The story continues................
The older girls always ran down the corridors as their playroom was opposite the infants’ room. They would see them slide the last bit of the corridor towards their playroom, which made it very slippery at the end of the corridor. Many times their mistress would be heard telling them off as this was dangerous, but it continued. The mistress would blow her whistle when the girls had to line up for their march to the dining room or classes, otherwise prefects in charge of this duty would bang hard on the playroom door and shout for attention, then the infants would see the older girls quietly lead off through the corridor to their classes. This was scary for the young infants but they were still excited about going up. There were times when Margo would wonder during her time in the infants what was going on and why she was there, but as time passed she got used to the idea and began to think this was normal and part of growing up.
Now it was time when they were all dressed in their Sunday best and the infants were saying goodbye to the infant’s mistresses as they waited for their relatives to collect them for another holiday.
It must have been about this time when Margo’s younger brother Freddy would be going to Reedham to begin in the infants.
Chapter Three – The First year in the junior girls.
After enjoying a few weeks holiday at home, Margo and Roy were returning to school. Margo was now with the big girls starting in the juniors. One mistress who was of medium build with dark hair and wore glasses designated an older girl to introduce Margo and the other girls who went up with her to the rules and to show then round the dormitories. The Mistress’s name was Miss Norton; she told all the girls they had a number. Margo’s would be 32 giving the other girls their numbers saying everything would be marked with their number including their clothes and any monies would be kept by the mistress. The girls followed Kathleen, the older girl up the wide winding wooden stairs. They reached the first landing and turned right into a very large dormitory where large iron beds with square baskets underneath were lined down both sides of the room with more down the middle. The beds were made up with white sheets, blankets and warm Red covers. Dressing gowns and nighties were kept in the baskets underneath. All the windows had long black blinds due to the blackouts in the war. At the far end of the dormitory stood a cupboard, which went from the floor to the ceiling. Kathleen explained that the boxed shelving inside is where the girls would find all their clean clothes as numbered.
Outside the dormitory was a bedroom and bathroom, this was the junior mistress’s room. Back on the landing they turned right into a small narrow hallway, which led into a very large round washroom. All round the sides were small basins, above them were wooden racks where toothbrushes and toothpaste were kept all in number order, underneath hooks for facecloths.
In the middle of this room stood a tall round rack, above and all around the rack were mirrors, and hanging just below towels on large hooks. Just outside the washroom, two sliding doors, this would reveal four toilets, the use of juniors only.
Marjorie, Nora, Agnes, Eileen, Iris, Mary, Paddy and Gillian were some of those who were all now in the juniors with Margo. They had all been issued their new clothes and been through all rules and regulations that they must abide by now they were in the big girls. Prefects would be looking after them until they are old enough to be given responsibilities themselves. Margo felt so grown up and happy to be in the juniors, another step towards the last day. The clothes worn by the girls were rather short cotton blouses which only came a few inches down their chest, a Navy skirt and jumper over the winter, during the summer they were issued with flowered dresses, thought to be made by Miss Munro who you will read about shortly. Their underclothes, which had to be worn, were a white vest and bodice, white panties worn under navy ones, white cotton socks in the summer and Black stockings in the winter. Their uniform consisted of a lot of Black and for church services or going out of the school they wore a heavy Black coat and large Panama hat with the school band around the brim. Shoes consisted of three pairs of black shoes, one pair of lace ups for Sundays, one for days and one pair with a button were worn as slippers through the school which the girls would wear after the classes finished, otherwise they were worn over the weekends unless they were going out for walks or attending church. All kept in the boot room where girls would make sure they were kept clean.
Their hair was cut short and straight to the ears. Every so often a lady came to search their hair for nits, she would comb some awful liquid through their hair – the girls named her “Nitty Nora”.
Miss Munro who I have already mentioned was employed by the orphanage and worked in the tower where she had her workroom. She made some of the girl’s clothes and also carried out any repairs. None of the girls were allowed to go up to the tower unless the mistress sent them. Miss Munro always wore silk black gowns and the girls always felt she wore a wig. She was a funny lady and ran everywhere, the girls thought she was rather weird, but all liked her and would love to be allowed to go up to her room in the tower and chat. It was assumed Miss Munro had a room where she lived somewhere up in the tower. When the girls returned from their holiday their suitcases were stored in the tower.
