Allison Parkes (Lee), 1970s

St. Kenelm's C.E. Primary School, Romsley
Centenary Celebrations
1915 - 2015

Memories of Mrs Allison Parkes (nee Lee) - Pupil from 1969 to 1975

I spent my entire childhood in Romsley, only leaving to move to Halesowen when I married the boy who lived just across the road from where my parents still live today. We now live in London. My years at St Kenelm's were from 1969 to 1975. My teachers were, in order from age 5 - Mrs Thomson, Mrs Detheridge, Mrs Chiverton, Mrs Dunne, Mr Carter and Mr Patient.

Mrs Thomson

My first experience of education ("I've been a good girl and attended for a whole week now, Mum, I don't have to go again, do I?!") provokes memories of "not being entirely sure why it was necessary to go to school, when I was perfectly happy at home!" I've thought about this since – I am by nature, something of an introvert, I value quiet and space and found the noise and numbers of people around me rather disconcerting and somewhat irritating!

Mrs Thomson was a jolly teacher, I can still see her pretty smiling face & remember the little book she allowed me to keep as she was so pleased with my reading – it was called "The Dog and The Cat!" My next reading books were the "Peter and Jane" series – they were perfectly behaved children who always looked very clean and tidy, unlike my friends and I who spent our break times rolling down the bank on the school field.

I remember the small fat bottles of milk we used to have mid morning, which were not so nice in summer when the milk got rather warm. In winter, the milk would freeze and expand out of the top of the bottle, pushing off the foil cap. There was no 'health and safety rule' to stop us from spooning the frozen milk into our mouths using the bottle tops!!

In the classroom there were small coloured cubes, which plugged into one another and were used for counting and a type writer-like machine through which you could run a card with a word written on it. The machine spoke the word – if you dragged the card through very slowly, the machine said the word in a long drawly voice, which we found hilarious!

There was a reading corner, with cushions & occasionally a child would be found curled up asleep. The playhouse was a favourite area, full of domestic bits & pieces. I could write my own name and address when I started school and remember feeling rather disdainful of those children who could not!!

I remember the following little song from this time, which I taught my three nieces in turn – "Here comes the caterpillar crawling up the ridge, with a hump and a bump like a hump back bridge. See how he puts his feet down carefully on his course, with a lilt and a tilt, like a rocking horse!"

Mrs Detheridge

A firm but very fair teacher, I recall. Mrs D attempted to teach me to sew – we were making an apron and I carefully stitched the pocket on, only to find I had also sewn it onto my school skirt – I decided I hated sewing there and then; a sentiment that has never really left me, although I did challenge myself years later just to prove a point and bought a sewing machine and made cushion covers!! (I have now sold the machine.)

We did lots of craft work at this age – endless paper mache models - balloons covered in wet newspaper, allowed to dry, then painted with a face, and models of ships made from old cereal boxes painted in watery paint, using plastic water pots with lids – the paint always peeled off and made a horrible mess in mum's kitchen!

I remember making a felt book mark, with a cat's face cut out and stitched at either end, buttons for eyes, whiskers sewn on – the one face was quite good, the other not so, (sewing again!!). This bookmark was a Christmas present; we always seemed to make gifts for our parents at Xmas, Easter and for Mother's Day.

I loved colouring (still do!!) and I remember with huge affection the small black and white "road safety" cards that we were given pre-Christmas and which were printed with Tufty the Squirrel and friends explaining how to safely cross the road on one side and an appropriate Xmas picture on the other – I still have a sense of sitting at the low tables, colouring in my card, carefully keeping within the lines.

I remember the warmth and quiet hub-bub of the classroom with its paper chain Xmas decorations (I can still make a pretty good Xmas lantern from this time!) and a memory of it snowing outside – lovely!

Mrs Chiverton

Another great teacher, who I don't believe was at the school for very long. I remember the nature table in her classroom and a tank full of breeding gerbils! I also remember becoming the "Budgie Monitor!" (Along with my best friend, Claire Forrester).

The school had three Budgies at this time, kept in individual cages in three class rooms – Joey (Blue & Grey), Twinkle (Bright Blue & White), & Beauty (Yellow) - we took our duties very seriously, taking the budgies home during the school holidays (Thanks mum!).

