My first school was Edgware Primary School in Edgware, Middlesex, north London
- now Edgware Infant and Nursery School. The
headmaster was a Mr Bird. I started
when I just before I was 5 in 1944 while the Second World
War was still on, and I left at 11 for my
The reception class
The first class was known as 'The Babies', and my teacher was Miss Reebold.
That was how her name sounded, but I have no idea of the spelling. Although
the main playground was at the front of the school, we 'babies' had our own
small grey stone-walled playground leading off our classroom. I always thought
how neat and friendly it looked.
My year class at Edgware Primary School: I never knew
how to spell my classmates' names, and their names here are as they sounded
to me. Left to right, where I can remember:
Back row: Christopher Cooper,
-, Harvey Selby, Michael Shiner, James Ballantyne, Stephen Newing, -, Stephen Golland,
Second from back row: -, Christopher Richardson (Kit), Roger Warrington,
David Arnold, Roy Boskin, Colin Brooks, -, -, Ian -,Tony Wilson..
Middle row: Rhona -, Janet Steele, Helen Davis,
Pamela -, -, Ann Dempsey, Brenda Mialls, Daphne -, -.
row from front: Myra -, Hazel Waterfall, -, -, Janet Saunders (Ginny), Pat Clarke (me),
Jennifer Moss, Margaret Rennie..
Front row: Susan Knapp, Ann Rogers, Corrine Less,
Jean Breedon, Susan Turner.
A recent photograph of what was Edgware Primary School, courtesy of Tony Woods.
The classroom furniture was tables and small chairs.
After the first few days when our mothers walked with us to school, we always
walked just with the other children from the road where I lived,
It never occurred to anyone that it might be dangerous. I suppose there was
some safety in numbers, and there was certainly less traffic around then.
other classes and classrooms
There were 30-40 children in a year group.
All the classrooms after the Reception year were simple large flat rooms, and the furniture was identical to
what my mother described for the early
1900s classroom: a wooden high desk and chair for the teacher, a wooden-framed
blackboard on an easel and two-seater desks for us children.
Miss Weinstock was my first teacher at Edgware Primary School and I
always remember her kindness when Mr Bird summoned her to come and
collect this very frightened little girl on her first day there, and how
she held my hand all the way to the classroom and was kindness itself in
helping me settle in to a new situation.
Sally Lawson (formerly Sally Porte)
Other teachers included Miss Ackroyd, Mrs Harmer, Miss Scutt, Mr
Dashfield, Miss Sturdy, Mr Duckett, Miss Weinstock and Mr Perrett.
To the back of the Reception playground was the caretaker's house where Mrs Milner
lived. I suppose there must have been a Mr Milner although I don't remember
him. Mrs Milner, like most women of her age, was large, as if she had had many
children, and she was always sour and bad tempered. Maybe she had good reason
to be: it was wartime and who knows who she had lost in her family.
Free school milk
It was Mrs Milner's job to wash the beakers that we drank our free school
milk from, and they always stunk of sour milk. I always tried to find a mug
that didn't smell - but so did all the children. Mrs Milner would see the children
smelling the mugs and she got very cross. Much later, the milk arrived in crates
of small 1/3 of a pint glass bottles and the children drank directly from them
using drinking straws.
School lavatories 1940s style
Another thing that stands out in my memory from Edgware Primary School is
the lavatory floors. They, like other loos of the time, were of a stone-like
composite, particles of which glistened in the light. I used to try to get to
one of the 'sparklers' to pick it up, but by the time I reached it, the light
was no longer on it and it had turned to dull grey stone. The lavatories themselves
were low, and they flushed with a pull-chain - so things in the 1940s had improved
since my mother's experience of school
lavatories in the early 1900s!
Once the war was over, Britain was gripped in even worse austerity, particularly
with food shortages. My class teacher was a Mrs Harmer, and I used to wonder
why certain children in my class were so obviously her favourites, as I couldn't
see any difference between them and me. Only later did I realise the significance
of their parents being managers of food shops.
The 11 plus exam
In my last year at Edgware Primary School, we children were prepared for
the 'scholarship', ie the '11 plus exam' as it later came to be called. All
the children in the class sat for it, and the outcome determined whether their
next school would be a grammar school or a secondary modern.
The class teacher was a man, a Mr Perrett, who was wonderful at his
job. I don't know whether he was back from the war or whether he had reason
never to have been called up for service. In that year, I was awarded the class
prize for progress - even though as far as I was concerned I didn't do anything
differently. I suppose that Mr Perrett was interesting and logical, and just
made work a matter of course. In his care I also passed the 11-plus exam to
Copthall County Grammar School,
the best grammar school in the area. I remain eternally grateful for the
excellent and free education I received there under the headship of
Miss Heys-Jones. She even bothered to summon my father to the school
when she found out that I was to leave to train as a shorthand typist. "That
girl", she told him, "deserves a university education, and there are grants
available so that she can get it." Her word was law, and to University I went.
That was the beginning of a
career that I have found stimulating and enjoyable.
This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in early to mid 20th century Britain, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times. It is © Pat Cryer.