Derwent Street School 1946-47

Derwent Street was a  girls’ primary school with the infants in one section. The backyard of Gran’s house and the school’s rear gate to the playground were only a few metres apart in the backstreet. Hand-in-hand with Mam we walked the few meters to the school playground for my first day at school. After being placed in a classroom and settling in we were allowed out into the playground so I walked back to Gran’s house.

“What are you doing here? School’s not finished yet – it’s only playtime! You’d better get back before the bell rings!” exclaimed Aunty Freda in amusement.

Many items were still rationed after the war. So to ensure that children received a healthy diet each day, we were made to drink orange juice laced with cod liver oil. We all hated it and I never got used to the smell of the oil or the sight of it floating on the surface of the orange juice. Each morning, Year One children were made to lie on coconut mats on the hard floor to rest. The teacher wandered up and down the rows to check if we had our eyes shut.

My first ‘love interest’, Barbara Bailey, tied my shoes for me each day. Thirty years later I ran into her in a pub in Redcar. She remembered me but she couldn’t remember the shoelace episodes.

During a class dancing session, we were asked to form a circle holding hands. Not one kid in the class would hold hands with Sandra Rutherford because her left hand was covered in warts. I steeled myself, stepped in, tried not to look and took her hand. I checked my hand for weeks after, expecting to be infected.

At the end of the day we were read a story from  ‘Epaminondas and his Aunt’1 while waiting to be dismissed.  The Epaminondas book, about a little black boy in America, was written by Sara Cone Bryant, a white woman and would certainly be deemed to be racist and politically incorrect these days. I just remember him as just being a small boy doing what little boys do, perhaps because I was ignorant of the situation of American black people in the 1900s.

My memory is pretty crap these days but it’s weird how we can recall random and trivial incidents.
I remember my first ‘real’ painting. It was a red van with black tyres. Miss Ellcoat was most impressed if memory serves me right.

Epaminondas and his Aunt

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