News: “Over the graves of the Druids and under the wreck of Rome,
Rudely but surely they bedded the plinth of the days to come.
Behind the feet of the Legions and before the Norseman’s ire
Rudely but greatly begat they the framing of State and Shire
Rudely but deeply they laboured, and their labour stand till now.
If we trace on ancient headlands the twist of their eight-ox plough.”

-Rudyard Kipling
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Author Topic: From then to Now  (Read 21664 times)

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2014, 20:49:43 »
This is turning out to be a well balanced board, which is presenting a real social commentary. Ann's delightful first episode is an excellent read. Congratulations, Ann, looking forward to the next episode.

Offline ann

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2014, 14:29:13 »
Thanks for the encouragement.  Guess I will be stuck now with 'Little Ann'.
Incidentally the photo of my dad at Paines should not have been included here. Sorry.  Had hoped to put the other photos where relevant amid the write up but not got it right yet.


  • Guest
Re: From then to Now
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2014, 14:20:23 »
Well written Little Ann, I imagine busyglen will thoroughly enjoy reading it.

Fancy not liking proper milk, it was good that we had to drink it because it made us good and healthy bones and tasted so much better than the semi-skimmed rubbish that we tend to drink these days.

Offline ann

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From then to Now
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2014, 14:08:49 »
I have really enjoyed reading this thread so thought I might give it a go myself.  Where to begin though.  At the very beginning I suppose.

My parents were relatively elderly when they had me. They had been married some10 years before I was born. According to mum I was a much wanted baby so I am not sure why they waited so long for me to come along. Anyway, whatever the reason they waited and I was conceived during August bank holiday at Bournemouth. Mum said I had been due in March and was so overdue that she was taken for some bumpy bus rides to try and bring labour on (no such thing as inducing back then).

I finally arrived at the end of April 1947 on cup final Saturday. It was evidently a really warm sunny day. A contrast to the previous harsh winter when it had been so cold the water taps in the houses in Lancelot Avenue where we lived were frozen. There was a standby pipe in the middle of the road and Mum told me how she had to put dad’s old army socks on over her boots so she didn’t slip and go and fill up a bucket with water. 

A phone call had informed my maternal grandmother of my arrival and she came over from Essex that same afternoon with my aunt to see us. Some journey on public transport.  My dad was rung at work but he would not have got home until after work to see us both.  In those days maternity leave was unheard of and the men had to go about their normal tasks as usual.  My father worked for W Paine’s & Co, men’s outfitters and pawn brokers at their branch in Strood, on the corner of Station Road. (More about this later).

Because they had been married for a number of years before I was born they must have saved a little as mum had a private doctor for her confinement. It was 1947 and a year before the birth of the National Health Service. It turned out that this was just as well as she had a very difficult time giving birth to me and ended up having to have a forceps delivery. The doctor in attendance was Dr Gee from Rochester (more of him later). She was ill for a long time afterwards and due to the forceps delivery I was cut on left side of my forehead and have the scar to this day.

My very first memories centre on the beginning of 1950. I had been playing dolly’s washday and mum had tied a small piece of string between the leg of a chair and the leg of the dining table for a washing line.  I had tripped over this and fell awkwardly.  I had actually fractured my femur and spent quite a time in hospital, much lying on my back with my leg up in traction.  Things were very different back then. It was not felt to be good for parents to be with their children as it would upset them! So upon admission to St Barts in Rochester a porter took me from my mother’s arms screaming, and I did not see her until the time came for her to bring me home. I remember being in St Barts in the children’s ward and being in a cot with sides. There was a boy in the next bed and whether his name was Peter, or I have the memory because I can recall having a book there, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit I do not know.  I used to love to sniff books (still do) and I can recall even now that smell.  I also remember being told off by a rather scary nurse in a ‘fancy’ hat because I had had an accident in the bed. My other memory of St Barts is being wheeled down a long winding corridor and seeing a nurse sitting astride and riding a rocking horse. She had on a Dutch bonnet style white cap.  I was probably hallucinating following having had my leg set.

I was then moved to St Williams Hospital, up Delce Road, I do not know why, but I much preferred my stay there. The nurses were much nicer. They wore either pink and white or green and white striped dresses. I was put in the ladies ward. I don’t know if they didn’t have a children’s ward there or why I had been moved in the first place. But of course I got spoilt rotten by the ladies. I also used to get special treats from the nurses too. They knew I had a fondness for sugar lumps so would often sneak one through the servery to me.  I had no visitors all the time I was in either hospital and when it was time for me to go home, cried when my mother came to collect me.  I truly felt I had been abandoned. Little did I know that mum and dad, and my gran and aunts all used to come up to the hospital but were only allowed to look in at me in the ward through a window. How very hard that must have for my mum.

