Kings Road School

Kings Road School at the time that I attended had altered little from the time it was built until after The Second World War, apart from two additional timber built classrooms, which I imagine were added sometime during the late twenties or early thirties, to accommodate children from all the new houses in the southern half of the village and Council housing at Fryernhill. Two air raid shelters were also built abutting Kings Way in 1938.

The original brick built school had three class rooms connected by a corridor running from east to west with entrances at both ends, at the western entrance there was a flight of steps leading up to double doors, immediately beyond both entrances was an area for coats and a row of sinks suitable for children, boys at the western end and girls at the other, between these two areas was the staff rooms and the Headmistresses Room.

The main building was centrally heated by a coal or coke fired boiler in a room underneath the westerly classroom, Access to the boiler room was outside but abutting the southern side of the classroom with a flight of steps down to it, iron railings and a gate prevented any unauthorised entry. Although there were low set hand basins suitable for infants in the cloak rooms, I think there was only cold water taps, but of this I cannot be sure as I have no memory of ever using them. There was a school bell which was rung every morning for, I think, ten minutes, before the start of the school day.

The bell was situated at the apex of the gable end of the middle classroom with bell rope just inside that room. It was deemed a privilege for any child called upon to ring it, however, the bell ceased to be used at the advent of WWII as were all bells including church bells which were to be rung only if there was an invasion. The Toilets were outside the main school in two separate buildings, the boys was across the playground close to the western boundary, it was a brick built windowless building with a single WC at one end which was roofed, but the urinal was open to the elements and quite smelly. I am not sure where the girl’s toilet was nor what it looked like other than it was somewhere behind the staff rooms.

To the east of the main building there was brick retaining wall roughly two metres from the school and about 60cm high, beyond which was a raised grassed area running up to the boundary with Kings Way and King Road, and the site of the ‘above ground’ air raid shelters. At the other end, were the wooden classrooms, which might well have been ex WW1 army huts, These two classrooms were heated by coke stoves and stoked by the teacher, they used to glow red with heat at times, but the heat generated did not reach the back of the rooms. The floors were of bare and uncovered boarding as were those in the main building. A further strip of grass ran along the northern boundary from the wooden classrooms across to the western boundary and abutting the asphalt playground and a passage which separated the main building and the huts. It was at the far end of this run of grass that the boy’s toilet was sited.

The asphalt playground was on the western and southern side of the school reaching across to both boundaries and up to the grassed area. The whole site was surrounded by iron railings with a double gate more or less opposite Mead Road and a single gate at the eastern end of the paved area. Four large lime trees planted close to the railed fence bordered Kings Road with a fifth one mid-way along the western fence, these trees were probably planted at the time the school was built, which would have made them roughly thirty years old at the time I started school There was also an old apple tree on the grass area just beyond the entrance gate. Boys and girls were very much kept apart both in the classroom and also in the playground where there was an invisible line across the play area more or less centred on the middle classroom across to Kings Road which separated the two, girls at eastern end and boys at the other.

Both my older brother and sister attended the King Road school and at the time my brother was there, Kings Road was unadopted and there was a ford at the Park Road end with a wooden foot bridge along the northern side of the road, by the time that I started School the road had been adopted and there was a properly built bridge, nevertheless, the school was set in a rural or semi rural area with rough pasture land bordering Kings Road on both sides, from Park Rd. On the northern side was a meadow, with the hollowed stump of an oak tree which had been struck by lightening, the stump was six to eight feet high with a ‘V’ shaped opening from its top down to the base large enough for a child to climb into the blackened hollow. The meadow abutted the newly built Congregational Church with just one detached house between it and the school. On the southern side and up to Mead Road which was a rough gravel track all the time I was at school and was only adopted sometime after the war. As I attended Sunday School at the Congregational Church as well as day school, meant that I made the journey from home to Kings Road six days a week

In those days, parents had very little contact with the teachers, only visiting the school on a few special occasions during the year such as Easter and Christmas, in fact I think my older sister took me to school on my first day and I do remember that I started to go home at the morning break thinking that was it for the day, I had almost reached Park Road before I realised that no one else was following, so I crept back, the school day seemed to last forever.

