Here’s a great piece from reader Mike Stackhouse, who contributed so much to our knowledge of the Middleton House Club recently.
Mike went to Watling Street School, and later, Brownhills Central Boy’s School. Here he warmly and generous recalls the memories of those days, and I’m sure Mike’s recollections will chime with many who experienced a post-war childhood.
Thanks to Mike for such a great piece. Please feel free to add what you can – either comment here or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.
I started school at Watling Street Infants, in September 1949. I remember how big this building seemed to be, with it’s high wall around it (I think on two sides). There was an outside toilet block across the playground and the School Hall was entered from the playground. Before I left to go to Brownhills Central Boys school, I have a memory of a new portable classroom arriving in two or maybe even three pieces and being erected forming two classrooms plus cloakroom. We did not have a school uniform as the country was still getting over the Second World War, money and jobs were tight, austere may be more the word to use. The country owed a lot of money to America for it’s lend lease policy for warships and other war materials which they loaned to us in our fight against Germany on behalf of the rest of the world! We went on repaying this debt into the 1960s.
I have to admit, not a lot of those infant time years come to mind. I remember brother John starting, and sister Jean coming a couple of years later.
There was a difference between them starting there, and probably it’s something that still happens today. When a brother joins you in anything he’s stepping into your space where as a sister doesn’t – and elder brothers are protective towards their baby sister.
One time I got into a fight with David Hollingsworth and got well beaten, Young John would not have this and he got himself into a fight with David too. There was a Big Lorry outside the school gates and the driver kept shouting ‘come on little one’ as he watched. Eventually the fight was stopped and we went home. All the way home John hit me and told me I was a wimp, to be honest he was probably right, but, I am a thinker and certainly not a fighter. Some time later I got into trouble, when Miss Jones/Price , a teacher I never got along with and she never got along with me, started on my sister as we were lining up before going into class. She was shouting and Jean started to cry, so I broke rank and had a go at her. The result was that I was punished by being put in the starter class, which was Jeans class. I have to say that I have never felt like I did that day ever again in my life, but of course that was the intention!
The school football field was just across from the walled playground, if you could call it a field. It was a dirt track, covered with big stones. It hurt if you fell on it, but we enjoyed playing on it. You looked across the common and you could see the traffic running along the Chester road. Nowadays the trees (which were planted on the common by the old Brownhills Urban District Council) have matured and protect the school to some extent.It will certainly be warmer now with that protection than it was back then! Along by the Caretakers house, hawthorns were planted to form a hedgerow (also by Brownhills U.D.C). Which i suppose is now a fullgrown hedge. We had a garden in which we grew fruit and vegetables. Strawberries, peas, beans, carrots and potatoes too.
1953 was a big year, Everest was climbed, the Queen’s coronation took place, King George died the previous year while the Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip were abroad in Kenya. How sad the country was in 1952 at his death, him taking over from his brother when he abdicated to marry his American lady. George answered his country’s call and probably saved us from being part of Hitler’s world. As Edward appeared to lean towards his thoughts (Hitler’s that is).
My Nan died a few days before the Coronation and she wanted to see that and although she was very ill, she kept saying she had to live to see her Queen crowned. She did not make it as she passed away just 4 days before the coronation. I think that the school closed for few days to celebrate the Royal occasion, there were street parties with parades, people got dressed up in fancy dress and a good time was had by all. Bunting was made out of red, White and Blue material, anything to brighten up the place. Of course there was nowhere near as much traffic on the road, so it was easy to have a parade. There were parties at school, at church working men’s clubs, The country needed these events, as it was still getting over the War. The festivities changed the atmosphere in the country, at least for a few months, we were a happy nation and were very proud of our Royal Family.
Every child in the country received a Bronze medal – I still have mine today. I am not sure if adults received a special silver crown piece or whether they were able to buy them. I do know that we owned one, it was worth 5 shillings – 25p today’s money. I would guess that it was about the equivalent of a tenner today. After all, the average age was only around 5-7 pounds per week.
History now points out that Everest was in fact climbed a few days before the coronation, but the government decided to release the news so that it looked as if they (Sherpa Tensing and Sir Edmund Hillary) had reached the summit as the coronation was taking place.
We returned to school, after all the parties, and the family had to bury nan. The school were notified of her death and when the funeral was to be. Unfortunately, it was the school break (I think lunch break but it may have been another) and because I had a feeling that they would be passing so I nipped out of school and stood by the gates and saw them pass on the way to Saint James Church for the service. Nan is buried in the Churchyard at the back of the church hall, She was buried right by the wall.
Later on that year the whole of the school, along with all of the other schools, went along to The Regent Cinema on the High street, to a special showing in full colour of the Queens Coronation, I can not remember, but I think it was just before we broke up for summer.
However we may have gone in September. We all lined up in the playground, and we set off, a class at a time, with a teacher watching each group down the Parade, past Holland Park, turn left, past the council house and The Central boys, on the right. over the railway bridge and down the High Street to the Post Office and crossed the road to the Pictures (Cinema).
What an atmosphere, inside filled with excitement, we all received an ice-cream and settled down to watch the film. It was electric, there were times which you could hear a pin drop, there were times when we were all cheering and screaming, especially the ride back to Buckingham Palace in the Gold Coach.
We were so thrilled after having watched the film, but we were reasonably well behaved on the way back to school, and of course the talk for the rest of the day was about the film. We had to write about the film and the royal family in our text books.
At this time, televisions were not very common. So you only had the radio for the news and entertainment. The newspapers were printed with Gold pictures and words and they looked really expensive, especially to us kids. About 2 years later, we all went back to the cinema, to watch a special showing of the Ten Commandments a film by the Big Man in film at that time, Cecil B. DeMille. I have watched this film on Television since as it gets aired occasionally, but it is so much better up there on the big screen.
Just a few years later the cinema was to be closed and pulled down and replaced by shops. It stood roundabout where Downes Newsagents is today.
In 1955/56 I moved up to Central Boys school, and started another part of the education for life!
The Central’s Headmaster, was Mr Wright, he was an old fashioned head, he believed in the cane and slipper (really a plimsoll). Teachers included Mr. Billy Hazard, Mr. Danny Marklew, Taff Price (Gym) ,Phyllis Taylor (English Literature), Gertie (Music teacher) she was the person who formed the school choir, and took us to a big competition at either Stoke or Stafford Town Hall. We didn’t win, but had a good time. That first competition was remembered for the amount of rain that fell that evening.
Of course the man who eventually became the head Mr Massey. He was my favourite teacher from that time. My favourite teacher from Watling St, was Miss Topliss, I think that she was probably every child’s favourite teacher there, for those times she was awesome. Like Mr Massey later, they both really cared about every child that went through their care. I remember how much Mr. Massey tried to get his pupils who had that something gift to become Teachers when they left school, at the very least two of our year became teachers. I was so pleased when he became Head as he had already been passed over for the position, what a mistake that was!