John Edward Cooper’s Notes

HomeContentsAlphabetical listingWhom I’d like to meet in eternity…

Class 5

Early Days
See also School: Class 5

South is approximately upwards in this plan; hence, my reference, below, to “the southern extension of the boys’ playground” between the two buildings.

The two left windows: Class 3
The two right windows: Class 2

One window of Class 2 can be seen to the left; the other three are Class 5.

When I was there, there was no wall in front of the Porch.

The old school building, where we would have Assembly
 1. I have already described what appeared to be the older of the main school buildings.[more]
 The other one, on the opposite side of the southern extension of the boys’ playground from the first building, was built of smooth, red Accrington bricks. In my memory, it was basically a square structure in plan, divided into roughly four equal square classrooms, the one for Class 5, the one for Class 4, the one for Class 3 and the one for Class 2.
[I originally wrote this before I visited, took photographs, and drew the plan.]

 In my former description, I described a folding partition wall in the old school building, and mentioned a definite memory of one in this other school building; this was between Class 5 and Class 4, and was kept permanently in place, except when the whole double room was used for things like prize-givings. Off Class 5, through a door near the partition, was Class 2; and off Class 4, through a door in the same wall but at the far end from the partition, was Class 3. I seem to remember that in Class 5 we faced towards Class 2, with the door ahead of us and to the right, and that in Class 4 we faced away from Class 5, with the door behind us and to the left. In both Class 3 and Class 2, we sat facing the same way, with the outside wall behind us and the door ahead of us and to the left.
 2. From Class 5, in the wall opposite the one with Class 2’s door in it, there was a door leading to a smaller, lower room called a Porch; I seem to remember it being quite dark in there. It was the cloakroom for the boys, and as well as having racks with double hooks for coats and caps it also contained along the wall between it and Class 5 a few wash basins. The entrance door was in the opposite wall. (In my article School, this was the door I recalled Mrs. Roscoe coming out of, and seemingly almost not being able to because of her great width).
 There were what were called Porch Monitors, who presumably were chosen from the older boys; but I don’t remember any such choice being made when I was in Class 1 or Class 2. All I can remember about Porch Monitors is that as our class trooped through the porch, there would be one or more of these Monitors standing there, shouting uncouthly, “Single file, no talking, no drinks! Single file, no talking, no drinks!” Presumably the odd boy occasionally would find having a drink as an excuse to break out of line and go over to the wash basins. “Single file, no talking, NO DRINKS!”

 3. Let me insert here some details as to why we might be walking through the porch in a line. When one arrived at school in the morning or after dinner, one would find some of the other boys in the playground, playing in groups or running around. Suddenly there would be a loud whistle, lasting around two seconds, and everyone would become motionless, as if suddenly frozen and preserved in whatever posture one happened to be in when the whistle blast sounded. One could tell from the manner of the whistling without looking round which teacher had arrived in the playground to perform the deed. When the teacher was satisfied that everyone was motionless, he would sound two short blasts, which were the signal for us to move quickly (but not run) into lines, in the wider part of the playground between the end of the newer school building and the front of the older one, in single file, according to the classes we were in. Then we would be allowed to move out, class by class, to wherever we had to go: if it was the end of playtime or of dinner time, we would go, each in line to his own classroom; if it was first thing in the morning, we would all go round and into the hall of the old school building for Assembly. Either way, whether immediately after lining out, or after Assembly, we would find ourselves trooping through the porch, with our ears assaulted by: “Single file, no talking, no drinks!” I don’t remember what the procedure was for the infants in their playground at the back of the hall, nor for the girls, who had their own playground round the back of the newer school.

