Friday, 10 May 2013

Sepia Saturday - School Day Memories

Sepia Saturday encourages bloggers to record their family history through photographs.

I  come from a family of teachers (two uncles and an aunt), married a teacher and both my brother, daughter and myself have been trainers in our particularly fields.  So teaching is in the blood there somewhere.  My husband taught   physics, and quickly found that to admit to this fact  brought to an end any social conversation.  
 

I did toy with the idea of becoming a teacher myself, but my Aunt Edith (right)  put me off.  She won  a scholarship to Fleetwood Grammar School, riding the four miles on her bike in all weathers.  She became a teacher at Burn Naze School in Thornton Clevelys (a poor area of town in the 1920's and 30's)  and had a keen memory for past pupils (particularly black sheep)  and humorous incidents such as excuse notes, written  for absences.  Unfortunately her memorabilia from her teaching days must have been thrown out at some stage as I never came across it following her death - such a pity.   


Here is my first school photograph from the 1950's.
 


I attended Devonshire Road School, Blackpool, Lancashire.  I am on the second front row, second from the right, next to the boy in the  striped pullover. The fashion and hair styles here  were so typical of the day - the girls with plaits, pudding basin haircuts, side slides or fancy top ribbons.


I counted a class of 46 - double today's standard for class size!   We sat in serried rows of  battered  individual desks with inkwells,  and I remember chanting our times tables, copying handwriting,  the hated mental arithmetic sessions which I dreaded,  and of course reading which I loved.

Playing the triangle in my infant school percussion group  is one of my earliest school memo.ries.  I was not too pleased at being given  this instrument.  Like everyone else, I wanted the favourite choice  - the sleigh bells. 

Eve Wednesday afternoon we gathered in the hall for community singing and I learnt such patriotic songs as The British Grenadiers, Hearts of Oak, The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, Bluebells of Scotland and my favourite Men of Harlech, sung with much gusto.  Sea shanties were also popular as we swung from side to side to sing What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?   Are these now all forgotten,  as I doubt that children are familiar with them today? 
 

There was not a strict uniform at my primary school, but I was desperate to wear a gymslip and tie.   My mother did not like them, but eventually I got one handed down from my cousin and wore  the school red and navy striped tie and the red girdle round my waist, feeling I had stepped out of one of the school stories I loved to read.

We didn't seem to get  individual or class photographs at my secondary school (girls only)  but I remember two occasions when the whole school (about 500  of us I think) gathered on the playing fields for a massive group photograph.  The first year pupils sat cross legged on the grass, with the staff in their academic gowns seated  on chairs, and the rest of the school grouped behind, either standing or  balanced on gym forms.  The result was a large rolled photograph in a scroll box.  Unfortunately I did not see fit to keep these and threw them out when I was having a major sort-out, prior to getting married.   I regret it now. 

My recollection of my teachers is they all seemed quite elderly (though this probably was not the case) and most would fit the now old fashioned description of "spinsters". 

Miss Robinson (English) was a great mimic at adopting dialects and accents.  She brought to life the characters in such plays as "Midsummer's Night's Dream", "The Rivals" and "She Stoops to Conquer". 

I liked Miss Jones (Latin).  Unusually for me, one day I was brave enough to write on the blackboard the jingle "Latin is a language as dead as dead can be.  It killed off all the Romans and now it's killing me!"  Fortunately when she walked into the classroom she saw the humorous side of it.  

Another Welsh teacher was Miss Edwards who more than anyone made me want to study history - my first love.  It is amazing what facts I learnt many many years ago come back to me when answering quiz questions on TV.

Miss Mutch (German) scared me.  She was from the Shetland Isles, bit of a bean pole, with cropped grey hair and given to wearing viyella checked blouses and v-necked pullovers.  She was burdened with the schoolgirl ditty of "If you miss Miss Mutch, you don't miss much".  I felt doomed from my first German lesson  when my attempt (in front of the class)  to pronounce a lovely German "Ich" came out as "Ick".   Still I persevered.  She was a good teacher, her lessons stuck with me, and I can still get-by in tourist German when abroad. 

From my first term at grammar school, science bored me stiff.    Our science teacher went by the unfortunate name of Miss Smedley, which was far to easy to change to Miss Smelly.  I could not work up any enthusiasm for learning about microscopic creatures such as the amoeba and hydra, nor get  fired up over a Bunsen burner. My  science knowledge is very poor, which is an awful admission to make in the modern world. The irony is I went on to marry a physics teacher! 

