|Donna Aitken, 2007
Schooldays - Donna Jean Aitken (nee Hunt)
NEWTON ROAD JUNIOR SCHOOL
I went to Newton Road Junior School for three years -1965 to 1968. This was situated next door to the Infant School. It was full to capacity with between 33 and 47 pupils to each class. The school hall was partitioned off with sliding doors and had to be used at one end for a classroom. Therefore indoor P E was very restricted.
I was very afraid of the headmaster Mr. Dyment. He would walk around with a cane up his sleeve, and sometimes performed mass canings in the school hall with the rest of us pupils watching! He never actually caned girls, but there could always have been a first time! I think my brother had it a couple of times. On reflection corporal punishment certainly kept would-be pranksters in check and there was very little cheek given to the teachers or disrupted lessons despite the high number of pupils that each teacher had to cope with.
As in the infant school, the juniors had outside toilets across the other side of the playground. We girls were never keen to go in them alone, I was rather scared of the lagged pipes and they always seemed to be dark and dingy. My best friend Vanessa and I would go together and whilst one was in the toilet the other would put her foot under the door to hold it shut. It was also handy to have a pal there to keep an eye out for other naughty girls and stop them from standing on the next cubicle toilet and pulling the chain of your toilet whilst you were on it! I still dislike high level toilets to this day!
I also hated the canteen in Portland Road as I did not like the meals and the smell made me feel sick as I entered the entrance lobby, stale cabbage etc. The ladies always seemed to dole out large helpings if I asked for a small one. We were made to eat it all too as our parents had paid five shillings (25p) a week for the meals, so they could not be wasted! Liver was the worst and I could not stomach coconut either. I pleaded with my mother to let me go home for dinner, but of course it was not possible as I had to catch the school bus to school. We had to walk to the canteen which was a couple of streets from the school. We would go in crocodile fashion in pairs and were not allowed to talk too loudly. Once I was not paying attention to where I was walking and bumped into a large concrete lamp post. A huge lump came up on my head and I felt really sick.
The canteen was set out with long tables and wooden benches to sit on. We had plastic cups for water which were chewed round the top and were horrible to drink from. We always said grace before our meal. I couldn't wait to get the meal over with and go back to the school playground for the lovely long playtime.
My favourite memories of Newton Road Junior School are of the games in the playground. I had quite a lot of girlfriends and we loved skipping, especially if the dinnertime supervisors would twirl the long rope for us. We played two balls on the wall singing rhymes and doing various actions whilst trying to avoid dropping them. Also marbles and conker fights were favourites too. We played tag and other running games.
The girls had a separate playground to the boys as they were rough and played football etc. We girls played kites with our plastic rain hats. They always seemed to end up on the bike-shed roof and my mother was forever buying me new ones. Luckily they were not too expensive but she was puzzled by their regular disappearance. In the winter we used to make long ice slides on the playground. If we fell we ended up with grazed legs and bruises but at that time it was just considered as part of growing up and not a matter for Health and Safety measures.
At morning break time we were all given a small bottle of milk issued by the government and I used to look forward to this. The bottle tops were silver foil and we had a paper straw to push into the top. The milk crates were always kept in Miss Harris's classroom. I would dread being chosen to go and collect them for our class. She would shout at us if we made the bottles rattle. I expect it was very disruptive to her lesson but I found her very scary and was pleased she only ever took me for recorder lessons. These were held in the outbuildings at the end of the playground for obvious reasons if you have ever heard a group of children play recorders!
There was also a tuck shop and for three pence old money (about 1.25p) it was possible to buy a very large foil wrapped chocolate biscuit or a bag of potato puffs. I longed for these but my mother considered that they would spoil my dinner so I rarely had them. However, after each school holiday Mum always gave me sixpence (2.5p) for emergencies. I had always spent it in the tuck shop in the first week. It burnt a hole in my pocket as they say!
One year I was lead in a school play and I was very proud of my part. Unfortunately I came on stage the wrong side at one point and was most embarrassed.
Besides the usual lessons the girls were taught sewing and knitting whilst the boys did woodwork. I quite enjoyed knitting a tea-cozy which I gave to my gran, and sewing my mother a peg bag. We also had singing lessons and were made to contort our mouths to get the best amplification! If we were tone deaf we were told to mime instead. The only homework we used to get were a few spellings and learning the times tables off by heart.
We had an annual sports day which was held down the road at the town cricket ground. I loved these occasions as I really enjoyed sport. I also remember the cricket pavilion where we could obtain refreshments and the sense of freedom and excitement at escaping from the confines of the school. We had a netball court marked out on the playground and I loved playing wing attack or centre.
Because I had to catch the school bus to and from school I was unable to stay for any after school activities and it was difficult to even visit friends at their houses in Rushden as my parents did not have a car until I was nine. However, after that I was able to go to my friend Vanessa's house in Denton Close, Rushden for tea. It seemed strange to me that she lived within walking distance of the school. I did not really know the town that well and found it quite an adventure going up the side streets and alleyways with her, unaccompanied by any parents.
