1940’s

Peckham Road School Evacuees, 1941. Miss Bloxham at the back, right hand side. Source Kingstanding Library

Michael Arblaster 1943-1954

I stood looking at my old school with it’s three sub schools; infants, Juniors and seniors. I had justretired and with some time on my hands I’d had an urge to have a look at where I’d spent my younger years.

Through the railings I could see Mr Martin’s classroom, 4a (senior school). ‘Probably passed away years ago’, I thought.

I pictured him in my mind; very tall, a pointed grey beard and a deep rough voice that sent shivers down your spine. It was during my last week at school that he gave me the cane, three hard whacks on each hand. This was because two kids had ended up wrestling close to my desk while our usual teacher ‘Pop’ Mason had slipped out for a few minutes.

Mr Martin had assumed (wrongly) that I had been involved in the fracas.

I noticed that the boys brick built open topped toilet in my days had been replaced by another more modern looking block. The previous one used to have a swastika painted on the wall and an RAF circular emblem painted on the opposite wall. I don’t think I need tell you why. The old woodwork shop is still there but I don’t suppose ‘Lobby’ Ludlow the woodwork teacher is. I noticed that the gratings beneath the woodwork shop have been filled in. As a twelve year old kid wearing an open necked shirt, short trousers, no underpants and ‘Daily Mail’ boots on my feet I used to stand over those gratings while leaning against the walls in the winter to enjoy the luxuary of the warm air wafting up from the underground furnaces, which were stoked by Mr Bullivant, the school caretaker.

As I glanced back at Mr Martin’s classroom I tried to remember the various punishments I’d had inflicted on me during my four years at the senior school. I had collected single canings to the left and to the right hand, double canings, triple canings, single and double canings to my bottom, numerous slippers to the bottom, clouts to the head, clips round the ear, smacks on the hand smackson the legs, various forms of detention and made to saw through pieces of railway line with a worn out hacksaw.

That was in the science class and so were the clunks to the head with a long tapered stick (TommyTappem). “They wouldn’t get away with that these days”, I thought to myself.

I continued to walk past the girls school until I eventually came to where the infant school was. This was the very first classroom I’d walked in about 60 years ago. Ithink the teachers name was Miss Bracey.

I couldn’t help wondering if the ten coloured rabbit shapes were still on the tall cupboard door as they were six decades ago, and do they still have milk monitors?

I used to sit in the front row in Miss Bracey’s class reading about Old Lob the farmer, and his trusty horse Dobbin in Beacon Book One. I also used to sing about Incy Wincey spider climbing up the spout.

I dabbed my runny nose with a tissue. Mom always made sure I’d got a small piece of bed sheet to use as a hanky. She also used to walk from Longford Road to Peckham Road with me three times a day until I was old enough to do it on my own. Perhaps I should have thanked her; it’s too late now.

I dabbed my eyes, blew my nose again and moved on until I came to the school hall, recalling the first time I entered the doors.

Miss Boot, the headmistress, told all the children to skip round the hall while she played the piano.. After a short time she stopped playing and walked over to me and asked why I was skipping with only the one leg. “I dunno, Miss Boot, I’ve never learned how to skip with both legs.”

She called one of the older girls and said: “ Muriel, please show Michael how to skip with both legs. Oh, and can you show him how to tie his laces up. I don’t think he’s learned that either.”

I looked around , there didn’t seem to be anybody about so I strolled across the playground towards the junior school. The long veranda was still there with all the classes leading off it. I recall it being bottle green when I was last there. I stood back and surveyed all the classrooms one by one, the memories flooding back and tumbling over in my mind. The first classroom in the junior school was known as Prep A, and Miss Allen was the teacher. She was a fairly elderly woman for a teacher and had a sort of sparrow like face.

The next classroom belonged to Miss Woodford, a tubby little woman who I liked because she wasn’t stern like some of the others also because she picked me to play the leading role in “Humpty Dumpty”. She made me a wonderful big cardboard egg shaped head to wear over my head which rested on my shoulders.