We moved to Edinburgh where I finished secondary education and for  the first time in my school life  I was  taught by men   Mr Scott-Allan continued  to develop  my interests in the past with a new dimension to it now of Scottish history, and Mr Ironsides (known as Tin Ribs) kept  Latin alive for me.

I feel I went through education at the best of times, inspired by some dedicated teachers. 
School days were happy days.   
 
Click HERE to discover other bloggers school day memories.  

17 comments:

  1. I envy your wonderful memory and the obvious affection you feel for your teachers and for your school days. A very well written piece and a most enjoyable read.

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  2. I'm surprised that you can remember so many of your teachers. Love the latin story and also calling Miss Mutch, miss much and Miss Smedley, Miss Smelly. Too funny. Glad that you enjoyed your school days so much. so many people hated them. It all has to do with good teachers, don't you think?
    Nancy

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  3. I cn still remember all three teachers from my primary school; it took me a long time to realise how good a grounding they gave me in English and mental arithmetic especially. My love of reading started there, It's interesting to see you list your teachers names with no Christian names - my two primary female teachers are still Miss and Mrs to me.

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    1. Thanks, Bob, for your comment. I doubt if I even knew the Christian names of our teachers. I have a vague memory that in the Speech Day programme, the teachers were listed with their initials and we had fun trying to guess what the Christian name could be,.

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  4. Is it a myth that, in those long rolled school photos, it was possible to be in the photo at one end, and run to the other end, to appear again, as the camera panned round?

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    1. Yes, I had heard that story too, but I have no idea whether it is fact or fiction. Does anyone know better?

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  5. I can remember the names of most of my elementary school teachers. I didn't really like or dislike any of them, but I was impressed with my 4th grade teacher. She had previously taught in Hawaii and had a brand new Ford car.

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  6. Lovely photos. I enjoyed School Girl stories in my youth too and was very excited when I got to board for a term in high school. I think my mother was almost as excited - sending me tuck boxes from Sydney which were eagerly greeted by the starving boarders ;)

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  7. I love the variety of memories in this piece. You're making me remember things from elementary school: learning to play the flutophone (loved that!!), timed reading tests in which we read a short piece and answered comprehension questions in a set amount of time, Cold War bomb drills, getting new saddle shoes and a book bag and a pencil box every year, and my favorite teacher Mrs. James (4th grade). I thought she was ancient, but I knew her when she died a gazillion years later in her 90s. When I calculated her age when I had her in the 4th grade, she was barely 40.

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    1. I have never heard of a flutophone - could that be what we call a recorder? Do tell me more about it. I had forgotten all about the comprehension questions but that was something I enjoyed. Your mention of Cold War drills (not something we had in Britain) put quite a scary light on school days at that time. I do remember in my secondary school taking part in a debate "I would rather be dead than red".

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  8. My mother was a teacher. I did work experience as a teachers aide and loved it but for some unknown reason did not pursue teaching. Now, I love to educate my colleagues and clients......but my writing on a whiteboard is not very good!

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  9. Enjoyed reading your memories and the memories they brought back for me. Cute school pictures too!

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  10. This is a wonderful tribute to your favorite memories of your teachers. Yes, we had far larger class sizes back in the 50's and 60's here too, at least in Pennsylvania, where I grew up. Amazing we all behaved, well if we didn't there was a swift punishment. Your school photo with the hair parted down the middle, shows you as a proper happy student. I have no photos of our classes at elementary school but some individual photos. This is an interesting Sepia choice and we all have different memories.

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  11. Thank you to everyone for sharing memories of your schooldays. This was an enjoyable post to write.

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  12. It sure is funny what we remember and the thing that we forget, when it comes to our school days! This is quite interesting seeing and reading about everyone's school memories! I'm happy I never had to wear uniforms to school, but I remember having a short period at a bank that I worked that they made us wear them for awhile, so all the bankers looked alike, but it didn't last long!

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  13. An impressive recollection, and one I could not do. Too many schools and too many faces.

    The flutophone is an American invention that remade the recorder in plastic with 1950s rocket ship design. It has limited musical qualities and unfortunately is still used in elementary schools.

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  14. I too shied away from teaching, although I did a fair amount of tutoring when I was at university, and it was suggested I might go into that profession at some stage.

    Imagine trying to get 500 students to cooperate long enough for a group photograph - a tricky job. What a pity you threw yours away.

    Thanks for sharing your schoolday memories.

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