On the subject of Beddie Road School it seems appropriate that (for those who haven't read it) I should copy this extract from a book I wrote several years ago. It might bring back a few more memories.
I woke up in an empty house that morning. I knew my sister would have left early for her school and my dad would be at work but, strangely, my mum was out too? Good, I didn’t have to wash my face or comb my hair and I seized the opportunity to miss breakfast too, so I could get to school early and play, before the assembly bell sounded. My school, Bedford Road Juniors, to me the best school in town, was just a mile away but it seemed a long walk in those early school days. As I walked I reflected on mum’s absence but soon forgot about it when I saw my pals up ahead and ran to join them.
We arrived in good time to search out the rest of our gang and were soon engrossed in our own ball game. We were oblivious to the throngs of other screaming, yelling, kids, with balls bouncing, boys wrestling and girls hop-scotching, skipping or hand-standing upside down against a wall. Even someone’s pet mongrel dog was barking and careering excitedly, hither and thither, seemingly out of control but, amazingly, without a single collision in this chaos of seething, young, bodies,
The intensity of our game was broken when the hand bell, shaken vigorously by the
teacher supervising the assembly that day, emitted a sound that demanded, and instantly achieved, obedience. This noise, instilled from early induction to school life, was the mandatory sound for bedlam to cease and organized lines to be formed. On her command we would file quickly into school, one class at a time, leaving an empty, desolate, playground.
The only sign of life that was left was a lone, shaggy mongrel dog, sitting in the
centre of the yard , pink tongue lolled out, head to one side, bemused and with one ear cocked crookedly. He was certainly prepared to wait patiently for the children he knew would exit noisily from the school later.
The crocodile lines, in turn, made their way through the wide, red brick, arched entrance, into the warm smell of new floor polish and chalk. They continued along the corridor the only sounds coming from the out of step tiny shoes, like the clattering of a thousand golf balls descending from height onto the highly polished, though well worn, woodblock floor. Each class would disperse into the adjacent cloakrooms to hang outer garments on racks of numbered coat hooks at a height conveniently within reach of small, stretching, children.
Coats safely hung, the groups moved on into the Assembly Room and stood in rows. Morning Prayer was taken and after singing of ‘All things Bright and Beautiful’ they were dismissed to their various classrooms.
The Induction Class seemed so long ago. This was my first ‘real world’ and it was a different, big boy, school life. I was now a ‘junior’ and I had to work. The low, circular table and four tiny, wooden, surrounding chairs I knew as an infant had been replaced by a well worn, oblong, one piece, varnished oak-wood desk and bench. This accommodated two pupils, side by side, in uniform rows of 6, facing teacher and blackboard, at the head of the room. The desktops bore initials and graffiti carvings from the past, even back to when the school was first founded hundreds of years before.
The total surface of the desk lid was about 4 feet across and fifteen inches front to back,
gradually sloping down towards my lap. Across the top was a flat ridge to accept pencils and ink pens with a small hole at either side to accommodate the white, porcelain ink wells, some chipped around the edges but nevertheless kept filled by the pupils appointed as ‘ink monitors’, a much valued position, though not as prestigious as ‘milk monitor’. Immediately below the ridge, flush with the surface, were two brass hinges which enabled the remainder of the desktop to be lifted to reveal a good sized compartment beneath. This contained personal exercise books, spare pens with nibs of varying thicknesses, maybe a bottle of red ink, the ever required eraser and many other items important to an eight year old student.
It was a class of both sexes, too poor for school uniforms. Boys wore short trousers, mainly grey, open neck shirts and sleeveless woolen pullovers in all colors, plain and mixed, painstakingly and lovingly knitted by grandma’s and mums. They had grey knee length socks, handy for keeping one’s wooden ruler, and black lace up shoes sometimes with cut out cardboard inner to cover the hole in the sole, which was only good on fine days.
Girls wore white ankle socks and plain, usually black, shoes, either laced or with ankle straps secured by a single button. Short cotton dresses of any color or design, badly creased from the waist down after having being tucked into navy blue bloomers at play time. This enabled them to ‘handstand’ without the dress falling inconveniently over their head. Boy’s had long since stopped gawping at this activity.
Our teacher, Miss Fleetwood, although usually stern, was barely able to keep full control of her class of thirty six pupils. Later life was to prove that about half of the class would come to the attention of the police and ten percent would serve time in prison The remainder would grow up to be average, whatever that may be in this town where it was said the bugs wore clogs and the kids played tick with hatchets.
Five of the class, Joey Jones and his loyal, inseparable, gang, even at this early age, were training to be hoodlums and would surely achieve full status. They were responsible for
creating small missiles of blotting paper, dipped in the inkwell into which they had earlier peed, before balancing it at the end of a wooden, twelve inch, rule and adeptly flicking it vertically upwards at speed so that it would hit the white ceiling with a splat and remain there forever, so joining several other, earlier dispatched, blue, smelly, ‘blobs’. On occasions, when ‘Miss’ would wander through the class, one of them would creep to the blackboard and write naughty remarks whilst her back was turned. She had already learned to ignore such transgressions as to investigate would prove a futile, time wasting exercise. She never knew of the occasions when one of this despicable gang would, when walking past her, deliberately drop his pen and peer up her skirt as he picked it up, later to rudely announce the color of her bloomers that day.