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

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