On one occasion we were clearing out the cages, a duty which was being carried out inside a small stationery room (just off the main corridor) where paper and new exercise books (grey/blue/red covers, with faint blue lines across the paper inside), etc. were stacked on the floor to ceiling shelves. We decided the birds deserved some freedom and exercise, which the budgies enjoyed to such an extent that they refused to return to their cages and sat tweeting on the very top shelf. I have a clear memory of a very cross Mr Patient being called upon, during lunch hour, to scale the shelves to recapture the birds! On that occasion we were merely reprimanded and were not sent to see Mr Ruddick the headmaster – this was the ultimate punishment, to be avoided at all costs!

Punishment

Perhaps this is a good time to mention "punishment." The worst offenders were sent to see Mr. Ruddick and there was talk of "a cane being used" – I've no idea if this was true, but if the door to Mr. Ruddick's office was open, we'd peer inside to see if we could spot "the cane!"

A lesser punishment, but one also dreaded for the shame it imposed on the offender, was being made to "stand out." This involved standing in the main corridor outside Mr Ruddick's office, either facing outward or facing the wall.

You "stood out" during a break time or over the lunch time period, or for as long as the teacher thought a suitable time. The agony was not only in missing a precious play period, but in having everyone walk past knowing you had been misbehaving!

I suffered this indignity only once, along with my now sister-in-law! We were caught playing on a set of bars, before the 9am bell (and were doing so as we'd seen other children doing like-wise and thought it was ok). The bars were out of bounds, however, as no member of staff was on duty should we have fallen.

We were caught by Mrs Twigg and made to "stand out" to await Mr Ruddick and our fate! We were even told to face the wall "as no-one would want to see our faces!!" I still remember the feeling of embarrassment and the sense of injustice from over 40 years ago (I was about seven). I had put my arm round my six year old friend, when Mr Ruddick appeared and asked why we were there; we tearfully explained and without a word he sent us off to our class rooms – phew!!

Mrs Dunne

This teacher had a reputation of being a very strict and rather cross lady. I can credit her with instilling neatness into me in all things – if only to avoid being thoroughly scolded! Our individual plastic trays, containing our reading and work books, ruler, pencils, etc. would be inspected every week to ensure they were tidy.

Mrs Dunne did not give praise lightly so when she wrote "neat work" under my sums, over which I had taken some care – I was thrilled and greatly valued the "house point" I was given. We were divided across the class into four teams (houses), red, green, yellow & blue and any "house points" (sticky stars) were carefully placed on a large piece of card under your team's name. I presume there was meant to be a prize for the team with the most stars at the term end, however this was not to be – it was noticed that one team was gaining stars at a very rapid rate, due to someone stealing them from Mrs Dunne's desk draw!

It was assumed that we all knew who was the culprit and the whole class was made to miss a play time. We all had our suspicions as to which naughty boy it was, but no one was going to tell tales – after this the house point chart disappeared!

Mr Carter

George Carter arrived at the school just in time for my 5th year. The school was by now very full, when we went to assembly each morning, the whole of the hall was filled, youngest children at the front & the top classes at the back against the wall.

Mr Carter brought with him a huge dose of fun and laughter and music. He was kind and warm, full of jokes and a very good pianist. With Mr Carter we produced an end of term school musical "The Grandfather Clock," we read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and acted out the best bits of each chapter and school assemblies were filled with wonderful tunes and singing which George led with gusto – I particularly remember the hymn "Here In the Country's Heart..." which for me summed up what Romsley is all about.

At one end of term Assembly, various children had entertained the school with poems and plays, etc. and we ended with a comedy sketch and Mrs Detheridge dancing with Mr Patient, and Mr Carter bashing out the melody at top speed so Mrs D lost her spectacles as she was whirled round and about!!

Exercise and Sports Day

PE, or physical education, was performed outside if the weather allowed and involved using hoops and throwing small beanbags and balls. Inside PE, was performed in your vest and navy blue school knickers, if you were a girl, and was always more fun as we used the equipment in the hall – a big old vaulting horse, lots of mats on which to forward roll and do hand stands and the vertical bars attached to the walls. There were also ropes which pulled out across the hall on a pulley system – I could climb up these ropes to ceiling height.

I always feel we were very lucky to have such a beautiful school field and play ground and spent many happy hours hanging upside down on the climbing frames; these were situated over concrete slabs!

