Four ladies – Marnie Surtees, Monica Knight, Glenys Morgan and Elaine Spencer reminisced about their early schooldays. Marnie recalled that the first thing on entering a classroom was the queue for a spoonful of cod liver of oil and a spoonful of malt. Monica remembered that not having a spoon was no excuse as the oil was poured down the throat! Elaine couldn’t remember the liquid cod liver oil, but did recall that there were capsules. She didn’t remember malt, but Virol was recommended for building up children’s health, and it was malt extract, available from the chemist’s – Addey’s or the Co-op. (If you have ever been near a brewery, it smells like Virol when they are steaming the hops). Marnie was at school in the immediate post war years, and remembers that the children were also given pieces of fruit (oranges and apples) after their lunch to build up their health. Milk had been on offer to schools from 1921, but the 1946 Education Act enforced the delivery of one third of a pint of milk to all at school. The calcium in milk had been identified as not only building bones, but being good for children in learning. The small glass bottles were delivered daily in metal crates and each classroom had a box of straws to drink the milk. Elaine remembered that it tasted nothing like the milk she had at home. The bottles were returned to the crate by the end of playtime and went off to the dairy for washing and refilling.
Marnie recalled that when having games lessons at school, the girls were expected to wear ‘pumps’ (plimsolls). She said that the poorer families couldn’t afford the footwear, so they had to go to the school’s shoe cupboard to find a pair that fitted. She said that verrucas and athlete’s foot were rife in the shoe cupboard! Along with pouring cod liver oil down children’s throats, Health and Safety would have something to say about these practices nowadays. Elaine remembers that her plimsolls, which her mother called ‘sand shoes’ as they did in the north east, were whitened with blanco each time they were worn, and lots of Dads were used to this from their services days.
Glenys asked if the others recalled having to put down their heads on desks for a daily rest. This was during wartime, and the younger children had camp beds for their nap, and the beds were taken outside in the warmer weather. Marnie remembered the camp beds, and Glenys had mentioned blankets for the younger children too. Elaine remembered that when starting at school, the children were given an emblem to remember the location of their coats in the cloakroom and it was also on the blanket so that each child knew which blanket to use. Her emblem had been a string of beads. She never wanted to nap and spent the time staring at the others who had managed to nod off almost immediately.
Marnie had gone to school in the wooden huts that preceded the building of what is now known in 2016 as Pheasant Bank but when when the others went to school, the wooden huts were gone and the school was known as West End Lane. The beds went out into the quadrangle there in the summer months.
The school was set up with separate entrances for infants and junior girls and junior boys. Junior boys went round to the back of the building. On entering the infants at the front right, the cloakroom was on the right with the toilets by the windows, and the classrooms were down the corridor from that point. Nearest to the door was the head’s office. At the end were double doors which led to the junior boys and their set up was down the second corridor of the quadrangle. The junior girls entered from the other side of the front of the building with their head’s office, cloakroom and toilets on the left and their classrooms going down to meet the doors at the bottom to lead into the junior boys. The front side of the building held 2 halls – one for the infants and one for the junior girls, and that one had a stage, After the war, there was a baby boom, and by the time Elaine and Monica reached the last year of primary school in 1958, with the increase of pupils, one of the halls had become a large classroom with storage under the stage. Mrs Platt, Elaine’s teacher in that final year, decided that she had to be the paint monitor and because she was an art specialist (being employed at the Secondary School to be an art teacher from the September that Monica and Elaine moved on), there were a lot of art lessons. The storage area was warm and claustrophobic and Elaine hated it. She was convinced that Mrs Platt knew this and sent Elaine in on purpose. The infants had moved on to what is now Tornedale so there were more classrooms available and more playground too. The outside toilets were on the wall against the back of Grantham Street for the infants and girls.