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Remembering school milk and awful dinners

Elm Grove School
Photo by Tony Mould

Thoroughly disliked the dinners

I went to Elm Grove Infants School from 1961 then to the Junior School till 1968. I remember the outside toilets in the Infants; the trains running under the school to Kemp Town goods yard. I remember all the teachers there then, they all ran the school with a rod of iron. I remember the dinners which I thoroughly disliked; the small bottles of milk which I did like. I recollect the smell of disinfectant in the mornings; the poor children with only sandals and no socks, coming to school in the snow without a coat.

The ‘poor’ children always got the extra milk at the end of the day.

Road safety every morning

The headmaster at the Junior school was Mr Barrows. Sadly he had a heart attack at the dinner table and died in front of me. As a deterrent to us we had road safety preached to us every morning. We were told about the children in Sussex who had been injured or killed on Sussex roads that week. I remember thinking, at the age of eight or nine years old, that I would be lucky if I survived till I was ten. It is so strange, the things you remember from your childhood.

Do you remember?

Did you go to Elm Grove School. Do you remember the school dinners? Were they really awful? Did you enjoy school milk? If you can share your memories with us, please leave a comment below.

Comments about this page

  • Awful school dinners – I agree! I dined at Dorothy Stringer School and put salt on my custard. Only thing available to make it palatable. Then there was the weekly cat-food pie which, naturally, we christened, Kit-e-Kat pie. I soon took the plunge to secretly keep my money in my pocket and buy something recognisable from the local tuck shop each day. I bet the school meals are a lot better these days!

    By Sandra Bohtlingk-Baldwin (06/05/2014)
  • David, your post made me laugh (even in the places where laughter wasn’t appropriate!). Although I didn’t attend the same school, we’re of a similar age and some of your memories are pretty universal.

    By Janet Beal (06/05/2014)
  • I was at Elm Grove between 1971-79. Miss Winstone was our headmistress at the time. I remember the school milk in little glass bottles with the foil lids and pink plastic straws. I even remember the teacher teaching us how to open the foil lids with our two thumbs and having the responsibility of being milk monitor for the day. I didn’t mind if the milk was warm, I loved it anyway. As for school dinners, I don’t remember hating them but I do remember having to eat liver, and prunes and custard, both of which I thought were disgusting and not being allowed to leave the table until it was all gone. I adored most of the school puddings though, especially cornflake tart and custard and pink souffle with rosehip syrup. Remember the metal jugs and beakers in various colours? I always hoped I’d get put on the table with the pink jug. I still remember the taste of  that metallic water! I remember the ‘outside’ toilets you mention. Our classroom in the second and third year there was in the prefab hut in the playground. We were the first to use the newly built classrooms and hall in our last year in the infant school. As for the train track, I don’t really remember it at school but I do remember laying in bed at night and hearing the trains go through the tunnel. I also remember that stopping. Myself and my brother said it was the ghost train. I recall the new playgrounds being built on the old track and an opening being put into the side wall so we could access them.

    By Carol Homewood (07/05/2014)
  • I too went to Elm Grove from 1964, both infants and later the juniors and loved almost every moment. I remember the annual wool collection in the infants when huge bags of old woolly jumpers were collected to be sold on. One teacher removed all the buttons and stitched them to cards to be sold at the summer fete. I remember the infant weekly birthday celebrations when the birthday children hung cardboard candles on a cardboard cake with the head-mistress. My first teacher I think was a Mrs Charlwood who was very kind. Another Mrs Large who I adored. We had woodwork where we hammered lumps of timber together with huge nails and used real tools aged only about 6 to make ships, planes and basic things. There were never any accidents. We played in sand and water and made mosaics and counted with wooden cubes. No literacy & numeracy hours then, but I learnt a great deal. In the juniors my teachers were Miss Morris, very strict and somewhat feared but very fair. She taught me how to do research with her topic cards, to sew (still my profession) and everyone to knit. She also gave us dancing lessons and taught me to waltz & cha cha, playing music on a little portable gramophone. Miss Cole was next, Deputy Head. She led the school band of which I was a member playing first recorder and melodica. We played for assembly every morning and for the annual school play in the summer term. She was very keen on humanities and I learnt a lot of history, geography and my times tables with her. The year she was my form teacher the school play was Ahmet the Woodseller. I painted the backdrop for it and spent about a month out of lessons almost entirely, painting a huge desert scene as seen from the palace balcony. The only male teacher I had was Mr Hawker. He read us The Borrowers in daily installments all year, made us do daily RE and encouraged us to write our own plays which we would rehearse in the cellar and  then perform to the class. He spent his lunch times listening to the radio news and cricket. The boys would frequently be dragged from their seats by their ears for not paying attention in lessons and anyone was target for a ruler on the hand. He made a point of sitting one boy and one girl at each of the joined double desks so we behaved better. I hated the milk, even the smell of it and would do anything to avoid it. The dinners were inedible and I remember some days eating only a spoonful of rosehip syrup which was supposed to accompany rice pud. There are few contemporary classmates I remember except Kim Honeywood, a fellow junior school prefect of Elm Grove, and Vicki who was my best friend for ages and lived in Totland Road. Overall they were very happy days.

    By Georgie Snuggs (07/08/2015)
  • Happy days. The frogspawn (tapioca) pudding, Mr. Hawker could hit your ear with whatever came to hand first, chalk or board rubber! Mr Betts and the Slaney twins taught me to play chess. Some local surnames were: the Keatings, Hoads, Mercers, Wheelers, Goodwins, Coopers, Avis, Gates, and Nina Sharma, who I adored (not that she knew)! Still have my 1977 Jubilee medalion.

    By Sean Smith (24/05/2017)
  • I loved the school dinners. Especially the desserts, I use to have seconds of semolina or tapioca pudding. Pupils would call it frog spawn. I remember Mr Betts, Mr Banks, Mrs Frankem and Mrs West. Mrs Winstone was the headmistress. I went to Elm Grove from 1974 to 1979. I also remember the tower and kids saying it was haunted, and the ghostly green hand. 

    By Julie Bowring (06/12/2017)
  • Remember we won the schools swimming shield; this was around about 1960. The school had a great swimming team.

    By Roy Gibbs (01/01/2018)
  • I too remember Mr Burrows having heart attack at dinner time, hearing a thud and he was face down. Treacle pud for pudding I have never had it since, it was Valentine’s Day, his actual birthday, Ialways remember him walking into class with his cane behind his back calling for the same boys.
    Miss Winstone, head of infants my nan was the school cleaner and people always cut through the playground as a short cut, fond memories of the school, always love milky coffee and short press for pud x.

    By Tina-marie Grevett (26/12/2020)

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