As far as I can recall, I was never met from school. I found my own way home at lunchtime and after school in the afternoon, a distance of about four hundred yards. There was never any concern about child safety.
World War Two
We were issued with a gas masks at about that time. They were made of red rubber and of the Donald Duck design. We had to carry them to and from school on every occasion. Practise evacuations into the air raid shelters, complete with gas masks, were conducted quite frequently. Although there were no real daytime alarms in Leamington while I was at school.
Children at the school were from a broad band of social backgrounds intellectually, but nearly all would have had a working class income. During the war, one week per year was set aside for National Savings to help fund the war effort these weeks had names like ‘Warship’s Week’ and ‘Salute the Solider Week’. Even at that time some pupils would bring in quite a lot of money to save. I recall that one boy deposited four half crowns several times during the week, whereas I took one shilling only.
I recall the early teachers. I seemed to get on well with them, some had known and taught my sister some ten years before, which seemed to give them some expectations from me. I recognised that my numerical skills were better than average and had no difficulty in learning the tables as they were introduced, but I had relatively less interest in reading. School playground games of marbles, rounders and football (there being no sports field) did not interest me very much, while others seemed obsessed with any form of ball game. Others formed into gangs while I preferred two or three individual friends who were like minded; I record this because it seems a portent for the future that must have been visible in me from an early stage.
As there were seven classes to progress through and only six years to achieve it. It was important to jump a class in order to permit one year in the top class at 11 years of age. Many pupils never reached the top class before leaving and going on to senior Secondary Modern School. I jumped a year at about seven years old, but so did one or two of my peers, who had also moved up in September 1942 so they were still one year ahead of me. My friend and subsequent lifelong colleague was one of these boys. At about seven years, one or two boys were uplifted from the school into private education; their parents were of the shop keeping class.
Some of the families were very poor. One boy in particular often took a pram to the gas works to get coke for the home fire, before coming into school late in the morning. This appeared to be accepted at the time without any action being taken. One girl had a piece of rag, used as a handkerchief, pinned to her jumper each day.
Milk was available for each pupil in both the morning and afternoon sessions. In the early years at school it cost one halfpenny for a third of a pint bottle, normally five pence per week was charged. School dinners were also available at a cost of five pence per day. If there was surplus milk by late afternoon some boys would volunteer to drink three or four bottles. Occasionally supplies of cocoa were distributed through the school to take home.
A cold winter
In 1947 we had the coldest winter for a long time. Snow stood in the streets from mid-February to the end of March. The weather worsened the fuel crisis, as coal was in short supply and there were times when the school was closed as they had no coal supplies to keep the school warm.
In the final year at Clapham Terrace, 1947/1948, I rejoined a few pupils who had been one year ahead of me. They were spending a second year in the top class and had completed the syllabus already, leaving them a year to revise and concentrate on gaining the scholarship.
This article is part of a collection of reminiscences held at Warwickshire County Record Office. The article is under reference CR4914/10, although it’s worth noting that some of the collection is unavailable for general access.