Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The last writings from my mum's book 'Fatherless'

Although the committee members were not seen very often, those and the staff were responsible for the safety and confidence of every orphan who passed through the orphanage.It is great that through the Old Scholar Association it is able to continue the good work of Andrew Reed the founder.To keep the years and memories alive and still be able to help some children as we were helped.  Many since leaving the school have moved to various parts of the world and  have kept in contact with the association by producing all the memorabilia they had for the museum.

During the last few years at the orphanage the girls were allowed to grow and curl their hair.  After many experiences with styles the ones that became easy to handle was the pageboy style, this meant turning the curls under towards the face all the way round.

The routine was slightly different when becoming a prefect.  You became more aware of responsibilities and the upbringing over the years at the orphanage would be appreciated in adult life. There are some special memories which remain with Margo, one mistress Miss Norton she remembers mostly.  She must have felt for us children, as she was always very understanding and kind.  Another favourite was to take it in turns to get the juniors to bed at the required time.  Margo didn't mind doing this for the mistress as she always got on so well with the younger children.  She would tell them stories before settling them down and even taught them a prayer, which she knew, although she never has found out where she learned it.  The juniors say this prayer every night and would pass it on to new juniors from the infants.  I wonder if they taught their own children this prayer.

I have since read in a recent Rosabeam of an old scholar who taught her children and grandchildren this prayer.This has made me very proud.

Margo’s Prayer.
God Bless Mummy and Daddy and all my little friends and help me to be a good girl, For Jesus Christ Amen.

Ghostly stories would be a favourite even in the senior’s dormitory.  The girls would take it in turns to tell many at bed times.  Margo would make up some spooky stories and the next night the other girls wanted her to continue.  However she managed to continue her story no one will ever know, especially Margo herself.  Perhaps being young we have a more imaginary mind than when we are older.

I have wondered over the years about how the orphanage managed to continue with finances.  Helping orphans over the years obviously cannot be carried out without the help of monies.  Even now children still need help and it cannot be done without financial help.  Relatives would make some payments for their children and it has been learnt over the years since reading the history of the orphanage that charities have helped in many ways, charity runs were organised and monies have been donated.  Perhaps the farm crops were of help in that department.  So much good over many, many, years have continued helping children in need with somewhere to live owing to the loss of a family member.  As we live our lives and perhaps our children ask us about our times when a child, we may realise that being an orphan spending so many years living and being educated in a home without a family home, wasn't so bad after all.  My daughters would listen intently when they were younger to my stories and couldn't believe how different life was compared to their own childhood.  My husband and I have always been very close to our family, and I wanted our daughters to have the love I missed out from as a family. It can be understood that it isn't possible for teachers and mistresses to give out love to so many.

Chapter Five – Looking Back.
To look back over 52 years is hard to remember as an orphan how you came to terms with life at the school, sleeping, eating and being educated there.  It cannot be compared with a home life.  There were good times and bad times, rules and regulations we shall all remember.  Having a good education, a warm bed, regular meals, people looking after you teaching you good manners and respect, how to keep yourself clean, duties to show you how to make beds, darn socks etc, etc, maids, cooks, a sanitarium, a church and most of all – Your Number.  Don’t get me wrong we were being cared for because of situations.  We accepted the air raids like everyone else, planes dropping bombs, fire bells going off, sleeping in a shelter in the meadow and when home for a holiday, seeing peoples homes nothing but a heap of rubble.  Children adjust, we all know, but how would our children today cope with those happenings?  We many look back at our life at the orphanage with good or bad memories, but it was our home.  Now as old scholars we  try to keep those memories alive, keep in touch where possible with those we grew up.  Being thankful for a safe upbringing.  Today there are still children out there who need help and with our association we can give help to them knowing what it will mean to them in later life.

One day in March 1948 Margo was walking through the meadow for the last time heading along the path to the local railway station never to walk that path again.  She was leaving the orphanage to go out into the world.  She wondered what life was going to be like for her later on, what courage she would have to face beyond the school, would there be more rules and regulations to learn.  The world appeared to her very large and frightening and she did have some instances to overcome in her first job, but after about 18 months she made her first decision on what capacity of work she would want to do.  She wanted to work in an office.

Perhaps other orphans found life easy to deal with when leaving the orphanage, but Margo had found it very difficult to relax with the strange crowds of people when she left school.  She was working in a well-known London hotel learning hairdressing.  Her wages were 18/- a week and her bus fare over the week cost 10/- so after giving her mother some money she relied on tips from clients at the hotel.  The man teaching her was a Mr Gee.  He was a big dark haired man, very kind and popular with film stars who would follow him around to have their hair done.  American stars would bring their own shampoo and colours and always gave a good tip, which he would share with Margo.  One actress was the daughter of a family who owned theatres in London.  She was married to a well known comedian – George Robey, who would sit beside her while having her hair done.  Many times he would entertain the men in their department, but his wife wouldn't let him go out on his own as he would walk across the road without looking.  One girl, also learning at the London hotel became good friends with Margo, her name was Pamela.  They would both go dancing every week at the Streatham Lacarno where big bands of today would be playing.  After watching the dancers they quickly managed to get enough courage to stand waiting for offers to dance, which was great fun, and Margo met her first boyfriend there.  Her journey home meant a tram and two buses, which didn't always get her home when her mother wished and was always in trouble when she did get home.  Dancing was always an enjoyable outing for Margo and only gave it up when she got married, as her husband didn't dance.

One day Margo hadn't received a tip to make up her bus fare home.  Her mother had phoned and wanted Margo to go home early to pick up her sister from the nursery as her Aunt had died.  Margo had to get her bus fare home and was short of one penny, laughing she was asking the other staff to loan her that penny, “what are you laughing for” they were asking, not because her aunt had died, but because she wanted to borrow a penny.

