Coley School – part 2
After Miss ClemMurphy, we went into Miss Inkley’s class. She was also what you could call Victorian. Short, dumpy, with white wispy hair and rosy red apple cheeks, she too was nearing retirement but whereas Miss White had ruled with a rod of iron, Miss Inkley was the exact opposite and was always kind, although she told my mother she was driven to her wits end by our class, but said we weren’t naughty, just lively. She put it down to the fact we were war babies.
And then the bomb dropped. At the end of the school year just as the six weeks holiday was about to start, the news flashed around the street that Coley school was to become just a junior school. All the over elevens would be going to Katesgrove. I had been out the front learning how to ride a bike when I heard and was devastated. I loved the school so much, I’d cosily pictured myself staying there until it was time to leave at fourteen, just as my mum and grandfather had done. And to add insult to injury, the school leaving age was being upped to fifteen.
Our third Victorian was Miss Austin. She had taught my mother who could recollect going in fear of her icy stare if you’d done something you shouldn’t. Mum said she could see through the back of her head, and would turn around and fix the wrong doer with a gimlet stare and not say a word. She only took me for sewing, and mum was quite right. Consequently her lessons were very quiet and ordered.
I can’t remember the name of our next teacher but she seemed very young and glamorous. That class was upstairs and meant we were no longer infants. I also remember it was noisy. She didn’t have as much control over us as our previous teachers.
During that year, Mr Chandler the headmaster planned a Summer Revels based on the Elizabethan age. All the children in the school were involved to a greater or lesser degree. Some boys were given roles as soldiers and ruffians and were allowed to fight with long heavy poles. There was Sir Walter Raleigh and his cloak, and all the well-known Elizabethan goings on. It was a brilliant way to teach history.
Naturally all the girls wanted to be Queen Elizabeth as she had a big part to play and entered the proceedings to a fanfare of trumpets. I can’t remember who got the role, but some of us were wildly jealous. I was picked as a handmaiden which was a non-speaking part. That was a bummer.
Our mothers had to make our costumes. I remember coming home with a bit of paper with a very basic description and a couple of drawings of how to make our outfits. Poor mum had a real problem trying to sort out how to make a ruffed collar and what to make it out of. Thankfully the long skirt wasn’t too much of a problem but with limited funds and little access to spare material and even less access to decent design ideas, as usual in our house it was a compromise. On a hot summers day I stood in our back garden and tried on the long skirt, but we still hadn’t sorted out something Elizabethan looking for my head. Then gran came out with a circular lace doily which she fastened onto my head with hair clips and saved the day. It looked quite the part.
The Revels were to be held in the school playground in the afternoon. The weather stayed fine and the seats around the edge of the playground were filled with our mothers and grandmothers dressed in their best clothes. Not many fathers were there though because most of them were at work. Some of the older residents who’d attended Coley back in the day weren’t quite sure about this newfangled way of teaching history, but on the whole it was judged a great success.
Finally we made it to the top class with Charlie Welfare as our teacher. He was great, again one of the old school. A big, stout, red faced man, he wore thick spectacles in black frames and was Welsh [I think]. He had been there, seen it, and worn the t-shirt, consequently he was a brilliant teacher. He liked us, and we liked him. We made him laugh. He’d often have to hide his face so we wouldn’t see him grinning.
He brought out the best in us although it wasn’t a good idea to get on the wrong side of him. I swear he used to swell up and his face would get even redder if he got upset. All the lessons were a pleasure even maths which I always found difficult.
Every year, each class had a day trip. Charlie decided he’d take us to the woods at Crowthorne. A short drive in a charabanc and we arrived. It was an uncomplicated day. After we’d eaten, Charlie settled down under a convenient tree with a flask of tea and said, ‘Right then, off you go. Leave me in peace. And we did. It was another magic day.
Names I remember from that class. [I am very bad at names so apologies to those I’ve got wrong, or left out.] Dennis Wheeler [Wolseley St]: Bernard Beech: Maurice Wheeler: David Richards: Cyril Oak: Daryl Evans: Kenny Rose: Geoffrey Weller: Alan? Jenkins: William? Davies: Ann Downes: Edna Fowler: Ann Kersley: Shirley Betts: Carol Vicars: Brenda Stearman: Sandra Wheeler: [from Brook St]: Pat Gibbard: Pat Plumridge: