Author Topic: Downham Schools  (Read 8320 times)

David Line

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Downham Schools
« on: October 05, 2009, 10:48:17 AM »
Various contributors to the site have mentioned their schools on the estate, favourite or wholly disliked teachers and other memories. Does anyone think that it might be a good idea to assemble memories under one "topic roof" perhaps for present and future generations of pupils to get a flavour of Downham education during the middle years of the last century?

Perhaps I could start the ball rolling with Rangefield Road School during the middle 1950s. It was under the headmastership of Harry Gell whose sadism and copious nostril hair was something to be believed. He was also a war hero of sorts and, I believe, commemorated on a plaque in Catford. I was summoned to be caned on numerous occasions for such heinous crimes as booing at a player in a school football match who had committed a foul, being half an hour late for school (at this time I was staying with an aunt in Catford while my mother was in hospital) as there was simply no buses arriving, and for a fight in which I took no part and was totally innocent. People who say "caning did me no harm" are simply idiots. After all these years I still wrangle at the injustice of my treatment and the humiliation it caused.

Things were not all bad at Rangefield Road despite the outside toilets, draughty classrooms, poor lighting, and scratchy pens which left ink blots all over your work. Miss Costello was the prize of the teaching staff - best described an ancient crone had I known the meaning of the two words at that time. She had warts and hair growing from them. Having said that she embued a love of language in her pupils, laughed with them and encouraged their imaginations. Mr and Mrs Rees were both teachers at the school. She would arrive on her bicycle each morning while Mr Rees more lavishly reached the school gates on his motor assisted cycle,  a bicycle with an engine encased in the rear wheel. His son - who was a pupil in the infants school - rode a on a small saddle fixed onto the crossbar. Either in 1955 or 1956 Mr Rees committed suicide.

During the school year various seasonal activities took place in the school playground. For example May 1st (or the nearest school day) saw maypole dancing in which my good friend Eric Oxburgh always managed to get his ribbon entangled. Empire Day was always celebrated as was harvest festival, Battle of Britain day, etc etc.

During break time there was dinky car racing, marbles, cigarette card flicking, conkers and, of course, burning holes in the wooden fence using plastic magnifying glasses given away with the Hotspur.
Gareth Grove 1946 - 1954
Beechmont Close 1954 - 1966

Brenda

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2009, 03:14:19 AM »
Marvellous idea, David. I shall get my thoughts together and contribute shortly.

Bren

Frank (hutchsky)

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2009, 07:30:00 AM »
I was only at Rangefield Road for a short while, my sis and bro went their, (Geoff and Carol Hutchinson) and for some reason I landed up at Burnt Ash school around 1952/3, (Maybe it was a need to keep the black sheep from the younger ones). It was a fair walk from our house to Burnt Ash, Rangefield seemed just around the corner. I only got the cane once and that was for a good reason (Fighting! 5 of us in the woodwork class at Durham Hill) and by the head master. Burnt Ash school had a nice sweet shop just around the corner "gob stoppers" and "sherbet" was my thing.  at around a penny a time, value for money in them days. I remember the day well, when the King died and the house across the road at Burnt Ash had its chimney on fire, fire trucks the lot. Us kids reckoned it was some thing to do with the King dieing. Durham Hill was my last four years at school (Again it was only me out of us four kids to go their) Durham Hill was OK my teacher (Mr Rose) was always fair and we did have some fun, singing lessons was one, putting our own words in (Johnny come down from somewhere? and The girl with the blue dress or was it green and some one good at ironing. I can still relate to the fill in words to some of the songs. (when I am driving on my own of course!) I did come close to another cane once at Dunham Hill when the teacher was out, stirring up the girls, "Wendy" comes to mind, chucked an ink well at me and I ducked and it went via the window, we had to tell Teacher what had happen, told some rubbish but got away with 100 lines.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2009, 07:34:55 AM by Frank (hutchsky) »
Born 1942 at Farnbrough Hospital Kent now living in Rockingham WA been in OZ since 1968. Ex Durham Hill School left 1957 lived at 84 Keedonwood Road 1948-1960

Pauline

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2009, 08:07:56 AM »
Marvellous idea, David. I shall get my thoughts together and contribute shortly.

Bren

Me too - watch this space - or one near it
Born 1944 in Geraint Road.  Launcelot and Churchdown Schools.  Moved to Western Australia in 1988.
Two children, 6 grandchildren, 3 dogs, hundreds of snakes, spiders and lizards.

Brenda

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2009, 10:04:56 PM »
I started school in 1948 - Pendragon Infants.  My first teacher was Miss Williams, an absolute darling who was much loved by her pupils.  The classroom had a great roaring fire in winter.  We were allowed to bring a toy to school on Fridays and in the afternoon, there was a period where we gathered in the assembly hall to play. There were some musical instruments but I only ever ended up with the triangle because the more assertive children got the drums or the cymbals. 

I was once assigned the part of one of Robin Hood's merry men in a play to which parents were invited. I was utterly terrified and still remember my pounding heart to this day as I walked across the stage parroting my lines but not daring to look at the audience.  I was wearing a bright red tunic so perhaps I was Will Scarlet.   Terrible, terible experience.

On a nice day, we sat outside in the little shrubbery that was near the shelter sheds. There we repeated our times tables.  Still find them useful too.

Other teachers were Miss Smith - also beloved by her pupils and Miss Hollis. She was a tall, very thin lady given to wearing knitted suits in various shades of grey or lilac and her complexion matched it.  She seemed very severe and most of us were scared of her.  She taught us girls to knit.  Hmmmph. I was always dropping stitches so my lines got smaller and smaller which made her tell me very crossly that I was doing it wrong and she undid it.  I remember the lump in my throat!

Special days were Empire Day, of course.  I don't remember any Maypoles though.  I suppose it was always a 'special' day when the school nurse (were they all known as Nitty Nora?) came to inspect our hair and nails etc.  She scared me as much as Miss Hollis.

My special dreads were school dinners.  I didn't have a big appetite and being forced to eat grisly meat and swedes and tepid  tapioca was not nice. Not to mention lumpy custard. Still can't eat those things.

No, I was never caned and the only naughty thing I ever did was - in cahoots with another girl - to tie a girl up in the lavatory with our skipping ropes.  It was the playground lady, Mrs Hobbs, who found her and I was so, so ashamed.

More another time.
Bren

Frank (hutchsky)

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2009, 06:01:32 AM »
I think they would call that "bonding" to tie up someone, don't know about locking them in the Lav. I hated school dinners "frogs born" Yak! in my later years we use to go the cafe opposite the Downham Taven, I suppose it would classed as fast food now, chips and a sausage and a woodbine. Does any one remember the blocks of fat? we received from overseas (maybe Oz)to help the not so well off. I think it was a one off from memory, I know our mums were pleased to have it when we arrived home from school. I remember I was one of the last boys to get long trousers,(4B2) did I get some stick, being in shorts, now I am in shorts most of the time, times change!
Born 1942 at Farnbrough Hospital Kent now living in Rockingham WA been in OZ since 1968. Ex Durham Hill School left 1957 lived at 84 Keedonwood Road 1948-1960

Brenda

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2009, 09:30:37 PM »
A pleasant memory of school was the Christmas period which started with the class making paper chains and decorating the room.  The Christmas party was exciting and I can't see silver or gold paper today without remembering the hats we made to wear.  I believe we also had a fancy dress party once - but not necessarily at Christmas - and my mother made me a wedding dress. I felt utterly stupid in it and the material gave me a rash. 

Playground games for the girls were such things as feet-off-the-ground, hide-and-seek, skipping, ball-games and The Silent Three of comic fame.

My very best and fondest memory of school is of learning to read.  How I loved those words! 

I still have the two school diaries c1951/2 we had to write in each morning. 

Bren

Pauline

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2009, 09:18:28 AM »
I went to Launcelot School aged 4, and remember bitterly that I didn't have heaps of brothers or sisters (my sister was 10 years older than me) so had to pay full price for my dinners.
I remember story time at the end of the day.  I also remember a particularly nasty teacher who made me write my surname over and over again because it had two o's in it and they had to be completelu round without a join.
I don't remember not being able to read - my mother taught me before I got to school, and I was the only one in the class who could tell the time.
In the playground was a square of new tarmac, that the teachers aid was a fairy circle - I don't think they would get away with that one these days.
The junior school was just another building and nothing spectacular comes to mind.

Churchdown County with Mrs Gatehouse ruling with a rod of iron.  I remember the day she got a new piano, a grand piano no less, and I remember her almost in tears fbecause someone had gouged lines in it. 
I didn't hate school but didn't like it either, it was just something you had to get through.
I never did any GCEs at school, I wasn't considerede clever enough, I did them later on when I was about 36 with my daughter and acquired 6 O levels grade A.
Born 1944 in Geraint Road.  Launcelot and Churchdown Schools.  Moved to Western Australia in 1988.
Two children, 6 grandchildren, 3 dogs, hundreds of snakes, spiders and lizards.