We went out to play in all but the very worst weather and played all the old favourites – Tig & On, Kiss Chase, etc. Certain games seemed to have definite seasons – the Conker season being the most obvious but there was also a Marble season – I was pretty good with my "Kingies & Queenies" (larger marbles) and gained quite a collection won from various local boys – these competitions would often extend to being played on the walk home from school – quite a skill, with Romsley being on a hill!

Skipping was also popular using one long rope and lots of girls skipping together singing rhymes such as "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear dressed in Green, Sent a letter to the Queen, Queen didn't like it, sent to the King, King said close your eyes and count to 16....which we did, eyes shut tight, trusting that whoever was turning the rope wouldn't speed up! There was also French Skipping using elastic looped round two girls' ankles and held taut. Various jumps over and around the elastic were made, and when a set had been completed successfully, the height of the elastic was raised.

In the summer we spent time making daisy chains on the field and practising for Sports' Day – a very important event in the school year. The races included egg and spoon or potato and spoon race – I remember one year when some of the boys ate their potatoes and another where a boy won by holding his potato onto the spoon with his finger, much to our disgust! There was also the sack race and a wheelbarrow race, which usually ended in a heap of tousled heads and limbs!

Other races included Girls & Boys running races, high jump, skipping races and the wonderful 3- legged race, where we paired up, arms round each other's shoulders, adjacent ankles tied with a pair of old tights.

In my 5th year I was the proud recipient of the cup for Sports' Girl of the Year – I won four races – running, skipping, high jump and the three-legged race; the latter Claire and I had worked very hard to perfect – timing and co-ordination were everything. I counted our steps and looked ahead; Claire looked down at our feet to ensure our steps were co-ordinated and on the day we flew down the field!

Mr John Patient

As the school was so full, the top two classes were situated in two separate "temporary classrooms" known as the huts. These were at the back of the school and remained in place for many years. The huts looked over the school garden, where we grew vegetables and had a weather vane and rain gauge. These devices were used daily and we plotted the results on huge graphs which ran across the hut walls. John was the youngest and probably the most innovative of all my teachers and he was perhaps very fortunate to be teaching at a time when teachers were not tied into following strict curricular activities.

Mr Patient used his own love of nature, exploration, adventure and the outdoors to bring alive our lessons which were hugely stimulating and remain a real source of pleasure in my memory. John had a great interest in scientific adventurers and produced the most wonderful tape recorded monologues, complete with sound effects, of Captain Scott's Antarctic expedition – there was hardly a dry eye in the classroom when we learnt of Scott being beaten to the Pole and of the subsequent deaths of the team.

We were much more cheered by the successful climb of Everest and I can still recall the names of the various "camps" erected as the mountain was climbed. At intervals the tapes would be stopped so that we could write the story in our own words and draw another section of the route onto our sketches of the mountain. We would discuss the tactics of the mountaineers – as seriously as if we'd been to Base Camp ourselves or been suspended over a crevasse on the Khumbu icefall! I think I can fairly blame my love of Kendal Mint Cake, carried by the Everest Team, on Mr Patient – how strange, or perhaps not, that I now have a home near Kendal & walk regularly in the Lakeland Fells.

Every Wednesday morning we had a real treat as the entire class would head off into Ell Woods. John knew the woods very well, being a keen watcher of wildlife and he knew where all the badger setts were located. He would make nature trails through the woods, which we would follow, answering questions on clip boards as we went along, recording what we saw, making bark rubbings, collecting leaves etc. On one occasion we used a grid square and poured a mild chemical over the soil. This brought all the insects and beetles to the surface where they were counted and identified. I now have the pleasure of supporting many wildlife, woodland and countryside charities – my interests were certainly started and encouraged by my parents but Mr Patient's enthusiasm embedded a life long passion, for which I am hugely grateful.

School Election

During my final year, Mr. Ruddick was away on a sabbatical and Mrs. Detheridge, who was Deputy Head, took over as Headteacher for 12 months. Like this year, 2015, 1975 was a General Election Year. Mrs. D decided we should enter into the spirit and hold a school election to appoint a Head Girl, Head Boy & Deputies – to be selected from the top class with the school and teachers voting in the same week as the country was voting for its Government.

Those of us in the top class who decided to "stand," were asked to produce a manifesto which we had to take round to each class and read out and answer questions from the class members.

We were also encouraged to put up election posters and create slogans, which we placed on the corridor walls. I think I had a slightly unfair advantage, in as much as my slogan rather neatly rhymed "Please Vote For Me – Allison Lee!!" thus making it quite memorable!

