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Pillowell Schooldays 1931- 1936 by Robert J Watkins.

Photo of Pillowell by Frith

SCHOOL 1931---1936. by Robert J Watkins.

Where is it?

It is situated in a valley between Yorkley Wood and the Forest Ridge [the Rudge]. You can approach it from two directions say the Yorkley side, [north] or the other [south] down the valley to Whitecroft. The Yorkley side had access from the Pillowell road via an ashed pathway, the other from the same main road south via a rough winding path. The short cut was up over to the northside via the school tump, which was a rough climb up the hill, part of the Ridge from Phipps' Bottom. The buildings are sighted under the hill, three main school buildings, and two semi-detatched houses for the custodian, and the other occupied by Mr Arthur James and family. So you had Infants in one section, Girls in another, and lastly Boys in the other. One of the infant rooms was what I would call The Health Room, that was where the dreaded Dentist came once a year, when the Green Box came out of the headmaster's cupboard containing the papers for your parent to give permission for their child to have treatment. I would say " Mum write NO", [I wish my child either to have or not to have treatment was how it read] but in my case no such luck, I was told that there was not enough money to take me to a dentist at Lydney if I got the toothache, so to the slaughter I had to go. Twas big injection needles, and the drill for filling was manually treadled, so there was no high speed more of a scrape scrape and plenty of crying out. "Don't be such a baby" was all the sympathy you got. It's result could have been two out and one "stopped", then back to lessons. I think there was an age limit on the treatment you had.
Once a year we would have a doctors visit, who would diagnose flat feet and I suppose other things. We also had a visit from the nurse mostly looking for nits. If any were found you were sent home with a bar of carbolic soap. Another "rich" lady would come mostly to inspect the boots we were wearing, and a few children did come to school with a hole in their soles mostly from large families where there was no work, little money, and nearly on the poverty line.
We walked to school in all kinds of weather, rain wind and snow. We had to be there just a little before the first bell. At the second [final] bell we all lined up and were marched to our respective class rooms. Most of the teachers lived locally, very few owned a car, some were well within walking distance while three came a short ride by bus, that was from Yorkley Slade.
As to-day every one at the age of 5 years old had to attend school. If seats were available you could go at about 4 years. I went I would think in the Easter, or it could have been Christmas as I was 5 years old in the February. Mother took me on the first day and was introduced to Miss Phipps, who taught the class no 1, and there you were starting your first day of education, and where it was going to end we didn't know. The second day [so I must have been told] I was taken to school by a grown up girl Ethel Butson who most likely took others as well. One of the reasons looking back for my mother taking me only once was that she was pregnant with my brother Alan who was five and a half years younger than me, [in those days ladies did not show off pregnancy but tended to stay at home those ways of life were never discussed].
As every one knows 'twas your A B C, 2 times table, out-door games, general play, repeating sentences, bit of singing, like - when it was raining: "Down came the rain drops on a cloudy day, washing all the pavements washing dirt away", when it snowed: " See how the snowflakes are falling, falling so gentle and kind, coming from God in their beauty, all through the day and the night". in the afternoon it was heads down, arms on the table head on arm, and go to sleep, 'twas such a hard day, [The first day at school was as hard as the first day at work. When I was ready to go home at two o'clock] Anyway school ended at 3 pm. The day was 9 am till 12 noon , 1pm till 3 .00 pm 'twas with in walking distance,to go home to dinner, but whether I did to start with I can't remember. If one stayed at school for lunch you had to take sandwiches and your own drink. I don't know if the tap water was fit to drink as in those days there was no mains water supply that would come around the early 1930's.. and I started school in 1931.

Moving To "The Big Boys" in another building.