 4. Now that Assembly has been mentioned, I will make another digression with some recollections about this, when the whole crowd of us would stand together, row upon row of us in the hall. Assembly was presided over by Pop Kay. There would be a hymn. I don’t remember who usually played the piano; I do remember that on the comparatively few occasions that Pop Robinson played it, there seemed to be fewer fingers on the keys at any one time, and there also seemed to be more of the same note being played in succession, than when the other teacher played. The words of the hymn were printed in large letters on a flip-chart type of arrangement in front of us. I seem to remember that this was replaced later on, because in the hymn “There is a green hill far away” there was a line which on the first chart went “He died and suffered there”, whereas on the second it was “hung and suffered”; although the second makes more sense, in that the Lord would not die, then suffer, we nevertheless preferred the first because we had got used to it. Then Pop Kay would lead the prayers. We had to stand with hands together and eyes closed. Younger children tended to put their hands together Albrecht Dürer style, with the thumbs and fingertips touching;—
—but older children would tend to clasp their hands together. And Pop Kay would read or recite a different prayer each day, though the set of them was oft-repeated. The most memorable one to me—because of its da-da da-da da-da da-da rhythm—was:
Teach us, good Lord, to serve Thee as Thou deservest
Da-da da-da da-da da-da — To give and not to count the cost,
Da-da da-da da-da da-da — To fight and not to heed the wounds,
Da-da da-da da-da da-da — To toil and not to seek for rest,
—and here the rhythm broke up—
To labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do Thy will. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 All such prayers ended with something about Jesus Christ, such as “For Christ’s sake”, “through Jesus Christ our Lord”, or similar, and to me this was just words I heard repeated every day, but having no meaning. It would take an encounter with the living Christ himself many years later before the meaning was clarified to me. Then would come The Lord’s Prayer, which we all recited. It would start off quite slowly, and as it progressed it would build up speed, a little like a train pulling out of a railway station, with the words sounding almost like the bogies of the carriages clanking over the rail joints, the rhythm getting faster with each carriage that passed.
By the time we got to:
—we would be cracking along at a fair old pace, unless Pop Kay spoke up and stopped us, and made us start again, which he did at least once.
 I can’t remember if we had a final hymn before the benediction. Our favourite hymn, which we regarded as the School Hymn, was “For all the saints”; though we were accused once of just liking the rousing tune and not understanding the words—which of course was true.
 Then Pop Kay would finish with the benediction, which was:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
And the love of God
And the fellowship of the Holy Ghost
Be with us now and evermore.
—which was just as meaningless to me as the rest of the words that were churned out, day in and day out.

 5. From Class 4 there was a similar door to that in Class 5, leading to the girls’ Porch. Now this is where my memory fails me, because there must have been another classroom between the two porches, but I cannot clearly picture it. But it must have been there, because I remember that the long wall of the main classroom of the other school building (where we had Assembly) formed one boundary of that part of the boys’ playground, and that there was a similar wall of a building opposite it.
[I originally wrote this before I visited, took photographs, and drew the plan.]

 I remember it because there were four buttresses, two on the one side and two exactly opposite them on the other side. For I remember a game involving five of us: four stationed themselves in the corners of each of these buttresses, and the fifth was in the middle of them in the playground. The object of the game was for the occupants of corners to change places and get there before the one in the middle could take his place. If his place was taken, he became the one in the middle.
 The line of this additional classroom continued beyond the classroom with a wall which divided the boys’ playground from the girls’. There was a gap in the wall a few yards down to give access between the two playgrounds. So, the Porches were like mirror images of each other on opposite sides of this classroom, only if you came out of the boys’ porch you were in the boys’ playground, and if you came out of the girls’ porch you were faced by a wall which conducted you to the left to where the girls’ playground opened out round the back of the school.

September 1956 to July 1957
 6. At the beginning of the school year, September 1956, I didn’t go from Class 7 into Class 6; I went instead into Class 5. At this point I have a memory of stepping down a large step, then immediately afterwards stepping up a large step on to floorboards. In this memory, I hesitate there, and almost turn back, because a voice, or more than one child’s voice, from in front of me tells me, “Hey, you’re not in this class, you’re in Class 6!” But in fact I am in the right classroom, Class 5, and I am presumably shown to a desk. I guess, then, that the step down was from the additional classroom, which presumably at that time housed Class 6, into the boys’ porch, and the step up was into Class 5.
 7. The question now is: Who was my teacher at first in Class 5? When I was writing the article entitled School, I stated quite confidently: “Class 5 was taught by Mrs. Steele. She left before I got into Class 5… In her place came Mrs. Kershaw…” But earlier notes, written between eleven and fifteen years nearer the event, state equally unequivocally: “Mrs. Steele then Mrs. Kershaw”. Now, writing this, I cannot decide between the two.

 8. Just as in Class 7 I only remember isolated episodes, so it is in Class 5. As I wrote earlier, I seem to remember that the class faced towards Class 2, with our backs to the porch. But as to my precise position, my memory gets confused. In one episode, I seem to remember sitting well forward and fairly centrally. In another, I seem to be nearer the partition wall. In a third, I am again more centrally located, but further back in the classroom.

 9. In the first episode, there was a picture stuck on the wall, and we had to write sentences
[1] describing what we could see in the picture. So I set to, and wrote:
In the picture I can see a boat.
In the picture I can see the sea.
In the picture I can see the sky.
In the picture I can see…
—and so on. When Mrs. Kershaw came round, looking at our efforts, and saw mine, she commented that it was correct, but that I should perhaps vary the wording a bit in each sentence.
[1] We had to write sentences: My Dad worked at the Ministry of Pensions at Norcross. I could not imagine what he did, but I knew that he did writing. If I as a small boy had to write, say, ten sentences between playtime and dinner time (for that is my impression of the time of this episode; I can’t remember exactly how many sentences we had to write, though), then Daddy must have to write, oh, at least a hundred sentences when he was at work. For he was grown up and I was still only little (I remember being measured while in Class 5 and I was 3' 11½"; Daddy was 6' 2"); and school was easy but work was hard.

