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Memories of the 1940s

Started school in 1941

I started school late in 1941 at Patcham Infants School in Warmdene Road not far from Braybon Avenue, and one of our teachers was a Miss Tomlinson. Of course she was soon nick named “Tommy gun”, but from memory all the teachers were good to us. To start with we had brick shelters built in the playground and when the siren sounded we were ushered into them in single file. We were in single file so that if the German  fighters saw us, we were less of a target.

Smelly little toilets

Later on they built deep underground shelters at the back of the school and they were complete with small rooms and little toilets with Elsan type buckets. I don’t think they were emptied very often as they did smell rather, so I tried to wait until we were back in school. We were issued with a small bottle of milk to drink at morning playtime, and I am sure I stayed to school dinners. The older kids were appointed dinner monitors, and bought our dinner to a long table at which about eight of us would sit.

Always the same lunchtime meal

Thinking back I am sure we had the same meal each day. It consisted of mashed potatoes, some greens which always looked yellow a slice of fatty meat covered in thin watery gravy. That’s probably why I like my gravy thick now. We were not allowed pudding, or to leave the table until we had eaten it all. Some of us would try and keep it in  our mouth until we were outside, then spit it down the loo. We didn’t get away with that very often, so had to sit there suffering while our mates went out to play.

Buying a ‘penny drink’

After the war I didn’t pay in my dinner money, but went to the bakers in Ladies Mile Road and bought a small loaf, then went over to Mr Tomlinson’s shop for a ‘penny drink’. This consisted of a small fruit coloured tablet dropped into a bottle about the size of a coke bottle which was then filled with carbonated water from a machine on the counter. There was a clock tower and gardens not far away so we would take our food and drink there. We would break the loaf in half, scoop out the middle to eat, most times it would still be warm, then eat as much as we wanted of the crust and give the rest to the birds. I can still taste the drink now.

Can you share your memories?

I can remember the Lowe twins, Una Virgo, Derek Cornish, Diana Crossland and Leny Jenkins. Can you recognise yourself, or anyone else in the photograph? If you can identify anyone, or would like to share your memories with us, please do leave a comment below.


From the private collection of Tony Collins

Comments about this page

  • I went to Patcham infants where we used to have a sleep in the afternoon. I then moved to the juniors where I had pals like Lenny Jenkins, Tony and Terry Rollands, and Johnny Pixton. I lived in Warmdeen Road next door to the Burchills. David Ward was another name I remember.

    By Kenneth Mchale (03/02/2012)
  • Tony and Terry Rollands brings back a few memories, they lived just down from the school in Warmdene Road I believe. They were the lads that always had a big bonfire on the “ups and downs” behind Salmon’s shop every Nov 5th I think. Did you live opposite the school Kenneth and can you name any of the folks in the photo?

    By Tony Collins (05/02/2012)
  • Ah…. one third pint bottles of milk with the imprint of a safety triangle, with cardboard tops to make bobbles from, and the penny drinks goldfish bowl. Good memories. I recall a Collins family (Norman?) living a little way up Ladies Mile. I think his father ran a small Garage and remember him taking his son and I shooting at Bisley. A few doors away were the Hole family (Maurice) whose father had a magnificent astro telescope mounted into the frame of a former Bofa’s gun.

    By Roy Grant (22/02/2012)
  • The Collins (Albert & Dot) from Ladies Mile had two sons, Norman and Peter. Albert was my Dad’s (George Collins) cousin and it was George who had the garage at Patcham bypass. Haven’t drunk milk in small bottles for a long time but still have a sleep in the afternoon.