The founder a Mr Reed after many a challenge to obtain ground, got the land and with financial help managed to get the building of the afore mentioned orphanage started.  The first stone was laid in 1841; this began the remarkable story, which allowed many orphans to spend their childhood there over the years.  I am honoured to be able to write about my years at the orphanage, which during then in 1939 to 1948 had all facilities available for the care of health, religion and education.  It obviously cannot compare with a home life, but we were lucky to be well looked after under difficult circumstances during that time.  The school continued until well in 1980 when unfortunately money became the problem and the history of the orphanage is being kept alive through the Old Scholars Association as I have already written about, so those of us who were fortunate enough to experience a safe childhood during the war must be forever grateful.  I am only speaking in my writings of my feelings, others might not feel the same about their childhood, but then I am writing my years as an orphan.

This journey on the bus Margo would take every day to the hotel, she would be thinking of the years she spent at the orphanage as she found if difficult not to, it had been her home for many years during her young life.  It was to be 50 years before her story was to be written.  Many mixed feelings were felt about those years and the girls she has grown up with, what was she to do now?  In time Margo did make friends although she has always kept in touch with two from the orphanage.

Chapter Six – My Employment and my Marriage.
Margo’s first office employment was in Kensington.  She began on the reception desk, dealing with all clients, taking telephone calls and passing them through to the various offices from a switchboard as it was then in the 1950’s.This is probably the beginning when Margo learnt to be at ease with people.  When her younger brother Freddy left the orphanage, he wanted Margo to help him find employment in London and it was then Margo was itching to change her job and get employment into accounts.  Together they looked in Westminster, London.  Margo saw a vacancy in Victoria Street to work with an accountant; she applied and got the job.  The company’s name was made up with part of both the two directors.  The company dealt with four companies including their own.  Margo’s first day at this company was quite a shock as the job involved sorting out the four companies invoices, which were piled up on the floor of the account’s office.  She was rather worried about that job,but actually enjoyed doing it as she learnt so much.  She had to sort out the paperwork into the different companies, then separate into bought and sales.  The next thing was to start the bookwork/system as it was back in the late 1940’s.  The director’s eventually sacked the accountant and took on a more mature man to take on the accountant’s position. Margo stayed with that company for many years as she thoroughly enjoyed working there.She would catch the workman,s train and get into the office before anyone else,sort out the mail and have it ready on everybody,s desk. A good system was carried out monthly on all four companies.Ledgers covering each company’s bought and sales.Balanced monthly, accounts paid, sales ledgers balanced monthly, statements sent out.  The directors were great to work for; they gave us a rise twice yearly and at Christmas would take us all out for a meal, and then back to the office for more celebrations.

When the family moved to Kent in 1949 whilst Margo was working for this company, she continued to travel backwards and forwards by train.  In 1953 Margo got married and the directors and staff gave her some wonderful presents.  As her husband had signed up in the Royal Air Force, it was later after a few months Margo left her job to move to Bath and be near her husband.  She took another accounts job until they were moved to Andover where their first daughter was born.

After four years Margo’s husband was out of the RAF and during the years that followed, in between having babies, she took other accounts jobs, but none could ever be compared with her first.

On a personal note and looking back again, it is hard for those growing up in a family environment to understand how different your life was living in a home with so many other children, only seeing your brother or sister from a distance.  Going home now and again to return after a few weeks, stirred up the emotions, which were always there.  As children it is natural for a disagreement, but with no mother to comfort you, maybe only girls feel that way.  If the reader was an orphan perhaps he or she can understand this explanation.

When Margo left school in 1948 there was never the closeness with her own mother, maybe the gap was because of those nine plus years growing up away from her.  Margo continually tried to get close, but found it very hard.  When her mother reached into her 80’s, she was always in touch by telephone for one reason or another as Margo lived in Sussex.  Eventually she chose to live near Margo and her husband, which gave her the chance to take care of her mother until her death in January 1999.

On a personal note, I think there were many many more untold stories that Mum would have liked to put down on paper but some were too painful.  I do hope that you have enjoyed my mums words and perhaps if you have a story to tell you should write it down for the world to share

My wonderful parents and Mum happy at last on her wedding day

Monday, 25 March 2013

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Friday, 15 March 2013

Continuing the story of a fatherless orphan

I have had a lot going on in the family what with ill health and one thing and another and haven't posted for some time but have found a moment to continue with my mums story as written by her.

The story continues...........

Before I go further in my writing I would like to tell you – the reader, the great effort the founder of this past orphanage had in getting the money and land for what he wanted to do – to help all orphans.  His notes in 1853 read “At long last we have purchased an estate three miles from Croydon on the trunk line of the Dove and Brighton railway.It is paid for and the cost was £3,895.  We shall put our Asylum on the crown of the hill.” Thus the school was born and was named after him.  He died in 1962 but the school lived on and as money came forth the buildings were gradually added to the land.  Sadly money ran out and the school was pulled down in 1980.  Only the swimming pool is left for the resident to use that now live in their homes built on the land.

As I have recently mentioned the cottage was also left to live on and now has everything that has been saved, recovered or passed on by Old Scholars, so many school artefacts and memories to continue to live on for relatives to learn about their families history.

The Old Scholars of today continue to keep alive the history of their past with AGM’s and get together to encourage those whose home the school was.

Contact the children had with their families.
The children all wrote home every Sunday.  The girl’s letters were left open for the mistresses to read before sealing and posting them.  The money girls had was kept on record by the mistresses who paid out for the girl’s postage and sweets they had on Saturdays.  If money was short they were able to add a note or two in the girl’s letter.

Saturdays at 1400 the girls lined up when the whistle was blown.  Each girl was allowed a choice of one bag of sweets or a bar of chocolate, their weekly ration and the cost was deducted from the girl’s money. If the girl didn't have any money she was unable to line up for sweets.  Those girls’s who had been punished had no sweets to line up for, as that usually became the first punishment of the week.  As this was the only time sweets were seen, it was know to eat a Mars bar with a hair grip to make it last longer.  Margo remembers when she left school, the war was over and coupons were not required any more  All the shops which sold sweets had a continuous queue for people buying their stock until the shops were completely empty.

