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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