What was your favourite toy when you were small? Do certain songs, LPs, films, books remind you of periods of your life? Which teacher influenced you (good or bad) during your school days? Food, games, homes, holidays. So many things from our childhood and beyond made us the people we are today.
This is Social History. Not kings and queens, politicians, world events, but OUR story, our memories. We need to record them before they are forgotten, and lost forever.
The group has started to meet on Zoom. Meetings are usually the fourth Tuesday pm. The contact for the group is Ann McGillivray. If you are interested in joining please send your contact details: name, email address, phone number and membership number to firstname.lastname@example.org
Report : At our last meeting on 23rd February 2021 our main topic was Education, but, as we all have had, or
are about to have injections for Covid, we talked briefly about infectious diseases prevalent when we were children. Several people mentioned having measles and having to spend up to two weeks in a dark room to prevent damage to their eyes. Polio was an illness that caused breathing
difficulties and muscle wastage. Images of rows of people lying in iron lungs in hospital were frightening, and we remembered children in leg callipers to help them walk. Mumps and chickenpox were also easily caught infections (sometimes children were taken to chickenpox ‘parties’ so that they would catch the disease). German measles (rubella) was another disease with little impact on
children, but could be disastrous for pregnant women, as it could cause birth defects to their unborn babies.
As for Education, the corporal punishment in the form of ruler strikes on the legs and knuckles, gym slipper on the backside for boys, and, in extreme cases, the cane, doled out at my primary school, was not prevalent in other primary and infant schools. Naughty children were told to put their fingers to their lips, or hands on their heads. Punishment at secondary schools usually consisted of
being sent to wait outside the headmaster’s office for suitable retribution. Even the youngest schoolchildren were expected to walk, often crossing several busy roads, or travel by bus and/or train, alone to school.
Primary education took place in various locations: a church hall; little village schools with outside toilet blocks; country schools with only one teacher for the whole school; primary schools with sandpit and water to play in, before graduating to junior school; single sex schools. A daughter of a serviceman attended several different primary schools, including one in Gutersloh, Germany, before settling in Derby, where she attended grammar school. One person remembered writing on slate with chalk at her small primary school. Most remembered learning times tables, up to the 12 times table; weights and measures; poetry,
and £.S.d by rote – and being able to recite them still. Country dancing, singing, and the BBC broadcasts of education programmes, delivered via a radio in a huge cabinet were lasting memories.
Children as young as five or six were the subject of bullying, due to perceived differences or
Everyone was expected to sit the 11+ exam. For some it was an ordeal, mock exams practiced over several weeks; others barely remembered taking it. In our school only 3 boys and 2 girls passed, while in a London school all but 4 boys passed, as was the expectation. There were mixed feelings among those who received their ‘pass’ results. Some wanted to go to the same school as their friends so turned down their place, causing arguments between their parents. One gained a direct grant to a girls grammar school, part of a convent, where she and her classmates were taught to be ‘little ladies’, learning sewing and how to become good wives. Some science was taught, but without
science labs, and with the need to carry buckets of water for experiments, it was rudimentary.
Most enjoyed secondary school, some for the sport, others cookery, needlework, metalwork and woodwork. One lived near Aldershot Barracks and the school used the barracks’ swimming pool and sports hall. One hated the idea of playing hockey, so was allowed to do cross-country running with another girl instead. One said she had very little recollection of the years spent at grammar school,except that it was hard work. Another recalled spending the last three months at school with nothing to do, so spent the time in the library.