Once a week the sister from the sanitarium came over to give the girls senna and during the winter a large spoonful of malt. Every evening the girls were given a half bottle of fresh Milk to drink, many just didn’t like milk, so when the mistress wasn’t looking those who liked milk drank it for them. Otherwise apart from meal times, if the girls were thirsty they had to get water from the drinking tap in the daily washroom. Although there were rules when and where girls were allowed round the corridors, they were not allowed to run.
The layout of the girl’s side started from the main hall beginning from matron and her secretary’s office. From the first corridor down on the left were the junior classrooms (if you remember reading the large windows along the front of the building – those were all the classrooms). These on the left hand side were for the juniors teaching, the other on the boys side were for the older children, all boys and girls mixed classes. Teachers came to the school from outside the local area to teach the juniors and the teachers for the older children were taught by two masters namely Mr Akehurst, another teacher (his name escapes me) and the final class by Mr Thomas who also taught music and the choir which attended the London Manor House, but that will come later in the book. The head master was Mr Fairbairn who had a house in the grounds with his wife. His office was over on the boy’s side of the school. Some local children were allowed to attend the orphanage for lessons only.
All the girls had a small square locker in their playroom with just enough room for books, pencils and a few small items. During the winter when it snowed one pastime was to stand in a line behind each other out on the playground and slide, this was soon stopped by the mistresses as it became dangerous, another was for those girls who had a pair of skates, all held hands and would skate around the playground. Just imagine how 50 girls or more found various ways of enjoying themselves during their time when they were not having lessons or cleaning the duties they were responsible for. There were times during the winter when Margo could not join in as she suffered with chilblains on all her fingers, they were very painful and would itch, swell, bleed so badly that the sister would bandage them up, which made it very difficult to do her lessons or even feed herself. However, eventually the sister decided to give Margo a calcium tablet every day, which in time cured this problem. She never suffered with this ever again. The favourite indoor main craze with the girls was film stars, books of the films and the stars which came back with them from holiday times. Cartwheels, handstands and backbends were another pastime where the girls would become experts and would compete with each other. They would often see how long they could handstand up the locker or wall and each girl would follow until maybe six or seven of them were all up the wall – how would the first one be feeling by then? but it was fun.
When anyone was naughty the first two punishments were usually no tuck which was given out on Saturdays or to write many lines (I must not…) The girls got good at that as they would write very quickly and scribble most times all the way down I I I I must must must must not not not not and so on.
Birthdays were never celebrated like today. Maybe one would receive a cake, which would be shared on their table.
The ambulance or Red Cross, whoever dealt with injuries during the war, had a practise one day. They decided to use the orphans as patients and it is a memory that some other children locally were used also as patients to deal with a variety of injuries. Each child had a sign pinned on them with an injury printed on it and in turn the doctors or nurses would bandage them up or place the injury in a splint and with speed get them on a stretcher and into an ambulance. To the children this session was great fun, but obviously a serious exercise.
While the war was on the fire bells installed in the corridors would ring very loudly during the night if an air raid was close by. All the girls would have to put underclothes on, dressing gowns and slippers, collect quickly blankets and stand at the bottom of their beds, while the mistress would check all names making sure everyone were present. The girls would then be led quietly down the stairs through the corridor to the playroom where the boy’s head master – Mr Joe Bristow would advise if it was safe to go down the meadow to the air raid shelter. There were many steps to encounter in the dark and a gully running down the side, which caused ankle injuries. Eventually it was decided children would spend the whole night in the shelter, which had three-tier bunk beds right through. Margo was given the top bunk and after many a night she would wake with grit in her eye which meant a visit to the sanitarium. After one bad air raid right above the school, a bomb dropped at the bottom of the village killing the occupants of a cottage and blew out every window in the school. A decision was therefore made for the children to be sent somewhere safe in
Nottingham with relatives
consent. A journey was arranged and
families in Aspley, Nottingham took care of two or three children until it was safe to return to the
school. Margo and Freddy stayed with a
Mr & Mrs Reville who had two children – Deirdre and Donald. A happy 11 months was spent in Nottingham. The orphans joined the local Crane school for
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