I think it was around Easter time I came home. What sticks in my mind is being in a taxi sitting on mums knee and it driving slowly down Lancelot Avenue. (Quite an event, using a taxi back then). Several neighbours were out in the street waving as we arrived home.  I had to be carried in as I had forgotten how to walk. There waiting for me inside was a silver cross dolls pram in maroon. A present from an aunt bought to help me to learn to walk again. The tablecloth at lunchtime had yellow flowers embroidered by my aunt. (Strange the things that stick in ones mind).   I can still remember so many of our old neighbours from back then,-  names and faces.  Today however I would be hard pushed to name more than a couple in my cul-de-sac.  People were much more friendly back then, and would chat and help each other out, and of course most women were at home anyway during the day.

From a very young age I desperately wanted to go to school and pestered my mum. So she sent me to a kindergarten school in Cuxton Road, Strood. It was a private school run by a Miss Crockford.  She was a very tall, thin lady with white short hair curled up at the bottom. I started there two weeks before I was 4 in 1951. It was in a large 3 storey terraced house (virtually opposite where you come up from Tesco’s onto Cuxton Road).

It was for pre-school children so I suppose you would call it a nursery school. But very different from what they are like today. We did lessons. Arithmetic and writing and reading and the classroom was in the basement. We used nib pens and ink (imagine that now with under 5’s) I can remember I had progressed to ‘joined up writing’ by the time I left. There was no playground, only a garden in the back but I don’t recall we had a playtime.  Lunchtime we had to go home and then return again in the afternoon for further lessons.  On a Friday afternoon there were no formal lessons and we were given either shells or tiles with letters on to play with. I also did sewing although I cannot really remember this, but still have this little miniature apron I made whilst there. I suppose it was a kind of sampler, with different stitches.  They boys would have done something different.
 We would make calendars to take home as presents. Miss Crockford would draw a picture on a large piece of paper and we would paint it in using water colours.  A small calendar booklet would then be attached to the bottom.  She was quite artistic and at Christmas if you had done a good piece of work she would draw a holly twig in green ink with bright red berries on it.  This was greatly coveted.

I think it was Janet and John books we had to read, and these could be bought in the shop opposite (the building is still there but is now part of the garage Wrights). It also sold prams. I left there in March 1953, the day that my cousin David was born.  Dad and my uncle came to collect me as mum had gone to be with my auntie Kath in her confinement over in Grays in Essex. There was really thick fog and it was so bad that no ferries were operating between Gravesend and Tilbury at all and so we got a taxi and went round to relatives in Augustine Road, Gravesend for the night. I remember we all slept in a large very high up bed. It had a brass frame and really downy mattress and was so high I had to be lifted into it.

I remember starting my first day at the infant school in Elaine Avenue School and how surprised I was that there were toys to play with – I remember a dolls house. I had been so used to sitting doing sums and writing and it seemed very strange.

I was a petite child and often called ‘little Ann’, and I suppose was the teachers pet.  My infant teacher Miss Lipton had me as her bridesmaid. I remember visiting her at Upchurch where she lived with her mother, obviously to do my dress fitting. We had currant bread with butter on to eat and I thought it really strange.  My bridesmaid dress was blue. Strangely on the same day as I was her bridesmaid I was also bridesmaid for a second time in the afternoon to my cousin over in Essex. This time I wore peach. I wonder how we fitted it all in.  There was only mum and I (dad had to work) and we had to travel from Strood to Gillingham in the morning and then over to Essex in the afternoon – all on public transport.  I was a bridesmaid on two other occasions.  Once to my aunt when I wore lemon, and the other was to a cousin and this time I wore blue. I remember it was cold and so we  had a white fur cape and a white fur muff. I guess I was really lucky to be a bridesmaid so many times, it was every young girls dream to be one.

I can remember couple a of other teachers during my time at Elaine. There was Mr Fenner, quite a short teacher with large bushy eyebrows that turned up at the outside.  I remember he did a pastel drawing of me and I kept it for years – wish I still had it! I remember him giving the slipper to a boy who had upset one of the lady teachers and made her cry, Miss Bloomfield. Another teacher I recall was Mr. Harmer who came from Chalk.

Something that was compulsory for children of my generation was school milk.  Full cream (no skimmed or semi skimmed then) and I hated it.  The bottles would be brought into the classroom in a large metal crate, holes punctured through the metal foil caps and straws inserted.  There was not a choice, you had to drink it.  Likewise school dinners.  You had what was dished up to you, and you had to clear your plate.  I was lucky as I went home each lunchtime and had a mid day meal cooked by mum as it was not far to walk. But back then children weren’t driven to school, they walked.  Most families were lucky if they even had a car, and most mothers didn’t even know how to drive (unlike the 4 x 4 brigades of today).

