Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Those were the days

Given that I've just blogged about the Dark Ages when I was a teenager, I thought I'd take you even further back into my past with this 'ere lovely photo:

This is actually a newspaper cutting sent by an old friend Miriam. We were at primary/grade school together and she moved when we were about 9. She now lives in Canada (about an hour's flight from me). We found each other on Friends Reunited and communicate regularly now on Facebook. The wonders of modern technology. Anyway, she sent me this photo last week and I love it.

I think we are about 8. That/s me in the very front row, extreme left. Amazingly my fringe/bangs are straight, rather than the usual frenzied attack with the scissors that my mother used to inflict. The occasion was a visit by the Mayor (bloke with chain around neck) but I have no idea why he was there.

But friends, look at the actual classroom. If you go to Beamish Musem (which I highly recommend if you are ever in County Durham) you will first of all find my mother volunteering in the Co-op there, and secondly you'll see a Victorian classroom which is virtually the same as the one in this photo. My kids don't believe me when I tell them about the first school I went to, but this is proof. It was absolutely ancient when I started in the late 60's and was pulled down shortly thereafter.

See the wooden desks complete with inkwell hole thing, and the bench seats that went up together so that when your friend got up for any reason, you were pretty much obliged to get up too. The ceilings were about thirty feet high (making for a very cold building), the playground was a concrete yard with high brick wall around it, and there was a large pile of coke in one corner at all times. Surely a lawsuit waiting to happen these days. We had the large blackboards that filled most of the walls, parquet floors that were so uneven you could turn your ankle if you didn't pay attention, and cloakrooms the smell of which even today, evokes a million and one memories and emotions in me. Not all good.

Having just been to my older kids' curriculum evenings, I am astounded at just how great their school exprience is and how easy they have it. None of that worry about losing two years of hand-written A level work because you fell down a manhole!

I will enlighten you with modern school technology in an upcoming blog.



  1. Aw, you looked so cute. I have been to Beamish Museum a few times but not for many years now. I intend to remedy that and, on the basis of your pic as a child, I can't fail to pick out your mam. She will doubtless go-on for hours about you and dig out some more recent pictures. ;-) I can't wait.

  2. I can't believe that school existed in the 60s as it is identical with the one I went to in the 40s. You look a sweet child.
    Lovely post.

  3. Hi expat mum!
    Wow those are antique desks!
    But one thing bothers me about your text:
    "there was a large pile of coke in the corner at all times" !
    My God was there drug dealing going on in those days?! or did you really mean a large pile of COATS? :)

  4. Ahhhh, memories! My primary school was similar, with the wodden desks with ink holes and parquet flooring. The smell of the cloakroom too - can't put my finger on it but know exactely what you mean!
    Did you spend lunch time playing British bulldog & conkers?

  5. Billy - she's not there every day. That means she'll remember about my blog - I'll have to be careful what I say in future!
    Maggie - I was a bit of a handful, but have calmed down now. Exhaustion has set in.
    Brit - tee hee. No, coke which was used instead of coal. They don't use it now and I can't remember why.
    Pam - I remember skipping a lot, and making our own version of "Lost in Space".

  6. Takes you back, doesn't it. The windows in our classroom were so high up that the teacher had to use a hook on the end of a pole to open the latches with!

  7. Coke makes too much smoke, apparantly. And gosh, it all looks so familiar (though of course I was a southern jessie so it was probably much warmer...)

  8. Ahh memeory lane. You look so cute!

  9. That is one of the most impressive "bob's" I've seen on an 8 year old Lx

  10. You know when I was in school (and this is only going back to the late 80's and 90's here) a lot of the desks had ink wells in them! At secondary school we had the huge ancient looking wooden lab desks which had something very similar. What is up with the ye olde ink wells in todays schools?! Well... given that was over 10 years ago now, perhaps they finally got rid of them!

  11. Did you have outdoor toilets too? Two of the schools my mum taught at had outdoor loos. They kept the toilet paper in the classrooms 'cos it got too damp outside. One of the buildings was replaced sometime in the 1960s, the other only closed in the 1990s and had had indoor toilets for less than 10 years I think when it closed. They had finally put drop-ceilings in too, to reduce the heating bills. I remember the wooden floors as being rather nice though.

    The playground, like yours had the high brick wall (hmm - or was it sandstone?) all around it, and the central heating boiler was coke-fired. (In fact my parents' house had a coke-fired stove in the living room until fairly recently.) Coke burns hotter than coal I believe because it's harder, though it's a bugger to get lit in the first place.

  12. eeh blimey. i was just thinking about those classrooms recently. dipping pens in inkwells, using blotting paper, thawing out your milk bottles on the radiators, outside toilets, changing classes by hand rung bells, straps or slaps on bare skin, lumps of coal for the boilers, janitor's and buckets of sawdust, teacher's who got thrown out of the S.S. for cruelty.
    and that was the 60's.
    those were the days eh?
    (was your school st. aidan's, or st. columba's?)

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  14. i was sayin' i must have been off the day they taught the proper use of apostrophes an'all eh? teachers would be spinnin' in their graves.

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  16. A nice walk down memory lane. My
    1st grade school I went to is now apartments!

    Why did the nuns always smell so clean?

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  18. Kat - actually I have a few of those in my kitchen now!

    Sazz - welcome. Inkwells at your tender age!! Unseemly.

    AA - we didn't have the outside loos, but my mum's school had them (they weren't used) and it was discovered that the kids' dads were running a fenced goods racket and storing it all in those loos. She taught in the Teams, Gateshead, most of which isn't there any more but boy was it scary!

    Clippy (and Billy) - I must correct my web site. I was born in Willington Quay Memorial Hospital, which isn't even technically Wallsend. (My grandad Cuthbert however, was a founder member of the Lindisfarne Catholic Social Clib (sic)) I never lived there!! I was brought up south of the river in Gateshead (hence the two buses to school) and Saltwell Park was my garden, (sigh).

    Lulda - I must find out more about your name, but welcome. Carbolic soap!!!

  19. What an absolutely brilliant photo - and that hair!
    How fantastic that the internet can bring two people back together across the miles.

  20. Clearly I went to a posher school that you as I had my own wooden desk, chair and inkwell!

    Looking forward to reading the new blog, brave woman.

  21. I went to a school just like this one! And I had the hair cut too.

  22. Lovely post - that looks so familiar too. Though I was at school years before - it seems things didn't change for a very long time. I love your photo and the fringe! M xx


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