Mavis Woodhouse really started something when she kindly donated her family history material to the blog – the Foxes Row article was very popular, the Victor Haines material had us all head scratching, and the film of Newtown that was so newly relevant has had a huge number of views. Since then, we’ve had Mavis’s recollections of the mining history, the curious disappearing cottage, and a whole tranche of material from Gillian Glaiser about Deakin’s Central Stores.
Today, the thread continues with the third article in the series; Mavis recalling her school and Sunday School days.
I’m hugely grateful to Mavis and David for creating and documenting this history; it’s a wonderful thing and I can’t thank either of them enough.
I started school at Watling Street when I was four years old. Miss Garratt was head Mistress and my favourite teacher was Miss Topliss, who took the six to seven year olds. During the war the schoolchildren had to go to Brownhills Common between the school and Brownhills West and lie in a naturally-formed big hollow if the sirens went and stay there until the all-clear sounded. Eventually shelters were dug underground at the back where the children’s playground is now. At school the toilets were outside, separate for boys and girls. There was a hall for assembly (sitting in rows on the floor) according to each class and then single file to the classrooms. I was there until I was eleven years old.
I left Watling Street School at 11 and went to the senior girls school in Great Charles Street, Brownhills. I went by bike each day. I had passed my 11 plus exam but for some reason never went to Lichfield. I passed all my exams with ease and enjoyed school. I was a prefect in my final year. I left school in 1948.
Most children went to Sunday School. There were always lots of activities there. For the Sunday School Anniversary – a different day, in Spring, for each Chapel –the girls wore white dresses even during the war, mothers found ways for the white dresses, sometimes handed down to smaller children. Chapels visited each other on these special days.
One day we were having a practice for the Sunday School Anniversary and there was a violent thunder storm, and one of the ladies in the choir fainted after this huge clap of thunder. When the practice was over I ran home to find an empty house- you did not lock your door in those days- and a neighbour popped her head out of the door and said..They are both down at May Smiths. She has had a thunder bolt hit her house. So off I ran down Howdles Lane to find that the house scullery was all rubble. The roof was hanging down and the electricity meter had been blown off the wall.
During the war we entertained the wounded soldiers, also the Americans based in Lichfield, with children’s concerts at Mount Pleasant Chapel. Most summers the Park View chapel hired a coach to take us on a trip to Sutton Park or Trentham Gardens, near Stoke on Trent.
Every year the Methodist chapels had a Christmas Bazaar with home-made cake, tea cosies, knitted dolls, aprons, cushion covers etc. Mom spent weeks working on goods for the bazaar. At the back of the Sunday School room was an enormous grate with a fire burning brightly. Hanging from a hook over the fire was a huge black cauldron with peas bubbling away inside. It was sixpence a saucer of mushy peas. You put your own vinegar to taste. This was at Mount Pleasant Chapel.