    By Tony Collins (24/02/2012)
  • I was born in ’38 so must have started Patcham infants in ’43. The headmistress was a Miss Honeyset, I always recall her wearing brown tweeds and being very old. I was only 5 I suppose! They built small-ish concrete bomb shelters in the playground which faced on to Warmdean Road. The Juniors were in the next block and the Seniors from there to the end; quite a large school. I went to all 3 in my time, although there was an old school in Patcham Village where some went temporarily as a sort of overflow. I recall writing with chalk on slates there! Don’t recall any of the staff in the Juniors but a few in the Seniors spring to mind. The head was Mr Budleigh (Buggles) who sang in the same choir as my Dad; he also played the violin and used to teach it. I started my musical career on that instrument along with the piano. Some of the staff were: Mr Goldsmith (carpentry), Miss Smart (Fanny) a young and rather pretty teacher where we had our form room in a prefab biology lab. Mr Silverman (science), Mr Cresswell (also carpentry). Miss West (Daisy) who also sang. Mr Mann PE (PT then) who I think had come straight from the Army. The rest escape me. Perhaps someone will remind me. I recall the Rowland brothers Tony & Terry as sort of local tearaways and I had to pass the entrance to their long driveway just before Warmdean Rd climed up to the school. The other way (my way home) went up to Craden Avenue and crossed over into Braybon Avenue on that corner was a rough area used as a bonfire site on No 5th It is now covered by a RC Church. I used to cut across this area on my way home to Mayfield Crescent. People I recall are: Michael Cottingham, Rodney Potts, Brian Griffin and a Jewish lad called Tobias (?)

    By John Snelling (04/11/2012)
  • In the above picture, I’ve a feeling it could be me – front row 2nd from left. The teacher could have been Goldsmith (carpentry) who had a prefab class. Comment appreciated.

    By John Snelling (05/06/2013)
  • John Snellings comments stirred the memory box a bit, so here goes with a bit more. Miss Smart  - “I have a handle to my jug so you always call me MISS SMART!”. I didn’t pass the 11 plus exam to go to Varndean Grammar school, so around 1947/8  went up to the  senior school in Warmdene road, although I wasn’t that keen on school I got on fairly well and I did enjoy metalwork and woodwork. I had my fair share of Mr Mann’s whistle strap against the back of my leg for messing about or being sent to Mr Cresswell for the ‘strap’ which meant holding out my hand and being whacked with a strip of leather with five fingers on it. God! did that hurt and if you cried your mates took the mickey even more, so you had to bite your lip for that. Also humiliating was being sent for a ‘long weight’ where until you’ve been outside the Head’s office for 15 minutes for the first time, you don’t twig you’ve been had again. I think we did get our own back occasionally as one day we found some bricks, we lifted up Mr Budleigh’s (our headmaster) Austin 7 and put them under the axles so his wheels were just off the ground. I don’t think we hung around to see what happened! I spent many hours at the the bonfire on the waste ground in Braybon Ave supposedly guarding it against other groups but in the main roasting spuds on a small side fire. They came out black but tasted OK to our hungry mouths.

    By Tony Collins (16/11/2013)
  • Tony Collins,

    I’m sure I recollect your name.  Could you give a clue by giving me your address at the time please?

    By John Snelling (19/11/2013)
  • My name is Stephen Raynsford my two sisters went to Warmdene School possibly late 40s or early 50s. Their names were Valerie and Barbara Raynsford. If you remember them I’d love to hear your stories.

    By Stephen Raynsford (25/01/2014)
  • It’s been a while since I looked at the site John so sorry about the delay. We lived at 59 Braybon Ave until the early 50s and looking at the photo now I’m sure I do remember you. The chap two people along to the right is Derick Cornish I think and he lived near you.

    I met Rod Potts a few time in my working life as he was an insurance assessor. Mr Cresswell lived below us in Graham Ave. I can’t recall the Raynsford sisters yet but am working on it.

    By Tony Collins (22/06/2014)
  • Hi Tony, thanks for your comments above, well worth waiting for. I thought Rod Potts would get into something to do with cars. His dad was a motorcyle freak and had a blue Triumph Thunderbird with a Watsonian sidecar. Rod lived at the last house before Wilmington Way and it had a side garden where we used to play. He was in the Boys Brigade with me and Brian Griffin who lived further up on the other side two doors down from me; his Dad was in the RAMC and became our captain after the war. Les Harris (the local coal merchant) became a lieutenant. He had 2 sons, one called Paul who was about our age. Where did you go after Braybon?My parents moved to Highview Way in Patcham in ’55. I’d moved into digs in Surrey as I took up an apprenticeship with Vickers Armstrongs at Weybridge (Brooklands). Do you recall the polio outbreak in the ’50s? I used to play with Malcom Mowbray whose mother was nurse and who died from it.  I took the 13 plus and went to the Building School (BSBE) in Hanover Terrace off Elm Grove so used to catch a trollybus in Braybon. They went up the hill a lot smoother than the old 35 buses that preceded them.  I used to go to the big bonfire where the RC Church now stands.  We used to put “Jumping Jacks” through a hole in the bottom of the telephone box out side the sweetshop in Wilmington Parade. I got a job as a paperboy and my round took in Braybon Ave right to the top! I can’t recall the Raynsford sisters either.  I used to knock about with two lads called Albert Paynter (204 Carden Avenue) and Ray Fly (later Royston) who both ended up at BSBE with me and both ended up as apprentices at Vickers and got called up for NS in the RAF in 1960. That’s where we split up and I never saw Ray again but was Albert’s daughter’s godfather in Hove where Diana and lived until I went back in the RAF in ’67. Let’s be hearing from you. John

