|Peter Hunt, 2012
Alfred Street School Memories
Recollections and memories of Alfred Street Junior School
All I remember of that first day was being a little afraid as we were taken up the steep stairs to Mr. Clark’s (the headmasters) office.
After that my sister who was in the year above me, had to walk on our own all the way to school on our own.
I was in the second year and my sister was in the third year (what has become year 4 and 5 in today’s terms).
We would walk all the way up Wellingborough Road past Skoyles Newsagents (where I later had a paper round) and George Majerski’s Barber shop, then down to the where the crossing patrol was and down the Alley into Duck Street Car Park.
At that time outside the school walls was a small wooded area with a brook bubbling through it and further along the road at the junction where St Mary’s Avenue, Wellingborough Road, Duck Street, Skinners Hill and Church Street meet were the old derelict factory buildings.
I remember as a boy doing what boys do and exploring the old buildings. I remember a couple of times being dared to go into the buildings. There was a small group of us that found a way into the factory and off we went exploring. I remember it being dark and dank and quite scary. It was a dangerous thing to do but when you’re 9 or 10 you’re invincible.
Alfred Street School has of course got a long history and it was in the eyes of an 8 year old it seemed austere and ancient and due to it’s wartime history it had to be haunted.
One of the things I do remember, were the outside toilets. These toilets (located by the wall along the Duck Street end, were very basic, a brick shed with roof over. Between the roof eaves and the wall was a gap of about a foot, so the toilets were practically open air... and very cold in winter.
Being in the centre of town the school didn’t at that time have its own playing field so instead we all had to walk up through town across Rectory Road to Denfield Park to use their field. The accepted method was to get changed then being lined up in pairs we had to walk hand in hand up to the field to play sports. The only major drawback was if you needed to go to the toilet all we had were the bushes.....
There were three playgrounds at that time (long before the field was laid). The bottom playground was for 1st and 2nd years, the top playground was for the 3rd years and then there was the 'monkey cage' as we called it for 4th Years. Three times a day we got to go outside (unless it was really raining when we got to stay in doors for wet playtimes). Out we would go and play amongst other games, tag, British Bulldog, kiss-chase, marbles, conkers and sock-ball.
Sock-ball was just that a ball made out of socks. Footballs, for some reason never explained, were banned so the enterprising would gather together old socks and make a relatively small ball which we would then kick around instead of a football. Of course this was okay when it was dry, but when wet they got very wet and very heavy, and if left long enough, very smelly.
Conkers was the autumnal season game, which meant that everyone would go out conkering, which effectively meant going to Hall Park or wherever a Horse Chestnut tree could be found and throw big sticks up at the branches and get the resulting conkers down. There were some ingenious methods of trying to 'doctor' the conkers, soaking in vinegar, baking etc etc before playing. Inevitably the playground eventually looked like a war zone with shattered conkers lying around. Not to mention the hurting knuckles.
Playtimes came to an end with the ringing of the bell which was a big brass bell that a teacher would ring. We would then have to line up in our class lines and then troop back into school.
The Walk of Shame (to Mr. Curtis' room)
One thing I shall remember is “the walk of shame”. As a small boy I was unlucky enough to be found out for doing something wrong. Normally a telling off was enough but now and again if the situation warranted it then there was the trip to Mr Curtis who at the time was the deputy head teacher.
Mr Curtis occupied the last classroom in the lower part of the School. If you were sent there it meant only one thing..... A smack.... but it wasn’t just a smack it was the shame of being sent there that hurt longer than the actual smack. As a little boy to be sent there meant walking the whole length of the corridor past all the other classes and possibly past all the other children that may have been in the halls doing lessons there. That corridor seemed very long..... Once at Mr Curtis’ room you would have to knock on the door and wait to be invited in. Then you were required to tell Mr Curtis why you had been sent, which involved being overheard by his class: if you were lucky he would then take you out into the corridor and administer “The Smacking”. If you were unlucky he would administer it in front of his class.
Later as a member of 3C Mr Curtis’ class I did witness the shaming process from the other side.
Being in the 4th Year
On making it to the 4th Year I was in Mr Cox’s class. Mr Cox was an avid gardener who delighted in filling his class up with Plants and so his room became known to us as the “Plant Room”. I remember the most enormous spider plants and it was the responsibility of Mr Cox’s class to make sure they didn’t die.
Being in the 4th year meant responsibility; for some it was watering duty, for me it was Crisp monitor and Bell monitor.
Every morning break the 4th year students would run the tuck shop which at that time meant sweets and Crisps. I was designated a Crisp Monitor, which meant selling crisps. Once or twice a week we would give up our break time to man the tuck shop. I remember it being absolutely manic.
My other job was Bell Monitor. It was my job every day to go and ring the bell that notified everyone when the lessons started and ended. Though I can’t be sure I think I got the job because I had a watch, not just any watch, I had a digital watch, one that I inherited from my brother when he got a new one. It was one of the early LED watches. You pressed a button and on came the light to show the time. I thought I was the bees knees at the time.
One of the responsibilities of the 4th years came at Christmas time. Every day we would have a school assembly, we would sing a song, have a prayer and a short talk, but at Christmas we would have a carol service and the 4th years were tasked with singing the descant verse on “Oh come all ye faithful”.
Other things remembered
Every year at our Christmas assemblies I remember Mr Clark reading us a serialised version of “The Christmas Carol”. It’s a great story and gets all spooky. Every year the caretaker would be in on the story and every year he would hide in the cloakroom near the hall and wait. When the story got to the part where Scrooge meets Jacob Marley’s ghost wrapped in chains, the caretaker would jangle chains and make a big racket which would have the desired effect of making the whole school jump.
Then there was the School Dinners, rice pudding and semolina. We all remember these. I can’t eat rice pudding and semolina even to this day, thanks to our school dinners.
The main hall was turned into the cafeteria every day, long rows of tables; I think there was one for each year. At one end were the dinner ladies dishing up and at the other end were the slops bowls. At the end of the meal we would pick up our plates and bowls and troop up to the bowls, there we would have to scrape the slops and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Of course it depended on the dinner lady if you got a nice one (I remember Mrs Partridge) you might get away with having stuff left on your plate to put in the slops bowls. If you got a nasty one then there was no slops even if you didn’t like what was on offer.
Another annual event was the Maypole dancing at Hall Park. Every year for weeks we would practice maypole dancing in the hall, making those very intricate patterns. And then off we would go to Hall Park one day to present our effort to anyone who watched. We would troop up to the park and then occupy the flat lawn area just to the right of the house as you look at it. As a boy I remember the only good thing about it was that we got to go home early.
Some of the other things I remember were the desks, usually a double wooden desk with a lift up lid into which all our books and things would go when we weren’t using them. At the top was an inkwell for a little pot of ink. I remember in the 4th year finally being allowed to write with a pen instead of a pencil, alongside this was the handwriting lessons. These involved an exercise book and a school provided ink pen of the dip nib variety. This was an experience in itself and not to mention a messy one. And then there was the scratchy nature.
Perhaps one of my most liked memories is of the book club. Once a term we would have a book club leaflet that would be passed out for us to take home. This was an opportunity to get a new book. Many of my favourite reads of the time came from this book club.