A bizarre fantasy related to writing sentences
In our bathroom at home, the lavatory was in one corner and the bathtub was next to it, and together they took up the whole length of one wall. The door was in the other wall, and could be opened till it touched the bath, so that if you were seated on the toilet you were completely enclosed by two walls, the door, and the end of the bath (which was of cast iron and originally stood on four feet with a gap between it and the floor, but my Dad and Uncle Jack boxed the outside of it in with hardboard). It was easy to imagine the space above the side of the bath, from where the door touched it to the end wall, as a window. As I sat on the toilet, I would daydream. In my fantasy I was poor Mrs. Shasher, sitting there in my tiny apartment, with a toilet for a seat and a bathtub for a bed, for that was all I could afford. All Mrs. Shasher could do was sit there, writing sentences, for which she was paid a pittance by her pitiless employer, who probably wouldn’t pay her till she had done a hundred sentences. I think Mrs. Shasher must have been a cripple, otherwise she would have gone out and got herself a decent job.
 10. In the second episode, we were taught to knit. Mrs. Kershaw probably showed the whole class how it was done, then came round and took each child through the process individually. So, when it was my turn, she guided my hands; she did the casting on, then she showed me how to put the needle into the stitch on the other needle, loop the wool over, pull the stitch out over that, and then knock it off the needle. “Put it in, over, out, and knock the stitch off; put it in, over, out, and knock the stitch off…” I succeeded in doing it a couple of times while she was there, so she left me to go to the next person. But when I tried it again, I found that it didn’t work out as before. “Put it in, over, out…” I tried it a few times, but no, I couldn’t do it. I was getting hot with that feeling of panic in the tummy. But, seeing that her attention was elsewhere and not on me, I just lifted the desk lid up and put the needles and the ball of wool in there. And there they stayed. In the course of time, the ball of wool became unravelled and all tangled up with the things in my desk. It worried me more and more, when day after day I would see the work of some of the others progressing, while the evidence of my guilt lay there in the desk. Finally came the reckoning, when we all had to show how we had got along. I can’t remember whether we had to get our work out all together, or whether she came round again individually. But I know that I started to cry; I thought I was going to get into trouble, so the tears started to flow. If I had consciously been trying to manipulate the situation, then I would have been able to say that the weeping had the desired effect, for her attitude became that of sympathy. The desk lid was opened and the mess revealed. And she helped me to extricate it all from the other things that were there and take out all the tangles.

February 1957
 10A. My school report for “half-year ending February 1957” awarded me full marks in all subjects examined and a position in class of “1”. Mrs. Kershaw (“P. R. Kershaw”) wrote: “John always works well. His work is careful and neat. Well done!”
Sunday 19th May 1957
 11. On Sunday 19th May 1957, I received as my birthday present a large, thin, colour-illustrated book “The Water Babies”. It was the story by Charles Kingsley, shortened, though he was not credited as the author in the book. Inside the front cover my Dad wrote:
To:– John, with love and best wishes for a very Happy Seventh Birthday
From:– Mummy and Daddy. x x x x x x x x x x x x x.

June 1957
 12. Just as there were tears in the second episode that I have related, there were also tears in the third episode. It was a day or two before Sports Day, so it would be around June time, 1957. Mrs. Kershaw was listing all the events that were to take place and calling for volunteers for each: boys and girls for the running race, boys for the sack race, whichever sex it was to be for the three-legged race, and so on. But I didn’t fancy my chances for any of these. The egg-and-spoon race. Ah! I thought. This sounds more like my sort of race. But the egg-and-spoon race was for the girls. So down curved the mouth, out came the tears; and then she noticed me sobbing. “Whatever is the matter, John,” she asked, approaching me and putting her arm round me. “I wan-(sob)-ted to (sob) be in the egg and (sob) spoon race!” I blubbered. I was really very disappointed and distressed; so an exception was made, and I stood at the starting line among all the girl participants. The eggs were made of porcelain; and we each had to scoop one off the ground with a spoon and then head as quickly as we could without the egg dropping out of the spoon for the finish line. I made third place, and my name appeared in the Thornton Cleveleys Times under “Girls: egg-and-spoon race”.

