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.