I also used to go to my "boyfriend" Stephen's home. He caught the school bus too and lived in Newton Bromswold in some cottages across the fields from the road. His uncle had a Minnie bus and would take me home in that.
I think the only time I had school friends round (other than children who lived in my road) were at my birthday parties. These were always held on the nearest Saturday to my birthday in May. Mum always made them very special for me. We had traditional party food of the time such as sandwiches, jelly and ice cream and lots of different fancy cakes as well as a birthday cake with candles of course, all homemade. Mum put special signpost labels on the sandwiches. She organized lots of games which were great fun including pass the parcel and musical chairs. The favourite game was the treasure hunt where we had to follow clues hidden around the garden until we found the treasure which was then shared out amongst everyone. This became a family tradition and I later organized treasure hunts for my own children too.
Miss Bull was my first teacher at the junior school. She was very kind and I enjoyed being in her class. I remember that she taught us joined up writing. Another teacher I liked was Mr. Cooper. I think he was quite young with new ideas and made our lessons fun. He did sometimes give the boys the slipper though if they were naughty, but I think he was quite fair and I was not afraid of him.
Various medical people came to examine us throughout our school years. We used to dread the "Nit Nurse" she would inspect our hair and any child with nits was told to stand to one side and given a letter to take home. Fortunately I was never singled out but oh the embarrassment to those who were! Then of course no one would want to sit near them and they would be subject to bullying. Our teeth were inspected by the school dentist and if treatment was needed we could go to the clinic in Rectory Road, Rushden for dental treatment. We also had vaccinations at the school for measles etc. We had to line up in alphabetical order. I always felt sorry for those at the end who would see everyone file in and out before it got to their turn.
We did not have to wear a school uniform for the junior school in those days. My mother always made most of my clothes for me and I had pretty floral dresses and skirts and hand knitted cardigans with fancy buttons. I wore my hair in bunches with coloured ribbons. One stipulation was flat shoes and girls were not allowed to wear trousers. It was so cold at the bus stop in the winter that my mother made me wear trousers under my dress and take them off when I got to school. I did have thick nylon tights but even so it was very cold at times.
In really bad weather when it had snowed heavily the bus could not get through and we would wait for ages and then go home. Oh what fun we would have on those extra days off, playing in the snow! Luckily mum only worked part time down the road at a farm house so we could go with her if necessary.
Then unexpectedly I was transferred to South End Junior School for my last year. Due to the overcrowded classes at Newton Road it was decided to send all the children who caught the school bus to the newly built school in Wymington Road.
SOUTH END JUNIOR SCHOOL
I went to South End Junior School for my last year in the autumn of 1967. This was because it was a newly built school and needed more pupils. The Newton Road school was overcrowded so all children going by the school bus, were transferred to the new school in Wymington Road, Rushden. I don't think the parents were consulted, it just happened.
I loved it at South End and thrived there. I sat with a girl called Jean Cox. She had also attended the Newton Road Schools at one time and so she recognized me and we became good friends. The building was airy and light and had modern facilities including inside toilets and a canteen. The atmosphere was so much more relaxed than at Newton Road. The teachers were strict but pleasant. For the first part of the year I was taught by Mrs. Astle, the headmaster's wife, who I remember as a very kind elderly lady. Then Mrs. Painter, a young teacher, took over the class and she was very enthusiastic and I enjoyed her lessons.
The school had its own playing field and I won several badges at the sports day. I loved playing netball and also became quite good at the high jump despite not being very tall. Happy days!
Another bonus was that the school meals were cooked on the premises. Octagonal tables were set out in the hall at lunch time and we children served ourselves.
We had two mixed playgrounds. The two lower years used one and we upper school children used the other. In the summer months we were all allowed on the school field which was much more fun. I really appreciated the freedom after the confines of the Newton Road walled playgrounds.
I remember that at all the schools I attended there was always an annual harvest festival service. My Dad would provide home grown vegetables for the event and I would struggle to school with a large marrow or something similar. The produce in the year of 1967 was given to Hinwick Hall, a home for disabled boys. My mother was a great supporter of Hinwick Hall and sold raffle tickets each year for them. We often went to their summer fete.
Mr. Hale was appointed the new headmaster. He was obviously younger and had new ideas, but I think he was received well by both the teachers and pupils. Mrs. Astle also retired at the end of the school year.
On the 8th July we children in the fourth year went out on a trip for the afternoon to the Peakirk Wildfowl Trust. It rained and my photographs did not turn out! The birds of course were all sheltering, so we did not see many.
Although I was excited at the prospect of going up to the senior school I also felt sad when I had to leave South End as it had been a very happy year for me.
In 1968, Bill Houghton took a short cine film of Country Dancing by the pupils in the playground of South End Junior School in Wymington Road, and also one of Infants doing an obstacle-type circuit course for a certificate. These were later transferred to video, and the Society was loaned a copy. The film clips have been digitised and edited for web transmission.
Click here to see small-screen highlights of the Country Dancing
Click here to see small-screen highlights of the Infants' activities