Each child when leaving the school at the age of 15, were all given money and coupons to start them off mainly to buy clothes.  Margo remembers when she left the fashion was short lengths.  She began with a Green coat, button up and the collar was Black, her dresses were short about knee length.

Coupons continued through the war until they were cancelled at some stage when the war over.

Chapter Four – The Seniors

The girls were probably 13 or 14 years of age when they went into the seniors.  Their dormitory was on the next floor up above the juniors.  The layout was about the same as the juniors.  The bathroom was on their floor, it had four baths each side curtained off, and one each side inside a cubicle.  The juniors had the use of this bathroom and certain days were given for taking baths.  The senior girls washroom was round like the juniors but they had two private toilets and a special private room for those girls who needed it certain times of the month.

When a senior girl was using this room they had to get their pad from the mistress who had to keep records when a girl was having a monthly.  This was difficult at times when waiting outside the mistress’s sitting room for a replacement to find she was at tea and the girl would have to wait for the mistresses to return.  It was also a great problem when a girl first started this monthly and still had to wait for the mistress to return, then go two large flights of stairs to the hygiene room.

Many times when the girls would be taking their bath they would soak and talk not realising like youngsters do that time was running out before the whistle would go for tea.  They would be rushing around to get dry and tidy, go down the flights of stairs to find the girls had gone into the dining hall.  Very sheepishly they would enter the dining hall, make their apologies to the mistress who would speak to them after their meal.  Miss Norton Margo found would pass it without any comment.  The girls were quite fond of her and it was sad when she left.

I remember her returning to the school to visit the girls, now all prefects and we would be chatting about the antics we would put her through when she was a mistress.  Great memories!

The dormitories being large would need some sort of heating.  Pipes went all around the rooms at floor level and hot water kept the rooms from getting too cold.  The girls would hear mice running around the pipes at times.  One of the girls whose relatives were her aunt and uncle in Hereford, had a mice farm.  She returned one holiday with one of the tame white mice.  We were all very fond of that mouse until it got free and joined the other mice.  We tried to tempt it back out but to no avail.  Margo has never since been afraid of mice unlike some females.

Illness could spread very quickly round the school when children were sick with measles or mumps.  Obviously this would mean no one could go home for their holiday.  The infections would hit the school hard, as the sanitarium wasn't large enough to handle the numbers, which had fallen sick.  The sanitarium would only be able to take a few patients; therefore the dormitories became wards for the sick.

One holiday when Margo and her brothers were home in London during the war, Margo woke one morning covered in spots, which turned out to be chickenpox.  An ambulance came, changed her into another special gown and rushed her to the hospital, through all the traffic lights with the bells ringing.  The hospital immediately bathed her in a special bath and while she spent a number of weeks in hospital, even her mother wasn't allowed to visit.  When the hospital cleared her of chickenpox and allowed her to go home saying she could return to school, with just a few patches on her face her mother took her back to the orphanage, but they were not happy to let her return until the patches had cleared so she had to go back home for a further couple of weeks, much to her delight.  When she was allowed to return to the school the term was obviously much shorter and she had a story to tell the girls about where she had been all that time.

Margo’s brother Roy only stayed at the orphanage for about four years.He left at the age of about 15.  Eventually he joined the Royal Air Force as all boys had to do their service from the age of 18 for two years.  We didn’t see much of him during our holidays at home.  As already written Freddy had entered the school and spent a few years in the infants from 1940 until he reached the right age to move up to the boy’s side of the school.

As Margo and Freddy reached a certain age they were able to travel home by ourselves for holiday times. They would catch the train to Victoria and from there to Kensington via two buses or a taxi if they had enough cash.  Arriving at home they would climb through the window mother had left open. (in those days it was safe to do so) As it was dark and their home was below pavement  they would settle down and wait for mother to get home from her work.

Holidays were spent most days in Kensington Park just beyond the High Street.  It had a large pond, which was very popular in those days when young children like ourselves, with a jam jar and string tied around its neck and would fish for tiddlers.  Excitement surrounded any children who caught any.  The it would be a journey back home by bus without spilling any water, On the return to the school it was obvious we would hear the tiddlers had all died.   Other times Freddy would insist he was taken to the park to sail his boat, which was boring for Margo.  She would also have to take him to the pictures (nowadays called the cinema) to watch cowboy films.  This was always under duress and always a problem, as children were not allowed to go in without an adult.  Margo and Freddy would stand outside and ask couples to take them in, they would stand there for a while until a couple would agree to accompany them in, they would then pay for their ticket and go down to the front seats where Margo would have to endure all the boys screaming at the cowboy films they were enjoying.

In 1946 Margo and Freddy both had a letter from their mother to say she had a surprise for them.  All brothers and sisters would watch out for each other as they walked into the dining hall and would make signs with their eyes at each other.  At this time, Freddy’s duty was to take meals to the sanitarium for the patients as I have explained earlier.  Margo waited to see Freddy coming along the road to speak to him about their mother’s letter and her surprise.  They both thought their mother had bought a puppy, but were unable to find out until the next six week summer holiday.

When that time arrived which they had impatiently waited for, they were naturally excited and took the usual way home but instead of a bus they took a taxi as they had been given money which they had left with their mistress and master.  As the taxi drove through Kensington High Street they scanned the streets to see if they saw their mother.As the taxi passed through the High Street there she was with a neighbour, but pushing a pram.  As soon as they got home they climbed through the window, locking it after them, left their luggage in the front room, went straight out the front door locking it behind them and began to walk very quickly back to the High Street with the hope of catching up with their mother, both dying to know what the surprise was.