At the age of seven the girls and boys parted company, boys in one building and the girls in the other, That to me was a strange half frightening day, three new teachers, Mr Harry Jones, head master, his wife Mrs L Jones, and Mrs G Davis, all lived fairly near to the school, and were well known to all of our parents. As a matter of fact Mr Jones in his younger days taught my father, that must have been before the first world wa, as I believe Mr Jones was in the first world war.
We always acknowledged the two minutes silence on November the 11th, and Empire Day was another landmark. Of course Great Britain still possessed a very large empire in those days. Right; we first attended class for about 2 years with Mrs Jones, very strict, daren't look around. A few years ago the congregation of Whitecroft Chapel was invited to a Chistmas Nativity play by the children, now this enabled me to have a nose around as it was held in the boys school [no longer a boys school, but mixed]. I went to look at Mrs Jones' room, and discovered how small it was, so when she was sat up on the platform behind her desk she nearly had a birds eye view over all the room. I don't say that a few pranks were not played behind her back, she caught me playing trains with my fist, shunting it across the desk, but not knowing she was watching.To my surprise I received a good "clout or cuff"with her left hand across the back of my head, and the fact that she was a first cousin to mum, made no difference. If you deserved it in those days you got it, no wonder I'm a bit daft AH AH!!.
Pencils , paper and pens were suppled, the pens being of the old type - that was with detachable nibs. Each desk, in which you could lodge yours books etc. had an ink well inserted at the top. The ink was made with powder mixed with water to the right density, and doled out to the pots. For those of you who have only used ball point pens, here's what happened: the pen's nib was dipped into the pot not too far, didn't want too much ink on the nib or else a great big blob of it would fall on to paper on which you were writing. You then tried to soak it up with blotting paper, points lost for untidiness. If you pressed too hard the letters were too thick, if the nib was old it would scratch across the paper, I can tell you for a 9 or 10 year old it was a work of art. You could sometimes squeeze a new nib out of the teacher, but it was like asking for gold, and the old one usually became twisted, the point of the nib was a slit rather than being solid, it controlled the ink flow and the letter width. Fountain pens were on the market, but even if you could afford one you were not allowed to use it as it would not have been fair on the others.
Back to Standard's one and two; The first thing of the day was assembly, we remained in our class room but could hear the older boys in the main hall, so we had to learn the routine from them they being audible through a ventilation hole high up in wall adjacent to the main hall. In those days assembly was based on Christianity, and no segregation, at least not in Pillowell, we may have had a bible reading but what I remember was the prayer, it becomes fixed in one's mind for life; it went like this: Father who has brought us to the begining of another day , keep us in the same by Thy mighty power , watch over us for good , and perserve our goings out and our comings in, and may all our ways be pleasing in Thy sight. A MEN. Another so called scripture lesson, was where each scholar had to stand up and recite a line or two from the bible that you memorised, this was a bit farcical because we all said the same piece every day, my quote was " When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in the days of Herod the king , Behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying where is he that is born King of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him. 'Twas Christmas every day. But the best one of them all was, one lad who knew the shortest verse in the Bible, said "Jesus Wept".
We'll move on to the standards 3 and 4. In my time Mrs G Davis was the teacher, rather an important time in a child's life, as this was the class where you were coached for the 11 plus exam for entrance to the Lydney Grammer School, I never made it [failed] must have been a late developer. In latter life my wife came to the conclusion the I would have a mild form of Dyslexia which can be borne out by this little story, as I digress, there is a tendency to say God instead of Lord, and to mix up numbers, the latter being borne out as follows.
Playing the organ, got through the first verse checked what the congregation was singing, couldn't see it and the first line was being muddled up, so I signalled to stop the singing , what had happened was that I was playing a different tune , so I said to the preacher" my wife says that I am dyslexic", instead of opening the book to say 295 I would have had 259, Mrs Lawence said "Its all right Robert we are chanting the first line and the other three fit, thought it was one of your funny tunes" I said " I think we had best start again sorry about that". Another time was checking the hymns before the service, I said "Keith we do not know this hymn", he looked and said" We're not having that one" numbers mixed again, always double check. But when reading out loud that is a different kettle of fish, so thats my excuse for not passing.
