Thursday, 6 September 2012

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.

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