When they saw her coming towards them they ran until they reached her immediately wanting to know what the surprise was, she just pointed to the pram saying, “This is your baby sister Christine”.  They just gulped as they were convinced she had a puppy dog.  Margo and Freddy both returned to the orphanage after getting used to having a baby sister and chatted about it during the whole journey.

Duties for the Seniors.
Margo was now in the seniors, which meant she was getting used to having a duty, which had to be done properly every day.  They consisted of sweeping all the corridors, sweeping and dusting the dormitories, cleaning the inside and outside toilets and washrooms.  At the beginning of every term each girl was to learn from the mistresses list the duty she was to be responsible for, and if the mistress didn't think it had been done properly, it had to be done again.

When Margo became one of the eldest girls and a prefect, her main duty with other prefects was to clear all the tables in the dining hall, clean the tables and re-lay them for the next meal and to help the maids in the washroom to wash all the dishes and cutlery, leaving the washroom clean and tidy.  This duty became quite a knack especially laying all the tables for the next meal. The girls had many tables they were responsible for.  Fast they would go laying knife, knife, knife, fork, fork, fork, and so on.  A pile of clean plates had to be put on the trolley at the end of each table.  The reason they would want to be quick when clearing the tea and laying for the next day,s breakfast was because the prefects wanted to listen to “Dick Barton, Special Agent” on the radio in their prefect’s room.

The boot room was another room to be kept tidy although there was not a lot to be done there.  Mr Joe Bristow was the master who would come round each week, check the girl’s shoes, arrange repairs and change shoes for those who needed them.  It wasn't always a time the girls looked forward to.

It was probably a very strict school for the orphans, but speaking for myself, none of it did us any harm, although it may have made us very particular in later life.  I know if left me house proud.

The senior girls were also responsible for looking after two of the juniors, making sure they kept their hair tidy, shoes clean and general appearance tidy.  The two girls Margo looked after were namely Sylvia Kill, a very quiet girl, always good and had the most beautiful blonde curly hair, blue eyes and fair complexion, and Madeline Penny, a gentle natured girl with dark hair.  They were both very good friends.

One day Madeline said Sylvia didn't feel well.  Margo took her to the mistress who told her to take Sylvia straight over to the sanitarium where the sister kept her in.  It was a sad day when all the girls were told a few days later that Sylvia had passed away.  We never knew what had been wrong with her.  The whole school felt her passing especially her brother who was still at the school and her sister who had also spent her years there.  Madeline was very quiet for a long time as it must be difficult as a child to lose a friend in that way.

Classes for the Seniors
Lessons for the seniors were taken in the classrooms over on the boy’s side of the school.  Margo was average with Maths although later in her career life, she loved figures so much she trained in accounts and stayed in it for various companies for over 40 years as already mentioned, before and after having her family.

Composition at the school was a lesson when the teacher gave the class to write a story on a subject of their choice although sometimes gave them a subject instead.  Perhaps this is the reason why Margo always wanted to write.  Her imagination would work overtime when writing a composition and has often wondered since what her marks were.

Art was a lesson Margo would enjoy, was always amazed by the high marks given to her work, she never thought she was any good at Art, but her teacher thought differently.  She can remember receiving 70 out of 100 for her Art.

Her worst lesson was history.  She never liked it and could never take it on board.  One year she returned after a spell in the sanitarium and exams were in the class for history, needless to say she only got 3 out of 100 which the teacher made a point of making sure when giving out to the class their marks, that everyone heard, which was followed by laughter.  That didn't bother Margo, but she was determined to prove she could do better, so to the teachers surprise her marks next year for history were better, she was given over 50 and the teacher made a point of making sure everyone heard the improvements.

It is well known how children can be cruel to others.  One of the girl’s for reasons known only to the boys at that time was called a name and every time they passed her in the corridors they would whisper the name to her in the hope it would hurt.It went on for quite a time.  Unknown to these few, this particular girl had great strength and the name calling just bounced off her shoulders, until one day in the dining hall a master joined in.  It was during a meal time before the children sat down to eat, this master who probably thought he was still training soldiers instead of looking after young orphans and guiding them into adult life, decided in front of all the children to make a statement directing it to this young girl.  Her inner strength and anger that this adult man could lower himself by including herself in this child like manner, immediately made her storm out of the dining hall, straight into the matron’s office to report his outburst.  The outcome to the delight of this girl was the next day this master had to retract his words in the dining hall in front of all the children.

A choice in the top class of the school was given to the girls to learn the art of shorthand.  Margo has always regretted not taking this up, especially as she made her career in an office later on.  Shorthand would have come in very handy then so she taught herself a self-course of taking dictation by  abbreviation it had a title which has been forgotten,but which helped Margo in her work.  She also tried an evening course in shorthand but found that very difficult while working full time with three children as well.  However, accounts were always an interesting job, which Margo found very satisfying.

Every Sunday church services were carried out, sometimes one in the morning and another in the afternoon.  A master or one of the boys would play the organ while a second boy would spend the service at the back, pumping the pipes enabling the organ to be played.  Priests would come from a local church for our services and give the lesson.  Our church had a very large bible, which did get lost when the school was demolished, but happily it has been found and was returned to the museum in the year 2002.  One Sunday the lesson read was about a young boy who could not swim.  Margo listened intently to this, as she couldn’t swim either no matter how she tried.  The lesson continued.  The young boy was told to have faith and when he was thrown into the water he remembered what he had been told – to have faith, to his surprise he was swimming.

The next evening when it was the girl’s time to use the swimming pool, Margo remembered the lesson and decided she was going to learn to swim, with faith.  She pushed back from the side and swimming her arms forward, out and back towards the side of the pool with her feet doing a circular movement, she was swimming, to be sure she wasn't dreaming she thought “if I can turn round and swim to the other side” and that is what she did.  Now all the time another girl namely she thinks was Eileen Hall, who wanted to jump off the board as she had learnt to swim, had been waiting for Margo to join her.  As soon as she could swim Margo went to join Eileen on the board and when she plucked up courage to jump from it into the pool Eileen  was right behind her– Great Joy.