Reading out our individual manifestos was quite nerve wracking as was Election Day, when several voting booths were set up around the school so votes could be cast in secret! The class below us were given the job of vote counting over the lunch time, a job they took very seriously – the candidates were allowed to sit and watch and wait....

I have a vague memory of the final counts being announced and everyone clapping and looking at me but I think the shock of the moment did much to dull my senses. It was however, a very proud moment and along with Matthew Hudson, whose parents also still live in the village, we went to Mrs Detheridge's office the next day to discuss our duties – this felt very grown up indeed!

Our jobs included play time monitoring to help the dinner ladies spot any children who'd hurt themselves or were upset, being available to younger children who might need someone to talk too about any problems they were having, helping to lead younger classes into assembly each day and ensuring everyone had a hymn book and occasionally taking morning register when the class teacher was delayed or in a meeting (this was definitely a favourite job – and at age 10, a great responsibility, as you called out the younger children's names and ticked or crossed as appropriate, in the Register!).

Perhaps our strangest role was being in charge of the "late-book" which involved sitting on the school steps and recording the names of any children who arrived after the 9am bell, (which was a heavy hand- bell rung from the top step in front of the main entrance). I remember the occasional desperate looking parent arriving and pleading not to have their child's name entered as it was their fault for having over-slept – we were generally merciful!

Other Memories

Mrs Dipple was school secretary, grey haired and fearsome! She managed Mr. Ruddick, the School Bank (a savings club that involved me taking money to school and handing it to Mrs Dipple once a week) and the Tuck Shop where I remember a packet of crisps cost 2p!!

Mrs Cooper was the Crossing Patrol or Lollipop Lady and when she retired, Mrs Rowbotham took over – as we crossed the road we'd all chant, "Thank You, Mrs Rowbotham!" – I believe Mr Ruddick worked very hard to secure the crossing patrol given the danger from the traffic on the Bromsgrove Road.

If you were ill at school and unable to go home, you went to the office and were allowed to lie down on a low metal framed bed, which was erected in the cloakroom area, adjacent to the main corridor and in view of Mrs Dipple's office window – not the best of places with everyone walking back and forth along the corridor, although warm due to being next to the large water pipes that ran beneath the cloak room benches. The blankets you were covered with were grey and itchy – I'm not sure if they were ever washed?!

"Dinner Ladies" as they were known then, were Mrs. Kenny, Mrs. Gardner, Mrs. Mound and Mrs. Cross– they wore pink overalls and patrolled the playground keeping a watchful eye on all that was going on. School Dinners were held in the main hall and were horrible! There was no choice and everything tasted of the large metal saucepans in which most of the food was cooked. I went home for my lunch, as did several children but in my last year I had a school lunch on one day a week and this made it feel like a very long day. I remember the taste of the metal cups used for our water – the cups were all different metallic colours as were the water jugs. You queued up at a hatch to receive your food and then sat at the square tables to eat. There were no breakfast clubs or after school clubs as there are today.

The cleaners at that time were Mrs Poles & Mrs Lees – I remember their big mops and the metal buckets containing the water and disinfectant used to clean the floors each night.

School Photographs were taken once a year of individuals and classes. I remember having my first photograph taken, sitting on the floor of the staff room in front of a screen – the staff room was permanently blue with cigarette smoke!

Being a Church School, all the main festivals were looked forward too and celebrated. When I was 5, I remember the family going to the Easter Fair and I entered the Easter Bonnet Competition and won first prize in my green boater hat, decorated with eggs and little yellow chickens.

At Harvest Time we had a Harvest Service in the hall and took donations of fruit and vegetables to school. These were later placed in boxes and we delivered them to the people in the village – I used to like to take my box to Mrs. Limb, who was my Sunday School Teacher. I still write to Mrs. Limb, who is 102 this year (2015).

Rev. Wright, who was the Vicar at the time I was at St Kenelm's, would attend once a week to provide religious instruction to the top class. Poor Mr. Wright! Not being a teacher, he wasn't always strict enough and some of the naughty boys would play around and refuse to listen – until one day, when Mr Patient hid in the store room adjoining the two huts and just when the boys were misbehaving and Rev. Wright's spectacles were getting all steamed up, Mr Patient leapt out of the cupboard with a terrific roar and made us all jump – and for punishment? You've guessed correctly – we all had to miss a playtime and copy out the Lord's Prayer!!

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