We were now having to learn what the three "Rs" were about, geography, history, spelling, writing short essays,and arthmetic. I don't think it's called by those names now-a-days. Having completed about 2 years in that class, we moved into the final room. The head master Mr Harry Jones, age groups of 11, 12 and 1 , then at 14 your education as far as Pillowell School was over, and off to work. How he taught different age groups like that I don't know. He was very keen for sport, but it had to be Rugby, " Get at your opponents feet boy" but one bright boy told me "Run up behind and kick his two feet together that will fetch him down", the Ref. would not like that. His other passion was singing, I well remember his words to me, "what do you sing boy?", before I could answer Ted Ackers who knew me called out alto sir, so I was put with the alto group. Ted knew me from when we were practising for the Witecroft Sunday School Aniversary the first Sunday in June. One song we were learning was Robbin Adair, but we didn't have a piano, only the girls were blessed with that, so we were taught by the Tonic soh, fah, the modulater on the black board, and sir with his baton pointing to the appropriate notes, the sound pitch was achieved with a tuning fork.
Now so far so good, but singing alto was no easy task, to sing a different tune to the others was not easy, so after a while when sir thought we had got it, he did not just stand in front and conduct but he would stand by you and then bend down and put his ear near to your mouth to hear what was coming out, no chance to mime. 'Twas said" if you don't sing a note how can I put you right." Some of the older boys would do a paper round before school, so permission had to be granted to perhaps be a few minutes late, otherwise being late was frowned upon, so you had to stand at his desk on entering and you were very lucky if you didn't receive one stroke of his cane across your hand. One incentive we had was, some days about 3- 15 pm sir would put a few large multiplication sums on the blackboard, and would say when you have worked those out you may go home, you had to work jolly hard to win the day what a challenge. Another set of words we were supposed to remember were----Diphtheria, Diarrhoea, Pneumatic, Pneumonia ,a bit easier was Paraffin, Parallel, [ had to check the dictionary need to be a nurse to remember them]. A little anecdote--- When I first went to work in 1941, I had to write out a requisition for 1/2 gallon of paraffin. I had forgotten how to spell it, was it two R/s or two F/s, so I plumped for both, presented it to the foreman [Mr James] for his approval, whereupon he looked at it and said " Every young boy that starts here can never spell Paraffin" never forgotten it.
Another pastime as a sort of Art was potato printing. We were obliged to bring a resonable size potato to school, which we would cut off the end make a square then make up your design and to obtain a good pattern you needed the pattern to flow though the whole picture, so by inserting the design to some paint probably oil paint, you then proceeded to print it on to a sheet, creating something resembling wallpaper. The good ones where exibited on the classroom wall. SKetching plants, vases , etc putting the light and shade on to create the shape was another fine art. Measuring the height and width, with your pencil at arms length and counting the number of times the width went into the hight was a work of art. I used to go through the motions not quite knowing what I was doing, never became an artist.

In Conclusion;

In 1936 Mr and Mrs Jones retired. Donations given by the village people who would have known them since their own school days, bought them a lovely Sideboard, so they said thank you, and I suppose Goodbye. The end of one era starts another, and that was quite a disruption to the staff. Mr Donald Wintle was appointed Head Master, Mr Ken Pritchard, and Mr W Adams replacing Mrs G Davis and Mrs L Jones. This situation remained for about 2 years, when the powers that be decided to amalgamate the girls' and boys' classes, thus becoming a mixed school for the first time ever in its history. Unfortunately they only required one Headship and Miss Hale who was the head of the girls obtained the post. Mr Wintle got a teaching post at Patchway Bristol, some of the Lady teachers remained with Miss Hale. I remained with the school for about another year. Being coached by Mr Prichard, enabled me to pass an entrance exam to Gloucester Junior Technical School. The 2 year course started in Sept 1939 at the beginning of WW2. Robert J Watkins.

By kind permission of Robert Watkins.

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