The church was also used for prize giving presentations.  Other times a choir would join the school for their service.  The church had a lovely altar and the girl’s were responsible for keeping the church Clean.  Margo had this as one of her duties, which she found very interesting and since has always liked to visit Cathedrals during her and her husband’s travels.

There were many times when some girl’s would become fed up and home sick.  They would cadge some food from the store man  go up the steps on the back road and through the door back of the orchard to the local village, not sure where they would be going,but would always be found by a senior girl sent out to find them and bring them back to the school.  However, some time two sisters did succeed.  They ran away and reached their home in London.  Margo at one time was extremely home sick and with a few other girls’ ran away, they also managed to obtain some fruit to ease their hunger, but didn't get very far from the school. As was always the case they were found wandering around nowhere special, they just wanted to get away.  The sad thing about these situations is a hug and a quiet chat into why the girl’s were feeling unhappy, would have been a great healing factors, but they were punished instead which didn't make them feel any better as punishments were always the answer.  The punishment this time was each girl sat on a spare table completely on their own for their meals, for a number of weeks which meant the whole school knew what their punishment was for.  This didn't help those children; they just got on with punishments – another thing they just accepted.
Girls feel the loss of comfort as a child and young boys must feel something,but as adults although we were well looked after what are those feelings?

The Final Term.
Returning to the orphanage from their last holiday filled Margo with some excitement and relief.  Three months and those girls were all discussing what they might be doing when they leave.  Their final education and examinations were to be of great importance although Margo wasn't sure what she would be doing when she left, but her mother had said she would get her employment in hairdressing.

Now was also the time Margo was having her first thoughts about her father.  What happened to him and where was his body?  She decided she was going to talk to her mother when the time was right and find her father’s grave and trace back to his relatives.  This she did.
The girls had all lost their fathers, some both parents.  It was known throughout the school that some brothers had lost both parents who died in front of them; needless to say it was very difficult for them to act without aggression.  Another child had been born when the parents were in their car and a blast from a bomb blinded them, the full true story wasn't known, but the child began it’s life at the school in the sanitarium until it was old enough to join the infants.  One girl a friend of Margo,s at the school had two brothers and an older sister.  The youngest brother joined his brother and sister at the school as a baby, he was there for a full 12 years.  They were mentioned earlier in my writings, as their mother was very kind to Margo and her younger brother. I remember him saying to us at the AGM meeting in 2002 that he knew nothing else as a child and was very happy at the school.

There were many sad stories of how the orphans lost their parents.Margo,s father drove Worthing buses and it was the turning of the handle at the front of the bus which flicked back hard onto his arm which caused cancer.The doctors could not save him or his arm.It would have been very difficult for single mothers in those days with the war on to bring up their children,so the orphanage was a good home and most of us will probably always be grateful for spending our childhood there,although as children we would have felt very different.

This is a picture of Margo'd dad behind his bus and is one of only a few photos she has of her father

This was a prize recognition for Music

 and another prise for Proficiency

Friday, 28 September 2012

Fatherless my story as an orphan continued

Mr Thomas, a master as well as a teacher married the sister of the sanitarium – Miss Macashon.  She nursed Mr Thomas when he had a bad fall and romanced blossomed.

Miss Lennox who I have already mentioned was a tall slim music teacher.  After giving her music lessons each week, Miss Lennox would ask if Margo wanted her to play something for her.  She would always ask her to play Tchaikovsky’s concerto in B flat minor and to see her fingers running over the keys was absolutely fantastic.

One day Marjorie and Margo together with one boy were invited to take a piano exam at the home of Miss Lennox.    The only reason the boy passed was because he was the only one to notice the chair was not straight as it should be.  Another exam was taken in a large hall in Croydon, which gave Margo and the other children a certificate of music.  During the intervals of each year’s Christmas show, Marjorie and Margo would entertain the school by playing duets on the piano.

Margo also enjoyed music lessons with Mr Thomas the music teacher and was very proud to win the Charles Link Memorial prize in Form 8 on 25th June 1947.  She was given 21/- (21 shillings) and was allowed to go to the local shops and purchase something with the money.  She bought a Royal Philharmonic book and it was presented to her with the inscription on the inside cover, signed by the headmaster – Mr LCF Fairbairn.  Her name was also included on the music prize board in the dining hall in gold lettering.  All the children whose names appeared on either of the two boards for prizes won were proud.  Those two boards must be somewhere.  It is a shame they were lost when the school buildings were demolished in 1980.

After 53 years it is amazing how the girl’s names are still remembered.  Two of the girls Margo spent so many years at the orphanage with are Marjorie Bower and Nora Williams; both were bridesmaids at Margo’s wedding.  Both were married and sadly widowed, but we have kept in touch since our school days.  Other names which come into mind are Shirley Lintott, a bit bossy, Paddy Plumbridge, Enid Fry, Mary Beavan, Joan Dutton, Iris Huck, Ann Whybrow, Sheila Pilbeam and sister Ann, Margaret & Kathleen Tappin, twins, and many more – I could go on.

Nora’s mother Margo will always remember.  She would take Margo and Freddy out on visiting day if their mother was unable to, she would send them back with money, sweets etc, the same as her own four children.

The PE teacher gave the girl’s weekly exercises in their lessons as well as running around the large playground which kept the girls fit, although as young girl’s, they were not always enjoyed, but Margo, having a bad posture found many of these exercise of great help, especially when she got older and began to suffer with her back, she would find some of them relaxing.

Matron had a Black Labrador called Ben.  He was a great favourite of the girls.  One day Matron asked the girls to get rid of some pets he had.  They were all over his skin and their bodies could be seen, but the legs were inside his skin.  The girls spent many hours pulling these pets out, much to Ben’s delight not forgetting matron.  Ben never suffered with them again.

