My first day, Spring 1950, daffodils in jam jars all along the windowsills of Miss Thornton’s classroom. I ran away that first day, on the way back from the canteen across the road, with brother Alan (Squire), and Miss Jenkinson, in hot pursuit as I headed down the road towards the railway bridge.
Other memories include making Chinese lanterns for Christmas decorations using striped paper. Mine was coloured red and yellow! Playing with plasticine. The fire in the corner in winter. Running across the playground in winter to the lavs. Sliding down the icy slope into the Thanet Terrace corner of the playground. Fivestones, skipping, tiggy and conkers. Rounders against Kirkby Stephen and sports on the Butts. Sports days with four-leafed clovers in my plimsolls and still coming last, or nearly last, in all my races except egg and spoon and sack race. The smell of new-mown grass on the field at the beginning of the summer. Making “birds’ nests” with the freshly-cut grass. The gardens on the slopes between the playground and the field. Heidi, illustrated beautifully on the blackboard by a short-term or student teacher. Wonderful travel stories from Miss Jenkinson, an inspiration. The story of the Passion Play of Omerammergau. Cardboard stand-up sheep stuck in our exercise books when learning about New Zealand. Using those wonderful shiny, white cowry shells to help work out our sums, never dreaming I would be picking them up on the South Sea beaches of Samoa years later! Daily assemblies with Mr Chapman with hymns and Bible readings. Did we always sing “Lead Us Heavenly Father, Lead Us” every Monday and “Summer Suns are Glowing” every sunny day? Others that stick in my mind are “Morning has Broken” and “Praise my Soul the King of Heaven”. Those readings from the King James Bible certainly exposed us to vocabulary few children of this generation would understand. The visits from the book van providing us with an exciting fresh range of reading material – Worzel Gummidge was popular and Milly Molly Mandy! Those wonderful harvest festivals and nativity plays were highlights. Distribution of cans of stew – were they Tom Piper from the US? Occasional films in the canteen and those wonderful model railway displays in Mr Woodwork Ward’s room. Art with Mr Marshall and singing with Mr Hudson – “What, thoos niver hard o Dufton?” Coronation mugs. Knitting and sewing for the girls, making bank book covers and dolls bedding – moss stitch, horror of horrors, and stuffing mini pillows with kapok. Calendar making and creating decorated plaster of Paris Christmas saucers for Christmas table decorations. Turnip lantern-making for November 5. Those school dinners! Custard, taty hash and prune eating competitions with their mid-afternoon consequences. Preparing for the dreaded Eleven Plus in Miss Richardson’s class.
This mantra, I think, was one of Miss Jenkinson’s favourites and it has stuck with me for almost sixty years:
Good, better, best
Never let it rest
Till your good is better
And your better, best.
It was great to catch up with Miss Thornton, Miss Richardson and Miss Jenkinson on visits back to Appleby in recent years. I will always remember their hard work and dedication to those of us in their care.