I only experienced one year at Kings Road School before WW11 as the starting age at that time was five years old and because the new intake was after the summer holidays and my birthday was in November I was nearer six than five when I started, so I cannot judge how much I lost out as a result of that conflict. I certainly did not miss out on holidays as they were a rarity for working class families who would be entitled to one week a year at the most and in many cases even less, almost ever man had to work Saturday mornings, which was still the practice well into the fifties, thus trips out at weekends would be very limited, with Sunday being very much a day of rest with hardly any transport running, the chances of going anywhere on that day, apart from sedate walks were very unlikely. A couple of day trips out during your father’s holiday would be as much as you could expect, even this was curtailed when war started as beaches were out of bounds, being mined and with various types of barriers erected to hamper any landing.

.My first classroom was in the most easterly one in the main building and my first teacher was Miss Bourne who was probably about 30 years old, in truth I’m not very sure how old any of the teachers were because as a five year old, anyone older than 20 looked old, very old or very very old, Miss Bourne lived at Castle Hill Farm along Flexford Road, in fact she was the farmers daughter, and cycled to the school everyday. She used to dress in a grey pleated skirt with white or cream colour blouse and a navy blue cardigan, she had dark hair which was sometime permed into corrugated waves. Whether she was qualified or whether qualifications to teach at primary level were necessary in those days I do not know, nevertheless, she managed to install in her charges the bases of English and maths, in fact she quickly realised my talent for drawing. In those days, in the first year we sat at desks with bench seats designed for four children, and used slates to learn our letters and tiny sea shells for learning to count. Once allotted a desk and seat position it would be where you sat every school day for the whole of the year, which was the practice for all the classes throughout my school years.

Miss Goulding the Headmistress taught the six year old class, which was in the middle and largest room. As far as I remember, she was slim and tallish but quite old. Her hair, which she always wore in a bun, was grey as were her clothes, she wore long grey skirts, grey stockings and high necked blouses, also, grey with maybe fine white vertical stripes and lace around the collar and cuffs. She always wore a long close knit grey cardigan, with pockets and a large cameo broach at her throat. She either wore simple shoes with a buttoned strap or laced boots which were always black. Her teeth were yellowish and she tended to shower you with fine spit when she spoke to you close up. To add to her look of authority she wore small pince nose glasses at the end of her nose, although very strict, she was soft spoken and a kindly lady and if you pleased her in one way or another you were invited to her room to choose one ‘dolly mixture’ sweet, as a reward. A ’dolly mixture’ was about a six millimetre cube which was not a massive reward but an important one. I don’t think anybody could not like Miss Goulding.

Mr. Lush taught the third year children in one of the wooden classrooms, he had been brought out of retirement to teach at the outbreak of WW11. I believe he had been headmaster at the Senior School in Bournemouth Road, which ceased to be a school in 1939, He was slim and upright but not very tall and bald, what hair remained was nearly white. He wore a Hitler type of moustache, white like his hair, and small round, wire framed glasses. He was distinctive in his dress, wearing as he did, plusfore trousers, full length tartan patterned socks and brown boots. Added to this he wore tweed jackets with leather patches at the elbows with additional leather trimming on the cuffs and collar, this was a common practice during the war as it extended the life of the garment, a waistcoat and striped shirt with a starched white collar, bow tie, flat cap and a walking cane completed his apparel. The walking cane was more to do with appearances than as a walking aid. Mr. Lush most definitely considered himself ‘a cut above’ as the saying goes and had a bit of a swagger, this was echoed in the class room where all his movements were a little bit exaggerated He was the strictest of all the teachers and if you upset him he would make your life hell, not so much with beatings but by humiliating you in front of the rest of the class, he would keep on until you were in floods of tears and was often not satisfied until his victim be they boy or girl wet themselves to complete there humiliation.

I got on reasonably well with Mr. Lush although I did upset him once, I cannot remember why, but at least I did not get the full treatment, in fact I think I was one of his favourites, for some reason, generally I preferred to stay unnoticed and in the background, an attitude which has stayed with me for my whole life.

Mr. Lush thought it a good idea for his charges to learn to grow vegetables, so each child was allotted a tiny plot between the bracing bars supporting the iron railings between the eastern school gate and Kings Way. The tools used were his own and I had the job of collecting and returning them to his house which was in Brownhill Road near its junction with Kings Way, in a home made wooden barrow with pushchair wheels. I don’t think the gardening was a great success, for I cannot remember ever picking any crop or even a single bean, in any event the scheme only lasted a year.
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Mr Lush also took us on nature walks which we loved, mostly because it got out of the confines of the school, boys regarded picking wild flowers as being sissy’ish, if there is such a word, unless the word ‘poisonous’ was mentioned, then they became ‘all ears’. On one occasion we visited a large yew tree which grew on rough ground off Kings Way, not far from the school, Mr Lush pointed out that it was poisonous in all its parts except for the red flesh which encased the dark green seed, this he said was edible and gave some of us seeds to sample, it was sticky and sweet a quite a nice taste. Nowadays Health & Safety gurus would have the tree chopped down and miss the fact that there are dozens of common, wild and garden plants which are equally or more poisonous than the yew, Mr. Lush taught us which was which and as far as I am aware not a single child poisoned themselves by eating the wrong plants.