Winter Blues.
The girl’s routine didn’t vary and boredom could set in during the winter.  As already described, many girls enjoyed the snow and would be out in the cold having fun.  Margo was unable to join in the fun because of her chilblains.  A girl named Helen Williams would tap dance in the playroom and girls would want to learn. Margo being indoors all the time would be watching and learning herself.  Helen was a new girl and one day she saw Margo tapping and wanted to know how she could tap.  Explaining that she had been watching her teach some of the girls, Helen wanted to show Margo other steps and to join in the Christmas shows.  One Christmas while the girls were entertaining the school with their show, Helen was trying to think of how she and Margo could finish a routine they were going to do in the show.  Just before they were due on stage, Margo managed to master a difficult few steps and did it without a mistake in front of the school. The art of tapping is to tap your foot forward and then backward, which Margo found easy.

One day the mistress allowed some of the girls to join Helen at the local School of Dancing to watch the dancers which included Helen practise their ballet lessons.  They enjoyed the visit especially a particular dance routine the group were doing on stage in one of the local theatres.

One year the mistresses decided the girls should learn how to knit and gave them all needles and wool and taught them to knit themselves a jumper, this was very useful when Margo was married.  She would knit everything for her daughters during their school years.  Needlework was a lesson Margo did not enjoy at school and even in her adult life.  One lesson she thought she would be clever and make a tablecloth, but it ended up so small it would only fit a small table.  Darning was taught to the girls by the mistresses which also became very handy before and after one got married.

Lessons Margo did enjoy were cookery.  Cakes, Pastries and even a dinner, which the girls were allowed to take into the dining hall for their meal.  The cookery and science lessons were taken in the room on the back road.  The only problem was when the lesson was to cook a meal this would involve peeling onions which always made Margo’s eyes water, the teacher would tell her to stand outside until her eyes felt better.  However, one particular time Margo was standing outside waiting for her eyes to stop watering when the sister from the sanitarium walked past asking what naughty thing she had done to deserve standing outside.  She tried to make her understand she hadn’t been misbehaving but to no avail.

In the junior classes each morning the first lesson was for everyone to chant the times tables, followed by scripture and maths.  The lessons would begin at 0900 – 1200 after which all the girls would prepare for their meal, the whistle would be heard for them to get into line in the playroom ready to walk quietly through the corridor to the dining hall and it was at this time brothers and sisters would look out for each other.  No talking was allowed during meals, only at teatime which I have already mentioned.  Classes would return for the afternoon session ending about 1600.

Although Margo was only average with maths, it was to be her decision later to earn her living in an office in the accounts department.  She loved it so much that when she married, in between having her family, she stayed in that department for over 40 years and has since enjoyed figures.

Spelling Margo enjoyed and always felt to be of great importance, so much so she helped her daughters to learn to spell well as their school education didn’t teach the children to spell, but to recognise the word with a picture.

Holidays at Home.
One holiday at home when Margo was aged about 9 or 10, she wanted to go to the park on her own and once she proved to her mother she knew which bus to get on, she was allowed to go.  However, the bus she was on returning home turned down the wrong road and she knew she had got on the wrong bus.  She immediately got off and began to walk back up to the High Street.  A policeman walking behind caught up with her as she began to cry because she knew she didn’t have enough money for another bus.  When she explained what had happened he took her to the police station where all the police spoiled her with cakes, ice cream and cold drinks.  Needless to say when her mother arrived and took her home she was sick.

Embarrassment and Frights.
During the juniors Margo was frightened and embarrassed many times.  Very often when she would wake up during the night to see standing at the bottom of her bed three figures dressed in black.  It was always two men and one lady.  She was so petrified she would dive immediately under the bedclothes.  Those appearances occurred for many years before stopping.  The embarrassment was these happenings caused her to wet the bed.  Each morning the girls had to strip their beds, fold sheets and blankets and pile them at the end of their beds. Not a difficult thing to do, but when your sheet was wet it was a problem to deal with without anyone noticing what she had done.  The mistresses had obviously noticed the problem Margo had and a plastic sheet was therefore put under the bottom sheet.  Margo was very stressed about this and relieved when this bed-wetting stopped when she was about 11 years old.

The Return to School from the Evacuation.
The war was over.  It was June 1945 and the children returned to the orphanage from Nottingham.  Although the parting from Nottingham and the families who had looked after them had been very emotional, it was nice to get back to the orphanage and see their friends who hadn’t gone with them.  Photographs had recorded their return.  The school ruling and routine the children had to adjust to again, as the war and move to safety had interrupted all that.  The farm smells and to hear the chickens again all came back.

There were times when some of the girls would slip down to the farm hoping nobody would see them.  It was assumed that eggs, vegetables and fruit the children did have came from the farm.  Margo can remember helping the farmer who was very nice, to collect the eggs from underneath the chickens, (if anyone would have found out he would have been in trouble).  At the bottom of the driveway stood the cottage, which was the home of the farmer and his wife – Mr and Mrs Kitchen.  Sometimes the children were allowed to go down and visit them, as they were loved with affection from the girls anyway.  In 1980 when the school was demolished the cottage was kept and is used to this day as the museum.

Photo of my Mum with her mother outside the orphange on a visitors day

This is a brilliant website.  Click the link and take a look


Thursday, 6 September 2012

I've just had my first go at knitting with ruffle yarn.  I'm not sure that it was my favourite type of knitting but quite pleased with the scarf and love the colours.  Hope you like these to.