    By John Snelling (06/11/2014)
  • Hi Stephen, I remember your sisters. Did you all live in Fernhurst Cres? I just remember them as two very pretty girls.

    By Mary T Smith (20/11/2014)
  • Come on, there must be ex pupils out there in their late 70s who have memories of Patcham. My wife and I now live in Dereham, Norfolk now but our parents are all buried in Brighton and Hove.

    By John Snelling (19/08/2015)
  • I have the same photo as Tony Collins of the Warmdene School in 1949. My late sister, Dorothy Davison, had written on the back the names of all the pupils and the master Mr Mellor. Please contact me at above e-mail and I will send the names plus a copy of the photo.

    By Clive Davison (03/08/2016)
  • I have just found this site and, although I did not attend any of the schools mentioned above, I was very surprised to see mention of Miss Daisy West who was my great aunt.  She would have retired around 1955 so I don’t suppose there are many who would remember her? 

    By Julia Wood (02/06/2017)
  • I recall Daisy West very well – she was keen on teaching music and singing, and gave us the advice to never slur our notes. This surely must have been before the advent of pop music. She was bright and cheerful, encouraging by nature, and strict when occasion demanded it without being overbearing or unkind. I recall her telling the class how delightful her walk to school had been with the viewing of so many flowers in the gardens along her route. Good days and I liked her manner and personality.

    By John Hancock (02/07/2017)
  • It was nice to read such nice comments from John Hancock regarding my great aunt, Daisy West.  Following the death of her niece (my mother) last year, when clearing her house, I found a large folder full of newspaper cuttings and letters from colleagues and pupils on the occasion of Daisy’s retirement.  Although my mother had always said how highly thought of Daisy was, it was only when reading through all the messages that I truly realised what she meant.

    By Julia Wood (15/07/2017)
  • I was at the school from 1941 until 1951. Pupils I remember were mainly the girls: Rosemary Finn, Jean Dowell, Valerie Gunn, Rosemary Finch, Yvonne Cole, Margaret Rolf, Rose White, Shirley Hopkins, Ruby McEwan and Margaret Cottingham. We would all be 81 now. I wonder if any of these girls are still around.I know Valerie Gunn is as she is still my friend of 75 years. We eventually were all in class 4B during 1950/51. I  lived at 34 Carden Crescent at that time. I also have memories of Daisy West who was an inspiring deputy head teacher and was firm but kind, Mr Mann our swimming teacher, Miss Smart who we were mean to, Mr Wingfield and Mr Cresswell. Some boys come to mind: Ronald Tidy, Peter Burridge and John Stevenson. Happy memories.

    By Mary Tayman nee Vale (25/08/2017)
  • I was in Mr Mann’s class from 1955 to 1957; I enjoyed my time there. I remember Howard Castle, Peter Absolon and Pamela Musgen. 

    By Colin Grier (07/11/2017)
  • Attended 1958/62. Mr Ingham was my last teacher, had a grand time. John Langridge, Roger Lowrie, Jaffa and all, not forgetting Judith Knight.

    By Cliff Marchant (09/10/2018)
  • For Julia Wood, your Aunt Miss West (aka Daisy) was still teaching in 1957/58 as l was in her class 4A very strict but was also very fair, always remember her for one thing, in the afternoon the teachers all had a cup of tea and when the girl came round with the teapot “Daisy ” would always say “l always have the last cup” funny how things stick.

    By GERALD MILLARD (29/07/2020)
  • Gerald Millard, thanks for that. You were probably in just about her last class before retirement. Your story about the tea is interesting as Daisy always enjoyed her tea strong. In fact when, as a family, we visited her and she made tea, my mother would always ask her to add more hot water to ours as without it was undrinkable. Still, never did her any harm as she was in her 80s when she died.

    By Julia Wood (17/10/2020)

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