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Jack Reed's Schooldays

Barwicker No 9 March 1988

Born in Potterton Lane on 16 November 1912, I started school when I was three years old. Then I was put into the babies class where I soon learnt to read and write. (Infant prodigy? No! I just loved school and tried hard.)

The school was divided into three classrooms:

1. Infants and Standard I, presided over by Miss Handcliffe (a lovable middle-aged spinster) with an infant helper.
Married women were not employed as teachers; ladies had to resign on marriage. Most of the ladies were not trained; pupil teachers first and then uncertificated teachers.

My memories of the earliest years are few. On Friday afternoons, Miss Handcliffe handed out to the well-behaved and the also-rans, small star-shaped biscuits, each having a dab of icing in the centre. This was a treat in 1917.

We sat in rows, learnt our two times table and a few hymns, and listened to stories. We had to sit with our arms folded on the desk and our forefingers of our right hands over our lips. If we wanted attention, we uttered "Um! Um! Um!". At playtimes we went onto the girls' playground.

In Miss Handcliffe's room, we always used slates and slate pencils. Most of the boys, in the period 1917-20, wore home-made jerseys and the easiest way of cleaning the slates was to rub your sleeve over them. Half the children did not use handkerchiefs so the top of the sleeve cleaned your nose and the bottom the slate. I believe the girls (and some of the boys) were a little more fastidious.

However, most children came with a clean jersey most Mondays. Many were poor. If you began to eat an apple, someone would say "Save us the core!" and then "Leave some of it!". I was lucky and often had my apple at break-time.

II. This classroom was presided over by Miss Grimshaw and contained Standards 2,3 and 4.
She worked us hard. We learnt our 3-12 tables over the three years with her.

Whatever she said was "Gospel Truth". I remember her telling us of the Hundred Years War with France, which she said we won. Aged eight, I could not understand this. At the beginning of the war, the English ruled all France. By the end we had only Calais left. I was put in my place and told that the English had won the war - "Don't argue!".

Miss Grimshaw was religious (Church of England) and she knocked her beliefs into us at the age of 6½ - 10. She believed in the Divine Right of Kings. Our King was appointed by God and we must never say or do anything against him nor against any of his lords and ladies to whom we should all make obeisance. We had to learn by heart the C. of E. creed in which were the following words "I believe, etc .... I must be cop-tent with my station in life unto which it has pleased God to call me". What a load of cobblers! (There are photographs of Miss Grimshaw and the Headmaster, Mr Booth, in "Bygone Barwick". Editor)

We sang grace at the beginning of each afternoon session conducted by Mr Booth, the Headmaster,who was hard of hearing. He stood in the small door of the screen dividing him from Miss Grimshaw. We were never told the words and had to pick them up. For about three years, I sang "For tewrissee we bless etc.". The real words sung to a very fast tune were "For what we have received .. " Father heard Alfred, my brother, when he was five singing a grace which ended "the bread of life sent down from Heaven". Alf sang " the red of mice sent .. ". Father loved to hear him sing this and I don't think corrected him. Whilst Miss Grimshaw taught needlework to the girls, Mr Booth taught us drawing using HB pencils, which he kept sharp using his penknife.

III. The Headmaster, Mr Arthur Booth's Room.
To even out numbers, a few of us were promoted early to Mr Booth's room. Here discipline was strict. Mr Booth used to walk the local footpaths in autumn and cut his own canes. He kept a store of these in his home at the schoolhouse. We had a friend in the widow Mrs Robshaw, the school caretaker, who always burnt any canes left out after school, but Arthur Booth never ran short of his much used weapon.

At two minutes to nine prompt, he came into school, pulled on the pole which rang the bell, picked up his cane, came out through the girls' entrance and smacked any boy's behind or legs if he was still in the playground. He then marched us in. The first boy held the door and when the lines were cleared, he shut it with him on the inside.