Here is the free pattern for anybody who fancies a try

A - Starbella   Size 3- 4, 4 - 6 and 8-10 - 1 ball
B - Cascade Fixation Size 3 - 4 (1 Ball) sizes 4 -6 and 8 - 10 (2 Balls)

·                      Size 8 -24" Long Circular Needles
·                     3/4" Elastic to fit waist Directions:1.                Starting with Starbella - A and 8 needles. Pick up - 114 (122-130) loops2.                With B - Knit into each loop. Join into round. Place marker cont. with B.3.                Knit 6 (7-8) rows. Drop B.4.                With A - Knit 1 row (notes: Starbella ruffles will be on the inside). Repeat step 2 and 3. 3 (4-5) times.5.                Cut A. Continue with B. Turn work so ruffles are on the outside. Knit every row until work from last A row is 2 (3-4) inches.Note: Depending on the size of your skirt you may need to use more yarn than specified for adding additional rows. You may add or subtract rows at this point to lengthen or shorten skirt.      6.  Purl one row (for fold line). Work 1 inch bind off. Finishing: Fold at fold line to inside. Sew in place to form casing. Leave an opening for elastic. Sew in ends. 

Continued? Fatherless my story as an orphan

Mr & Mrs Reville would take the four children out, but one day standing in a queue to see a show, some children in the queue were playing and Margo noticed scabs on their faces.  They accidentally brushed against Margo as they played and the next morning Margo woke covered in spots, which turned out to be impetigo, she also had nits in her hair.  It was a most embarrassing time as her hair was cut very short and with daily treatment together with the impetigo it took many weeks to clear up.  Margo was naturally unable to attend school.

Another interesting visit in Nottingham was a well-known museum (it’s name escapes me).  The museum stood high within acres of land, and one part sloped down which was used as a German prisoner of war camp.  The British soldiers would walk the prisoners around the grounds so we saw many taking their exercise.

It was a sad day when the children had to leave but it was then safe to return to the orphanage.  A happy reunion was recorded of all the children back at their home.  Sadly contact was lost over the years with Mr & Mrs Reville.

Dining Hall and Kitchen Areas

Remembering the two tall doors in the main hall, this went from the floor to the ceiling and led into the dining hall.  Completely down both sides of the dining hall stood long wooden tables with long forms either side where all the children took their meals.  The boys entered through the tall doors.  From the left of the hall the girls entered and another door down on the left the infants entered.  At the bottom of the dining hall two more doors which led into the spacious kitchen and on the right a small door, which led out to the bread room.  Above the two tall doors a balcony where the governor’s offices were situated, there were times when matron would look down on the children. If she then appeared in the dining hall everyone knew she had seen someone doing something they shouldn’t.  In the kitchen huge cooking pots stood on a very large iron stove where all meals were cooked.  Beyond in a further room the preparations were made.  The food was then transferred into large enamel trays, which were put on large trolleys at the ends of each long wooden table.  The mistress and master usually served the food, otherwise prefects who sat at the beginning of the tables helped with this chore.  Prayers were always said before and after each meal.  Mostly children were allowed to talk for the last 15 minutes of tea time half hour and sit with their brother or sister.  Joe Bristow would give this order and for reasons only known to him sometimes tea half hour was spent in silence.  Joe Bristow would read his newspaper sneekingly peering over his glasses stuck halfway down his nose, the children were quite aware of this and we all knew he was looking for somebody to misbehave.

The kitchen doors were decorated at Christmas time, made to look like a chimney where Father Christmas would enter with presents for the children donated by people locally.  A big Christmas party would be given for the children before Christmas holidays began.

Meals were very basic and not always appetising.  Leeks were always lying in water.  Porridge at breakfast was cold, eggs always hard-boiled.  Salads had creepy crawlies in and once matron made Margo eat it up, crawlies an all.  All plates had to be cleared.  Another girl who hated potatoes was given by one particular mistress a plateful to eat which she found hard to deal with.  Sundays were seed cake and cold milk or jam, bread and tea, which was not always hot.  Two dinner size plates of bread and butter were on the table and a small pot of jam, which had to go round 14 to 16 children on each table.  The crust (called a Giz by the children) was a favourite, and the boys had finger signs to bag theirs – a thumb for a giz and one or two fingers for slices, cannot remember the girls doing this.  Sometimes the children had their fruit probably from the farm, which they enjoyed, but bananas were unknown until they first appeared.  The chickens probably supplied the eggs.  The staff spent their meal times in a dining room next to the dining hall.

Children survived as others were not so lucky and all orphans were being well looked after.  As we may look back on our early days we can appreciate how lucky we were.  Many began at the orphanage as a baby, others normally as infants.  Some were happy there, others were not.  Often children are in need of a hug when feeling emotional as girls do, this was something orphans missed out on.  As the writer, I am a firm believer that your childhood days stay with you forever.

When returning from a holiday tears were always heard at bed time during the first night back, but in the mornings you just went straight back into the school routine.  Life was very strict but it didn’t do you any harm.  You learnt respect and discipline.

I have already described the girl’s side of the school, but to explain further the corridors which went round in a square.  All rooms on the right went out onto a grassed area.  Opposite the first classroom was the girl’s prefect’s room.  They had a wireless, as it was called at that time, arm chair’s, a tennis table which was used later when Margo received the bat and ball set one Christmas, and a piano which Miss Lennox the music teacher who came to the school and gave piano lessons to those who were learning to play, Margo being one who was learning.  Margo and Marjorie who was also learning would practice every evening for one hour on the piano in one of the classrooms.  At the far end of this corridor facing was the infants classroom and to the left a cloakroom, opposite the stairs which led to the dormitories and the mistresses room on the left beside the cloakroom.

Stepping back into the right corridor, on the left hand side the infant’s classroom and down on the right the infant’s playroom opposite the girl’s playroom, straight ahead were two large doors, which led out to the back road.  On the left of these doors the infant’s toilets, cloakroom and another room.  Turning right again, on the left the dry storeroom opposite another door, this also led into the infant’s room. This was the door the infant’s brothers came through every Saturday to visit.  Further down this corridor on the right the boot room where all shoes were kept and opposite the girls day washroom.  At the end of this corridor to the left was the vegetable room and doors leading to the kitchens, and turning right the infant’s entry to the dining hall and on the right the maids kitchen washroom for all the dishes.  We are now back in the main hall.

