Slates and Satchels

WRVS Heritage Plus participants talk about their school days

By Nicola Benge

Photo:Looking at school photos

Looking at school photos

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Sathi and Rod laugh about schooling

Sathi and Rod laugh about schooling

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Trevor Povey remembers his school days

Trevor Povey remembers his school days

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Portslade residents Trevor, Beryl, Rod, Wally and Nancy reminisce about their school days.  There are some good memories and some bad. And Sathi adds some interesting recollections of her upbringing in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it then was).

Trevor remembers his days at Connaught Road

School days for me began in Hove at Wilson Terrace.  It was 1947 and the posh houses had been converted into flats.  Our flat overlooked the bandstand and we had a huge balcony.

I started at Connaught Road Infants - I was three years and nine months old and was there until I was six (1950).

In 1954 I went to Connaught Road Senior School.  It's now a new adult education centre, built in 1880's.  The masters all looked in their late 60s.  My grandfather and father were also at Connaught Road so I progressed there rather than the Knowle.

My uniform had a badge with a seagull and a cliff on it.  We got it from Broadley Brothers (now Starbucks in George Road).  I had socks, shorts, tie, blazer with a badge and a cap.

Beryl remembers happy days - but hopes of becoming a teacher are dashed

I was born in Gardner Street.  Dad bought a bike shop in Old Shoreham Road and because I came to live in Old Shoreham Road I went to St Nicholas Infant School at 4 ½ years when my brother was born.  My dad became bankrupt and I moved to Southwick Infant School on The Green, before we moved back to Gardner Street.  I travelled back and forth on the bus to school before I was seven, and I came home at lunchtime on the bus.  The fare was a penny.  I did four bus trips a day.

I went to Benfield School when I was seven.  I had a navy blue and green uniform - I loved it.  My mum always bought new underwear and shoes for me, but everything else was second hand.  I had a gymslip, liberty bodice and vest, tie, jumper and beret with school badge on.    We carried slipper bags with us, to change our shoes, and we hung them in the cloakroom with our coats.

I went on to Mile Oak Secondary Modern School for Girls.  I left school at 15 and went to work at Greens.  There were no exams/general certificate when I left school.

I  really loved school.  (Beryl shows her old school reports).   One of the school reports says: "Beryl does not put enough into her work - it is very neat but very slow.....she is most willing and co-operative." That was written by Mr Whiting at Benfield.  I didn't like him, he was a bully.  I really loved school and wanted to become a schoolteacher but my dad was so ill I had to work.  I would have been a cookery teacher.   I loved cooking.

Rod sees the sights!

I lived in Wolsely Road and went to St Nicholas Infants School in 1942.  My mother only took me to school once.  It was quite safe.

On the first day we had to take threepence in.  Mrs. Bogle was a very old lady with a long black dress.  I had sixpence and wanted some change.  She pulled her dress up and we saw her bloomers, where she kept her purse.  When I got home Nan asked if I had had a nice day at school and I said no, we saw Mrs. Bogle's knickers!

There were green camp beds and every afternoon we had to go to sleep on them.

During the war we would be disturbed every two hours by the air raid sirens and we would run into the damp, gloom air raid shelters.  Candles would be lit and the teachers would read us a story.  We weren't frightened - we wanted to go out and watch the dog fights.

I went to St Nicholas Junior school.  I didn't like it.  We would get the slipper or ruler for anything.  Mr Winter hit me so hard I got a bruise on my face.  My nan hit Mr Winter round the face next day.  She was a tiny little woman and he fell back into the blackboard.  She told him never to hit me round the face again.

I went to St Andrews.  Norman Stevens was in my class.  Everyone had stars on their charts, the stars were to show if you had been good - but me and Norman Stevens didn't have any on our charts.  One Sunday we climbed over the school wall and went into the school.  We found the gold stars on the teacher's desk and we put a whole row by our names.  We were caned in front of the whole school for that.