Then we had prayers and a hymn conducted by the Headteacher standing in the doorway of the screen. "Open the door!" and in came the late boys. "Hold out your hand!" He walked down the row and gave each boy a bit of stick. He went back up the row and asked each one why he was late. If he was not satisfied with the answer, the boy got another taste. Then, "Come out all those who were absent yesterday!" If Mr Booth was not satisfied with your reason, you got one or two strokes. So if you were absent yesterday and late today, you could start the day with four taps of the cane.

The boys' urinal was a piece of tarred wall with a step up about a yard from it. Nearly all the boys stood on the step to urinate hence the tar was seldom wet. The really clever ones could pee over the wall. Mr Booth used to creep round and belt any he found standing on the step.

Inevitably, Mr Booth crept round at the right/wrong moment and received from over the wall some of the contents of a boy's bladder. There was hell to play and after that, when contests took place, there was always a look-out.

Four subjects were Mr Booth's forte: arithmetic, writing, drawing and singing. All our songs were from the National Song Book, which contained the nineteenth century songs of Britain and Ireland. Our days did not change much. Every morning, scripture for 20 minutes, then arithmetic until 10- 45, break until 11- 00 and then writing. Most afternoons we had an hour of drawing or the boys did a bit of gardening.

Arithmetic, known as sums, was strict - no talking! - and when you got your five sums right you were sent out to play in the yard. Regretfully, I wasted many a 20 minutes after doing my sums; I could always get them right. When Mr Booth found a great improvement in the number of sums the class was getting right, I had to leave my book on his desk and hence the copying stopped. I used to feel sorry for some of my peers who got the stick for each sum wrong.

The classrooms were heated by tortoise stoves and in cold weather we often started the day in a temperature in the low forties. We were sometimes allowed to keep our coats on (some did not have a coat) and on the coldest mornings we would be made to stand up and do "physical jerks" to warm up. I've seen girls cry because of the cold. The stoves were never kept on all night.

In both Miss Grimshaw's and Mr Booth's classes history started at 1066. We had to learn by heart the sovereigns up to Queen Victoria and their dates. I can still repeat 1066- 1087, 1087-1100, 1100-1135, 1135-1137, etc. We learnt something of the wars (which we always won!) and a lot about our civil wars (which the Yorkists won!).

We knew more about our Glorious Empire "on which the Sun never set" than we did about our coalmines, industries, plains and crops. We learnt by heart every promontory and bay around England (not Wales or Scotland!) and about our mountains, and Heaven help you if you could not give the names of the rivers which flowed into the Yorkshire Ouse.

About once every three years, Mr Booth organised a day trip to York. It cost 3/3d, which was split up as follows: 2/- fare (one of my father's wagonettes), 1/- tea and 3d for lemonade when we stopped for a break at The Wild Man. It was a marvellous day out, spoilt over the next few weeks when we had to write compositions on (a) The Walls, (b) The Minster, (c) The Shambles, including Whipmawhopmagate, (d) The Guildhall.

I was awarded a County Minor Scholarship in 1924 and started at the Central High School in Leeds in the September of that year. Mr Booth retired in 1925 and was followed by Gilbert Ashworth, who was not appreciated by parents because of his local connections. He played the violin, and my brother and many others learnt to sing the sonnets of Shakespeare of which I had never heard.



The writer of the above article is well qualified to comment on his own schooling as he became a headmaster himself. Jack Reed trained at St. John's College in York and took up his first permanent teaching post in Sherborne, Dorset, in 1938. During the war he was commissioned as a pilot, flying Wellingtons on anti-submarine patrol and piloting flying boats to and from America. After the war, he returned to Sherborne and became deputy Head in 1949. After a spell of four years in charge of a school in Devon, he was apppointed Head of Port way Junior School in Andover, Hampshire, where he now lives after retiring in 1974.

During his dynamic and unconventional leadership, the school acquired a heated swimming pool, a large pet garden, an unusual adventure playground, a new school library and a large teachers' staff room.

His activities were not confined to school. He became a magistrate and Chairman of the Winchester Prison Board of Visitors. He had to retire from these activities at the age of 70 and now he says, "apart from washing up the breakfast dishes and doing all the shopping, I do nowt!" (Except for writing articles for "The Barwicker", of course! Editor)

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