Describing the land the school stood in maybe difficult for the reader to comprehend. The cricket meadow, corm field and farm were on the other side to the driveway opposite to the farm.  The building of the school stood high on the hill and it was actually known as “The Home on the Hill”.  The farm had chickens, pigs and a farm horse. The farm also grew apples and all kinds of crops and with so many chickens there must have been a large supply of eggs.

The church stood on the girl’s playground and opposite a grassed area, which was used when the matron allowed the girls to have the croquet set out.  Walking down from this playground along a stoned path which led down to the large meadow, past the sanitarium, and stretched back towards the air raid shelter and from there a path came along the bottom of the meadow and carried on past the wooded area and right on until you came out to the local village.  Margo and her brothers would take this way out when going home for their holidays to the local train.

Many children had problems with their feet or back and Margo remembers for many weeks taking a group for treatment as well as herself, through this meadow to the clinic.  Along the path would always be many dead grass snakes, perhaps this is why Margo has always disliked them.

The long back road went completely along the back of the school building from the sanitarium, and stood high at the beginning of the meadow behind the church. The church stood on the girl’s playground. Continuing along this road, past the kitchens and ending at the boy’s side of the school.  The girl’s outside toilets were situated on this road, to the side were stone steps which led up to the orchard, where more crops were grown up there.  A wooden door at the top of the orchard led out to another part of the local village.  The other side of the steps was the girl’s classroom for cookery, science and needlework lessons.  Further along this road lay the workman’s workroom, the swimming pool, opposite the baker’s room where he baked all the bread, the back of the kitchens and the drying room.  Girl’s and boy’s were allowed alternate evenings for the use of the swimming pool.  As already mentioned the headmaster and his wife had their house above the boy’s side of the school at the far end of this road.  This back road had many other uses.  As girl’s and boy’s reached the age of noticing the opposite sex, they would secretly arrange to meet when quiet during the evenings and who they fancied would sneak along this road for a chat and a kiss, all very innocent.

Freddy, Margo’s brother had now moved up to the older boys. The duty given to him and another boy was for both to take meals along the back road for the patients at the sanitarium.   Each term others were also given this duty.

When Margo was a prefect, matron seemed to think she was the eldest girl and would give her the duty of taking a morning off from class to butter all the bread.  Many other girls’ would be given this job to do at various times.  The baker would bake all the bread in the baking room, which had a very long deep oven.  He would place the dough onto a long handled flat ladle and push the dough right back into the oven.    A lot of bread would be needed for the school on a daily basis.  The loaves would be transferred to the cutting and butter room, which led off the dining hall on the boy’s side.  The store man would put all the loaves through a large slicer, mix margarine and butter together in a stainless steel tin and it would take all morning to butter every slice.

Clubs and Events.
The girl’s would be encouraged to join the brownies, followed by the girl guides.  A lady would come from the local village and the girl’s would learn the guide code, how to do all the knots and would be given their uniform for parades.  The boy’s would go through the cubs and scouts.  Many events were enjoyed with other groups from localities outside the school.

Another event, which the children looked forward to, was when it was learned the Queen and members of the Royal family would be passing through the local railway station named after the school.  Arrangements were made for the children to be standing on the platform and as the train reached the station it slowed down enabling the children to wave to the Queen who would return her wave.  The present Queen is patron of the school and the Old Scholars Association.

Bonfire Night and the Festival.
A large bonfire and a controlled firework display would be an exciting activity following a march to the meadow on bonfire night.
Another year it was arranged for a gymkhana to join the festival and those who owned horses erected jumps etc and their horses added further entertainments which everyone enjoyed.
Festival Day.
In July of each year the school would hold a Festival Day when the Lord Mayor would visit for this occasion.  The workmen would erect a platform stage on the girl’s playground for the Lord Mayor and his aids to watch the girl’s skipping drill and the boys would do their PT exercise.  Families and friends would also visit on this day, which the children always looked forward to.

One year Margo had spent some time in the sanitarium and had recovered just before the festival day.  She was doing a skipping single during the skipping drill and couldn’t finish it because she hadn’t had enough practise, she found this very embarrassing.

Lord Mayor invited Mr Thomas, the choirmaster to bring his choir to sing to him and his guests, invited for dinner at the Mansion House on Lord Mayor’s Day.  The boy’s and girls in the choir were given a buffet meal and entertained all the guests with their singing.  The finale of the day was when the choir were given a special place, which was laid on for them all to watch the Lord Mayor’s Parade.

The dormitories for the children were all names after certain well-known people.  The girl’s two dormitories were Fry and Nightingale.  The boy’s Livingston and Wilberforce.

When the matron retired she was replaced by Mrs White (not during Margo’s time at the school) and her husband joined as a master for the boy’s.  One master namely Joe Bristow (a hard master), it was thought he was an ex sergeant in the army.  Margo didn’t like this master in any way, one reason being he was seen to bully two boy’s who were not as tall as the others, and for whatever reason he always managed to carry one or the other by his short trousers out from the dining hall, which must have been very embarrassing for them.   I doubt those memories have ever been forgotten.  It is well known that most of the boy’s had great respect for Joe Bristow.  Many stories have unfolded about this man.  I am sure the girl’s will always remember the boy’s walking in for their breakfast with Red noses. They looked like they had been running around the playground in their shorts during the winter – which actually Joe Bristow made them do.  One story which Margo’s brother Roy would mention very often – During a session when the boy’s were to take their baths.  Joe made them stand naked by their bath while the water was running, then when enough was in the bath Joe would tell them to get in and wash, one boy found his water too hot and after Joe told the boy many times to get in, he kept telling Joe the water was too hot.  However, eventually the boy picked Joe up and put him in the bath, who just got out saying “it is too hot isn’t it”.  I’m sure there are many more stories the boy’s could tell about this man.