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Starting at four years old

Pelham Street photographed in 1962
Image reproduced with kind permission of The Regency Society and The James Gray Collection

A penny wrapped in silver paper

I started at Pelham Street School in 1956 at under 4 years old. The Headmistress, Miss Webster, smacked the back of my legs on the first day. The lovely nurse was Miss Scott. She wore a full skirted overall in pale green. I believe Miss Jupp was my first teacher, so kind. She recognised me on a bus when I was 20 and spoke to me. Mrs Smith was a teacher who gave me an old penny wrapped in silver paper so the class would think I had half a crown; this was for sitting up straight during story time. Not a very helpful thing to do, it did not help with the bonding of classmates. Later I was taught by her when I was thirteen, old enough to understand her methods were cruel.

My first love

Pelham Street School was were I first fell in love, he was called Andre Welch. I used to have a photograph of myself in class with a pink and blue Triang pushchair that said Mum-Ma when pushed. Also in the photo was Dennis Vaughan dressed in full cowboy gear, sitting on a metal horse on springs. I can almost smell the place as I type. The swing in the playground tucked around the corner, the little green canvas camp beds where we had our afternoon naps. The teachers stopped me sucking my thumb. I remember jealousy rearing its ugly head for the first time. The object of my jealousy was a pretty blonde girl.  I hit her – what was her crime? She wore a beautiful angora knitted bolero with silver thread running through.

Hand me down shoes

I remember the end of my first day. My Mum came to meet me; I was sitting in the playground, my thick brown hair having escaped its ties. My pleated skirt with straps had had its buttons pulled off by a boy who was behind me whilst enacting The Big Ship Sails On The Ally Ally Oh. Not forgetting my hand-me-down, brown, lace-up shoes with blakies on the heels that made me do the splits on the wooden corridor floors, hurting my under-carriage. Oh Mother, sanctuary, take me home. Then horror strikes as I am informed I must come back the next day. Life will never be the same.

Comments about this page

  • I too went to Pelham Street infants at round about the same time – I was born in 1949. I seem to remember the headmistress was a Miss Coe (?) and then a Mrs Webster ?I also remember a teacher called Miss Gabitas One of the highlights of my time at Pelham Street was a 19coach trip to Chessington Zoo. I remember well having to have a lie down i the afternoons on those little beds in the hall – I never slept a wink !!!! I also remember having to take the cod liver oil washed down by orange juice – and aslo being given rusks now and then.

    By Carol Hardy (03/01/2013)
  • I was born in 1949 and went to Pelham Street at the age of 3 years 6 months because my mother was long term hospitalized. Miss Coo was the head, Mrs Andrews was the ‘nursery class’ teacher and Miss Gabatash lived in Falmer Road at Woodingdean as I recall. Do you remember dancing in the hall upstairs to the big radio speaker? The vaulting horse that always sat unused in the corner. I recall the rusks that were kept in a blue coloured Cerebos salt tin in a walk-in cupboard close to the doorway that led to the playground. The school attendance man who lived on the corner of Cheapside and St Peter’s Street. We lived in St Peter’s Street so not very far to go in the morning. I left and went to Balfour Road, getting the trolleybus to the top of Beaconsfield Villas for a penny ha’penny fare and walking the length of Balfour Road alone. Safe nowadays?

    By Ken Bishop (21/06/2013)
  • I lived at No 7 Pelham Street from 6 months old in late 1948 to 1961.

    Primary was Pelham Street, but Junior was a fair way up Dyke Road. Senior (Fawcett? which I only did part year before moving to Streatham, London SW16) had its gate directly opposite my house, no excuse for being late! The badge was a bull jumping over flames. The story was that the school badge had been just a Bull until an incendiary fell on it during WW2 (truth unknown!). Our inherited pure white cat (abused by its previous owners for no reason, it was a lovely pet) used to walk along the terrace roof, sit and watch my classroom (though I did not sit anywhere near a window) and just before end time it left to be sitting on the front doorstep waiting for me. My grandfather who’s house it was worked as Chargehand Mechanic (Dock Shift) for Southdown Motor Services, surname Holloway, always know as “Old Bill” though he was Algenon. The house looked like a two up, two down, but was Tardis like with a rear two story extension and a basement bigger than the house as it occupied the whole site. Story was it had been linked with a commercial car repair garage on the next road in single ownership originally (again truth unknown).

    By Dave Bran (25/01/2020)

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