Brenda

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2009, 10:24:19 AM »
Infant and Junior School memories include the dreaded bottle of milk -never could stand milk - and cod liver oil tablets.  Didn't appreciate either at the time but now I think how many kids in the present world would think they were lucky to get them.

My mother never read to us or taught us our letters but I learnt pretty quickly once at school and fair galloped along with my reading. But telling the time - oh dear, took me ages to catch on as did tying my shoe-laces. 

A very chilly memory is of trudging to school in the snow and it going over the top of my wellies.  I guess a lot of us would remember having cold and wet feet during winter.  A spare pair of socks would have been useful.  Contrasted to that is a good summer when the bitumen blistered and was pleasantly poppable.

And lastly - for now - those naughty boys who put itching powder down our backs. 

Bren

Splinter

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2009, 12:02:46 PM »
I went to Ballamore Nursery when i was about 4, i remember the third of a pint of milk (the bottle seemed so big when you are 4) In hot weather the milk tasted off. Then after dinner on nice days we had to have a sleep outside on camp type beds. Mrs White would sit down near us Knitting away. Then i went to Ballamore Infants. Everytime the outside toilets froze we got sent home. We had a Maypole Day (wasn`t life so innocent then). Teachers were much stricter then but you new right from wrong at an early age. The only punishment i seem to remember was to stand in the corner of the classroom facing the wall, it was only for 10 mins but felt like hours. I dont think it did me any harm.
Born in Pendragon Road 1954 Family lived in house since 1935 Bought in 1970/1 Still own it.

Brenda

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2009, 09:39:27 PM »
My sister suffered from the 'stand in the corner facing the wall' punishment for talking in class.  It was probably for a short time but she told my mother she'd had to stand there all morning. As you say: it probably felt like it. Anyway, my mother was incensed by the inhumanity of it, charged down to see the teacher and gave her a ticking off.  I don't envy her - the teacher, that is.

Bren

Pauline

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2009, 05:32:26 AM »
My sister suffered from the 'stand in the corner facing the wall' punishment for talking in class.  It was probably for a short time but she told my mother she'd had to stand there all morning. As you say: it probably felt like it. Anyway, my mother was incensed by the inhumanity of it, charged down to see the teacher and gave her a ticking off.  I don't envy her - the teacher, that is.

Bren

I was sent outside the classroom if I misbehaved, and hoped Mrs Gatehouse didn't come along.  However, if I had gone home and told my mother that I had been punished, she would have grounded me for a week or so.  My children were the same, I never found out about the majority of their misdemeanors until they had grown up, because they knew it was fatal to come and tell me - I would have grounded them or figured out some other punishment on top of what they had already been given.
One one occasion my daughter was given lines, and I caught her doing them.  I think lines are a waste of time, paper and pen.  So I told the school that my children would not be doing lines, and that the teacher should find something else for them to do.  So from then on in they had to copy out pages from the dictionary.  There are a lot of fancy words that my kids know.
Born 1944 in Geraint Road.  Launcelot and Churchdown Schools.  Moved to Western Australia in 1988.
Two children, 6 grandchildren, 3 dogs, hundreds of snakes, spiders and lizards.

Brenda

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2009, 10:58:51 PM »
Yes, the terror of being caught by Mrs Gatehouse was a good deterrent, wasn't it?  Of course, her strictness was no bad thing, as we all now realise, but I wonder if there was anything nice about her. I can't remember one pleasant thing.

When I look back on Churchdown School days, the main memory is one of utter boredom.  As I have probably said before, the fault may have been within me rather than the school or the teaching. I don't know.  I know I started off with great enthusiasm but by the second year it had waned considerably.

Bren

Splinter

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2009, 04:49:14 PM »
Many think that our education in the old days was bad, but at least we know the three R`s. Kids today are now going to University who can`t spell which one they are at.
Born in Pendragon Road 1954 Family lived in house since 1935 Bought in 1970/1 Still own it.

Pauline

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Re: Downham Schools
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2009, 05:08:12 AM »
Yes, the terror of being caught by Mrs Gatehouse was a good deterrent, wasn't it?  Of course, her strictness was no bad thing, as we all now realise, but I wonder if there was anything nice about her. I can't remember one pleasant thing.

When I look back on Churchdown School days, the main memory is one of utter boredom.  As I have probably said before, the fault may have been within me rather than the school or the teaching. I don't know.  I know I started off with great enthusiasm but by the second year it had waned considerably.

Bren

The only lesson that kept us awake was Miss Taylors history class.
Born 1944 in Geraint Road.  Launcelot and Churchdown Schools.  Moved to Western Australia in 1988.
Two children, 6 grandchildren, 3 dogs, hundreds of snakes, spiders and lizards.