Aged 11 I sat the 11 plus test.  In the area back then the girls only had the option of passing and going to grammar or failing and going to the secondary modern.  Then at 13 you could take another exam to try and get into the technical high school, this taught a secretarial course.  I failed the 11 plus and so went to Chapter Road School for girls in Cliffe Road for a couple of years. School uniform was navy, and in the summer we wore a navy check full skirt.  We also had to wear a tie.  I can recall that there were school dances held there, really the only place to go for teenagers of an evening, apart from youth clubs.  We had a very strict French teacher and my knowledge of the language (what little there is) was learnt from the couple of years with her.  One day during lesson she suddenly grabbed the desk and began to bleed from the mouth and then collapsed on the floor. You can imagine the hysteria of a lot of young girls (the teacher survived it was a burst ulcer).  I also recall the needlework teacher who had whiskers.  She would throw chalk at you and spit when she spoke.  When it was the last day of term, those leaving would bring into school eggs and flour and throw them at each other in the playground.

I took the technical exam at 13 and passed and so I then went to Medway Technical High School for Girls – Fort Pitt. This was what I wanted to do, become a secretary. I had long got past the childish wish of wanting to work in a sweet shop, and mum knew her dream of me becoming a hairdresser was not going to happen either.  The headmistress at this time was Miss Sackett.

Fort Pitt has formerly been used as a hospital during the Crimea War. I recall some of the classrooms with high skylights (theatre rooms) and also the hospital floors – where the walls and floor met in a curve. In the long corridors upstairs we ate our school dinners.  Separate from the main building was the Crimea block. This was the domestic science block where we did our cooking. Formerly it had been the building where the mentally insane patients were treated.  I do not recall much enjoyment from the cookery classes.  Any enjoyment was outweighed by the cleaning at the end.  Large wooden cooking blocks which we had to scrub down after each lesson. I also recall that I never trusted the teachers ingredients, I always felt they scrimped on them.  Two dishes come to mind illustrating this. The first was apple crumble.  I decided to double the sugar quantity – poor dad couldn’t eat it because it was so sweet. The other disaster – blatantly visible to the teacher, concerned the icing of a cake.  Again I felt the amount given was insufficient. This time it was colouring of the icing, blue.  Ever seen an iced cake in navy! I was severely reprimanded for that misdemeanour.

What I still find puzzling is some of the subjects we had to drop to accommodate the secretarial course.  This meant I did commerce, accounts, shorthand and typing, and the two I vividly recall dropping were science, i.e. physics, chemistry etc, and French!  It was a very strict dress code there.  Again navy, and a small skull like cap/hat.  The fashion when I was there was for beehive hairstyles. You can imagine it was like a pea sitting on top, held by pins to keep on.  If you were caught outside of school by prefects incorrectly dressed (i.e. no hat, scarf over your head etc) you would be reported.  Nylons were worn and of course laddered quite often and easily. The trick to stop the run would be to put some nail varnish at the top of it.  It worked but you can imagine it did not look very good.  The new headmistress (Miss Elliot) brought in a new rule. No nylons, only thick Lyle stockings like our grandmothers wore.  We rebelled, started a petition and even got a mention in the local paper.  Of course we didn’t win.  The problem with them was that if you were short and small like me it didn’t stretch the Lyle at all and looked even thicker than on some of the larger girls. (Nora Batty style!)

I was quite well behaved I think, but there was one teacher I was constantly rude to and would chatter in class. This was Miss Cook who taught English. Many, many years later I met up with her at an Adult Education Class, and she was such a sweet lady. I bitterly regretted how I had treated her back then.  I seem to recall that she had written a book on the history of the church at Meopham, St Johns.

Anyway, back to bad behaviour at the Tech!  There was a desk and chair situated near the headmistresses study and this is where you would be sent to work if you had misbehaved in class.  The fear always was that she would come out of the room and see you. There were some teachers, who I got on well with, and one or two that put fear into most of the girls.  Miss Green who taught maths and accounts fell into this category.  She was also a Catholic and when it was RE, the Catholic girls had to go to study with her.
One really nice teacher was Mrs Chatsworth who taught shorthand and typing.  Typing was done on old manual keyboards.  Mistakes had to be erased with special rubbers and often caused holes in the paper.  Obviously we had to learn to touch type and if caught looking at the keyboard a guard would be put over it.  If a table needed to be done, or columns etc, then we had to work out using tabulation where each should begin.  Any lines or borders would then be drawn in red ink.  Again this could easily mess up a piece of work with a careless smudge.    We had to sit exams for both subjects, and speed as well as accuracy was required.  I can recall that the course was also for 2 years and so whilst staying on at school until 16 it meant that if you wanted to then do GCSE’s you had to stay on longer.

More to follow.


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