 12A. Around that time we trooped out of the classroom to have our photo taken. I think the location was a grassy, wooded area at the back of the school. Two rows, of eleven chairs each, were put out, one in front for girls to sit on and one behind for boys to stand on. Between them a row of ten boys stood, and in front of them four children left over sat cross-legged. I was at the right of those standing on chairs at the back, and next to me to my right stood Mrs. Kershaw.
June–July 1957
  13. I came second in the class in the June of that school year; every other year at Church Road I would come top of the class. Marion Chandler used to come second; I suppose she came top that year.

 I received as a prize another large, thin, colour-illustrated book “Mountains and Valleys”. Stuck to the first page is a spirit-duplicator printed label in now very faded yellow ink:

John Cooper CLASS 5
   17th JULY, 1957

My name “John Cooper” and the class number “5.” have been inserted in fountain-pen blue-black ink in the appropriate spaces on the label, in “real writing” except that the initial letters are in printed style.

 Later on, perhaps at Christmas that year, I bought the companion volume “Icebergs and Jungles”.

 14. For no clear reason, I associate in my mind the time of my being in the Class 5 classroom, with the memory of beginning to develop childhood “crushes”.
[2] See Crushes.
 15. The first crush that I can remember, was on Princess Anne. I would lie in bed and imagine situations where she and I would meet, in which I performed some heroic deed and gained her admiration. The one I remember is when the Royal Train crashed on the level crossing at Thornton Station; I dived into the wreckage and pulled out Princess Anne and the Queen (dressed in the same red tunic she wore at the pictures [movies] when “God save the Queen” played)—“This way, y’Majesty!”—and doubtless I saved the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles too. Then they all came to our house for tea.

Princess Anne, 1958

The level crossing at Thornton Station, 1979 photo

The Queen in the same red tunic she wore at the pictures

The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles
 16. My Dad made a little puppet theatre for Steven—just the front; it wasn’t enclosed like in a seaside Punch and Judy show. It had curtains and a pelmet in red check cloth, with a sheet of the same material below to mask the puppeteer. He had probably already made a papier-mâché puppet of Punch, with a long nose and chin which curved towards each other, and a conical hump on its back. My Dad could make authentic Punch noises because he had a reed-type affair which he put in his mouth: “That’s the way to do it! That’s the way to do it!” There was also a monkey of his making (called, appropriately enough, Monkey), of black velvet with a pale cloth face rimmed with furry material. The monkey, according to Steven’s and my vocalisation of it, could only say, “Peedawee, peedawee, peedawee!” But with the theatre came shop-bought puppets of Punch and Judy, though my Dad made the crocodile. (In the version that we knew, a crocodile appeared and made off with Punch’s sausages.)
 The jaws of the crocodile my Dad made were flat, rectangular pieces of wood with the corners cut off and somewhat rounded, with teeth cut from a thin wooden rod, and with a felt body tacked to the jaws. The whole thing was painted green.

 17. When we went to bed—at this time Steven and I shared the front bedroom—we would make crocodile shapes with our hands, so consequently there were four of them. When one of my pair of crocodiles was away (perhaps in the bed somewhere), it was known for the free hand to become an enemy crocodile which would attack my remaining friendly crocodile; but my crocodile could gape wider than the invading one and swallow it up.

 18. It was my two crocodiles who inspired my fantasies, or at least were instrumental in putting them into words, which I would whisper to myself till I fell asleep. In the bed they had what was called the Thinking Machine; this was in form like the meat safe that Nanny had in her under-stairs pantry: a small cupboard whose door was covered with a metal sheet pierced with many regular little holes for ventilation. The Thinking Machine was only tiny; after all, it had to fit in my bed under the covers—about half-way down on the left-hand side. Contrary to what its name suggests, the Thinking Machine did not itself think; it merely drew out my thoughts and put them into words. The sides of the bed were full of thin little books, rather like Ladybird books, produced by the Crocodiles and the Thinking Machine, stacked up in piles, and relating my adventures—including, no doubt, “Princess Anne and the Wreck of the Royal Train”! It was possibly the Crocodiles who were whispering my exploits when I whispered.

 19. In the course of time, other finger animals appeared, both in Steven’s hands and in mine: there were the dogs—whose they were I cannot remember—Prince, the oldest of the younger dogs, and Simon and Rusty. (Simon got his name from an event which happened when Steven and I were waiting at the Gardener’s Arms bus stop for the bus home from school one evening: a little dog came wandering by, then a boy came up; and as the dog approached him to wag its tail round his feet, he saw it and exclaimed, “Hello, Simon!” This struck Steven and me as being a very strange name for a dog.) There was a very old dog in our bedtime menagerie who could no longer hold up its ears; Steven could form this one better than I could, I had difficulty making its ears droop down far enough. There were cats, a rabbit, an anteater, and two octopuses (I suppose I should call them “pentapuses” since they only had five tentacles): Jimmy (mine) and Terence (Steven’s).

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]