That was fun and one of the few things I really enjoyed at school. Miss Woodford was a good teacher but I was a good teacher but I wasn’t too keen on all the country dancing lessons she gave us.

My eyes travelled along the long line of classrooms and rested on one with a red door. I can’t remember the class number but Miss Tinson was the teacher. She was very attractive, but had absolutely no control over the children. I feel slightly embarrassed to say that I had a bit of a crush on her, and, foolishly I thought she felt the same.

The fact was that I was only eight years old and she was probably in her early 30’s didn’t seem to matter. But, alas, my hopes were dashed one day when suddenly, halfway through the lesson, I decided to have a go at something I’d seen other kids do. This entailed putting the palm of your left hand under your right armpit and flapping ones right arm vigorously up and down. What followed then was a trumpeting noise, very similar to one breaking wind.

Miss Tinson quickly looked up from the book she was reading to us, and said;” Who did that?”

I paused for a second, then the penny dropped and I realised the enormity of what I had done, and I felt the red heat glowing in my cheeks. I owned up.

“Well Michael, whenever our bodies make that nasty sound we must always say ‘excuse me’ . Do you understand, Michael?”

I was very conscious of all my classmates staring and trying to stifle giggles and sniggers, while my face grew redder by the second.

All thoughts of a long friendship with Miss Tinson quickly disappeared!

I ambled past the next classroom and a shudder went through me – Mr Richards’ classroom. Mr Richards was a short, rotund, bald headed man who rarely smiled and appeared to have no sense of humour. He had rather thick lips, the result of an accident, it was rumoured. Sometimes he had a nasty temper, and you never new when it was going to erupt.

One day we were asked to name a domestic animal. He’d pointed to a couple of kids and they answered “cat” and “dog”. He pointed at me and said; “Name a domestic animal.”

I confidently answered “A cockerel, sir.” Instantly, his face reddened and his lips appeared to be going blue. He never said a word but grabbed my hand and smacked the back so hard that the skin went crimson and the tears stung my eyes. He gave me no explanation at all, obviously oblivious to the fact that many families round my area used to keep their own poultry.

That is the only punishment that brought tears to my eyes, I was about nine or ten at the time. How can you call that education.

I walked slowly back to my car, past Mr Bullivant’s house. I didn’t look back. Someone may have seen the tears in my eyes. I just thought to myself, ‘was it “the good old days”?

Responses

  1. I liked your memories of your days at Peckham road I was there a bit later 1957 -63 . I remember Miss allen and mr Richards they were both sadists and never should have been teachers .I was punished by both, which I have never forgot. My school days were were happy but hard I think you were treated different if you came from a poor family.

    • Mr Richards……he used to throw board rubbers at us, the old wooden backed ones and couldn’t speak without spitting…evil man

  2. So pleased you liked my little article on Peckham road school Geoffrey. It’s made it worthwhile. You’re right about it being hard in those days. But we didn’t just sit down and think ‘these days are hard’, we just got on with it despite the cardboard shoved in our shoes because they had holes in or because the sole was hanging off. We didn’t have calculators, we had to work the sums out the hard way. We didn’t have mobile phones,digital watches,tv sets,cd’s, dvd’s or computers. The good old days. We had old money in those days,pennies,ha’pennyies,tanners,threepenny bits,two bobs,half crowns,ten bob notes,pound notes etc. It was a tanner to go to the ‘flicks’ on a Sat’dy morning at the Odeon Kingstanding…..We come along on a Satdy morning,greeting everybody with a smile etc. bye for now.

  3. i remember [A NEARLY WENT THERE TRIP] to RUNNYMEDE on the river THAMES But we never got there because we ran out of time and had to turn back,IT WAS AROUND 1967,I

  4. Does anyone remember Welsh Mr Thomas in the Juniors School? He was a great favourite. Miss Clay was the head teacher at the time not liked very much


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