The group remembers the days when discipline was strict

Trevor: Most of our discipline came by a look.  You knew when you'd crossed the line.  I don't agree with violence for the sake of violence.  If you got a thump it was because you deserved it.

Rod:  When I was at school we were coming to the end of that kind of discipline - being hit round the face.  Caning went on a long time after that.

Beryl: My husband said if he did anything wrong at school he got a bashing from his mum.  My dad never smacked me but I was always afraid that if he did it would really hurt.

Wally:  My dad was a gunner instructor and if he shouted, you moved.

...and Rod gives the school bully a taste of his own medicine!

I went to Mile Oak Secondary Modern School for Boys.  A big boy,  Wrigley, was the school bully - he used to go round giving Chinese burns.  I got so fed up with him one day, being poked and everything, that I snapped and whacked him.  His head flew back into a glass door and there was blood everywhere.  I ran home.  I thought I had killed him.  Mum could tell there was something up and asked what had happened but I didn't tell her.  This happened on Friday and all weekend I waited for the police to come and arrest me.  On Monday, back at school, he was nowhere to be seen.  I never saw him again, he never came back to the school.

Wally's school days were overshadowed by a wartime tragedy

My father was in the navy and I was born in Portsmouth.  When my dad was away, my mum moved to Hove where her mother was.  So I started school either at Aldrington or St Andrews.  I then went up to The Knowle Infants, then the Portland Road School and then The Knowle Senior Boys.

I walked to junior school and came home at dinner times.  I had a friend who lived opposite who was in the same class.  I had apricots for dinner one day - they had been dried and were very sweet and furry and not very nice and I didn't want to eat them.  I was late back to school because of that, and got punished.  Godwin Road to Portland Road was quite a distance for lunch.

I left Knowle Senior Boys at 14.  There was no uniform.

In those days before the war, my dad could be away 3 ½ to 4 years at a stretch.  Part of my education was when I wrote letters to my father he would send them back corrected.  In one of my school reports I was very low in the class.  My parents threatened to send me to a navy home if I didn't get better.

All my school reports went down with my dad's ship the battleship, the Royal Oak battleship.  Six weeks after war started it was torpedoed: it was October 14 1939.

I belong to the Royal Oak Association. The association is open to survivors of the disaster and the relatives of those who lost their lives. It's nearly all relatives now, there are very few actual survivors left.

Wally draws the line through an art school place

I left school at 14 in 1940 and went into motor trade in Preston Road.  I had been very good at art.  My uncle asked if I would like to go to art school.  I was accepted at the interview but I had to wait until I was 16 before I could start.  So from 14 to 16 I went to night school - I had a taste of art school and I decided I didn't want to carry on.  All my working life was in the engineering and motor trade.

Nancy's schooldays were blighted by ill health - but a career in dressmaking flourished

I didn't like school days.  I went to Knowle Infants.  I can remember a teacher called Miss Cook.  I was the May Queen.

Then I went down to the juniors at Portland Road, and then up to the seniors at The Knowle School.

Our headmistress at Portland Road was Miss Cowman, and she lived up to her name!  If you were late you really got a telling off.  My mum was ill once and she put a note in an old envelope.  The teacher accused me of opening the envelope because it looked used and I tried to explain that I had not, so I got into even more trouble for backchat.  Miss Mitchell - she was the old fashioned one.  Miss Morris - she had an old bike with a chainguard on the back wheel.  Miss Coombes - she was very religious.

At Portland Road I lost lots of schooling because I had an operation on my neck when I was nine.  I was at Cuckfield for that - had the best doctors because they had all been evacuated from Great Ormond Street.

My good marks were always needlework.  We had to make papier mache dollies in class and I always dressed mine - after that I was making dresses/needlework for everyone.  I hated school.  I don't read now - I would rather be doing something.

I was only 13 when I left school.  I went into dressmaking - a shop in Waterloo Street - a gown shop - hand sewing, draping, bead work.

This page was added by Nicola Benge on 20/03/2008.

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