Miss Watts was in charge fourth year children in the other wooden classroom, but I was not taught by her as there was a change round of teachers and so that our class continued to be taught by Mr Lush for our fourth year, therefore, I know very little about her nor what she looked like, however, my sister was taught by her and described her as a knuckle wrapper, she would walk between the desks and wrap you across the knuckles with a ruler if you were not holding a pen correctly etc., my sister was left handed and in those days, the left handed were forced to use their right, consequently my sister came in for a good many wraps.

In my final year at Kings Road, our class was back in the main building, in the most westerly class room. The teacher for the senior class was Mrs. B, [ for the life of me I cannot remember her name, but I think it began with a ‘B’.] She lived in one of the older houses at the upper end of Mead Road, not far from the school. Mrs. B, being married, was bit motherly, I think she had a child of her own. Unlike the other female teachers, Mrs, B wore bright flowery dresses. I can’t remember how good or bad a teacher she was but I do remember I had a bit of a crush on her.

Throughout the whole of my school years, in what ever class, or teacher, there was little or no movement of children during a lesson, certainly no talking, if you needed to attract the teacher you had to put your hand up and wait for her to ask what you wanted, very often this was ‘to be excused’ to go to the toilet and if the ‘excuser’ failed to get the teachers attention quickly enough it often led to wet pants and a puddle on the floor. For a five year old the need to go to the toilet and the act itself are pretty close, on top of that the toilets themselves were outside the school and across the playground, and as already mentioned, for the boys it was a roofless building. The five year olds were the furthest from these facilities, so rain or cold weather acted as a bit of a deterrent, putting the child off from requesting to go there until it was ‘to late’, so puddles on the floor were almost an everyday occurrence amongst the younger children.

Discipline was pretty tight throughout my school days, not only at school put at home as well, there were plenty of deterrents against bad behaviour, but because these deterrents existed and you knew they would be used, they were not often needed, nevertheless, you could be made to stand in the corner of the room with your back to the class or made to stand outside the classroom, or be made to sit with your hands clasped on top of your head, the later was often used as a punishment for the whole class if any form of disruption was likely to get out of hand. Persistent naughtiness would lead to having to ‘put out your hand’ and receive a whack from a ruler or cane across the palm. Bending over to received the cane across the buttocks was used on older children at senior school, it was not as far as I remember, used on infants and juniors. Another punishment was writing lines, this was, more often than not, brought about by talking in class, which could result in having to write out one hundred times ‘I must not talk in class’. Some thought that the quickest way to do this, was to write out the first line and then under the ‘I’ you would write out all ‘I’s down the page, followed by ‘must ‘etc., nevertheless, it could still take sometime as this had to be done with the old fashioned pen and ink, with regular dips into the inkwell to recharge the nib with ink. If you rushed this work a little to fast and it was in any way messy, you could be made to do it again. This punishment was only meted out to the older children.

I only experienced school for one year at school in peacetime, I started school in September 1938 and war was declared in September 1939. but there was already a war going on in Spain where fascist leader General Franco was fighting to over throw the government. I clearly remember seeing Spanish refugees camping in a field on the eastern side of Chestnut Avenue more or less opposite what is now Asda Supermarket. My Mother, Grandma and Aunty Joan who was still unmarried at that time and possibly my sister and brother walked up to the camp to see what was happening. The refugees were camped under canvass and were wandering around aimlessly and to me as white English and never having seen but very few non English people was fascinated by there olive coloured skin and very long black hair, their clothes were also different to ours, particularly the women with their long full gypsy skirts and plaited hair. Whilst we were there a cream coloured ambulance with a red cross on its side arrived, it had a number holes in it and I was told they were bullet holes. I can only remember one non white man, before the war and he was a Sikh with a turban, not that I knew his nationality at that time, he made an annual visit to the area, selling various wares from a suitcase and was always greeted politely.