbehaving and making a noise on Church Road on the way to school. She would have none of it when I protested my innocence; she knew, she said—she had been nearby and had been watching. I felt sure it must have been a case of mistaken identity, because I was certain that I (or we) had not been unduly noisy or mischievous. She, however, cut off my contradictions of what she said more or less as lies. I feel indignant even now as I write this.
She retired after the year that Steve was in her class; that’s why I had Miss Hough teaching me in Class 3. Whether or not my impressions are distorted by her name and its association with the story of The Three Little Pigs (“Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!”), the impression I have of Miss Hough is of a somewhat porcine appearance; or if not that, then of a round, red-cheeked face (red, perhaps, as of someone out of puff—or huff!) and a rather well-padded body. It was in Miss Hough’s class that I first got the ruler on my legs—several strikes of the ruler on the calves. I think it was she who in fact broke the ruler on Billy Redman’s legs.
When Steve was in Class 3, they used to merge with Class 4 for Religious Instruction, taken by Mrs. Jackson. I don’t think anything like that happened when I was in Class 3, but then I had a different teacher: Mrs. Hodgkinson had left and Miss Hough taken over.
 Hough: Pronounced Huff /hʌf/.Class 2
16. I didn’t like Class 3 as much as Class 4, nor again as much as Class 2, which was taught by Mr. Robinson.
(Incidentally, the female teachers were known to us as “Ma” and the male ones as “Pop”. But Steve and his classmates used to call Pop Robinson “Cock” Robinson, perhaps from the rhyme “Who killed Cock Robin?”)
Pop Robinson was middle-aged; actually, he might have been any age, but the fact was that he was bald. His favoured method of corporal punishment was multiple strikes of a ruler on the knuckles. I remember his stern expression and the way he tucked his chin into his collar as he did this. Once, though, when Steve was in his class, Pop Robinson sent him to the headmaster Pop Kay for getting ink blots all over his exercise book, and he got caned.
Steve remembers Classes 2 and 1 merging for Craft. I don’t remember that, but do remember them coming together for Music, taught by Pop Kay.
As I said, I liked being in Pop Robinson’s class, which is just as well because he taught our class for two years.
17. For Pop Bastide, Class 1’s teacher, left just then, and Pop Robinson moved up with us to Class 1.
Till then Pop Bastide was the deputy head. He had red hair, and he didn’t pronounce the “ng” in “talking”: “Stop talkin’!” he’d say. I used to think he looked like Mr. Teddy (our Steve’s teddy bear).
I remember David Morley, a somewhat cynical individual, after he had gone on to the other school, recalling Mr. Bastide from when he was in his class, and it seemed to me that he was getting the pronunciation of the name wrong.
“No, it’s Bastide,” I attempted to correct him.
And Steve recalls that people used to chant:
“Pounds, shillings and pence,Class 1R
18. Steve didn’t go into Pop Bastide’s class; he was in Mrs. Brown’s class, Class 1R, the class where people who hadn’t done very well went. I suppose the “R” meant “remedial”, but we understood it to mean “remove”, I suppose because the children in it had been removed from Class 1.
Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]