Whitehall Infant & Junior Schools – an ex-pupil’s memories

November 12, 2014 § 6 Comments


In recent weeks wyrleyblog has produced an excellent early history of my old school, Whitehall in West Bromwich Road, Caldmore. The post is in two parts, the first part concerns the founding in 1899 followed by the Sarah Jane Parker story from 1899-1923. To read these two posts click on the links below:-

http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/whitehall-infant-school-part-1-founding-1899/

http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/whitehall-infant-school-1890s-1923/whitehall-infant-school-1899-1923-part-2-the-sarah-jane-parker-story/

This the earliest picture I have for Whitehall Schools. Although not dated it surely must fit the time frame of Paul's post perfectly.

This the earliest picture I have for Whitehall Schools. Although not dated it surely must fit the time frame of wyrleyblog’s post perfectly.

This photograph has been dated 1930 by my late mother and she should know as she is on it. Some of these pupils almost seem old friends to me as their names were frequently mentioned on a daily basis by my mother as I grew up.

This photograph was dated as being taken in 1930 by my late mother. Some of the pupils named almost seem old friends to me as their names were frequently mentioned by my mother as I grew up.

My mother, who also went to Whitehall, had the foresight to write the names of all the pupils in her class on the back of this photograph above ……all forty-five of them! Who knows, someone reading this post may come across a parent, grandparent or an aunt or uncle in this picture.

Back row: Mr. Jowett the teacher, Eric Hewins, Harold Parkes, Fred Williams, Les Cox, Alfie Stride, Jack Perry, Ray Roobothan, Alfie Cooke, Norman Wellington, Jesse Richards, Joey Mayo.

Second row down: Jack Turner, Dorothy Burgess, Emily Beesley, Hilda Bunch, Freda Ford, Emily Booker, Tilly Parkes, Gladys Matthews, Edna Whilly, Winnie Harrison, Doris Holland.

Third row down: Margaret Careless, Marian Davies, Doreen Lunn, Winnie Hunt, Alive Hadley, Hilda Moseley (my mother), Lily Anderson, Hilda Bullock, Lois Hewines.

Fourth row down: Dickie Alves, Geoff Blower, Ronnie Cooper, Jamie Roberts, Gordon Holt, Alfred Owen, Michael Read, Norman Corfield, Leslie Stride.

Reclining: Doreen Bonehill, Mavis Burrows, Elsie Smith, Lillian Smith, Dorothy Dixon.

How different things were back in 1929, on 9th November of that year one of the Whitehall teachers, Daisy Lunn of Brace Street, married Joseph Smallwood at St. Michael’s Church, Caldmore and she had four pupils, my mother included, as her bridesmaids. The picture below from the Walsall Observer shows the happy group outside the church.Miss Lunn's wedding

Whitehall boys 1930s

This photograph of a boys only class at Whitehall unfortunately is not dated but I would think it was taken in the early 1930s.

An undated and unknown play that took place at Whitehall Schools possible in the late 1940s.

An undated and unknown play that took place at Whitehall Schools possibly in the 1940s.

As an ex-pupil of both Infant and Junior departments my association with Whitehall began in early September 1952 and one of my first recollections is a memory from the first or second day. At morning break time we went into the playground and I remember standing around in a small group of boys and girls when one girl named Elaine (surname omitted to protect the guilty!) produced the biggest bacon sandwich I think I had ever seen. My dad would have struggled with one as big as that and to make matters worse for Elaine, it was by now a COLD bacon sandwich. Having struggled with it throughout the break she attempted to take it back into class with her, Mrs Bloor I think it was thought otherwise, after a bit of a battle she took it off her. Within the first few days at Whitehall we were already beginning to understand what the word discipline meant.

English 2

The very early days at Whitehall Infants. One of my exercise books from 1953 after almost completing my first year, I think in Mrs Bloor’s class.

One of my 'sums' book from a similar period. Cannot remember the significance of the blue and green stars!

One of my ‘sums’ books from a similar period. Cannot remember the significance of the blue and green stars!

The innocent looking early exercise books above turned out to be yet another lesson on the learning curve of life that was hard fought for. Sixty plus years ago it was frowned upon to write with your left hand, even if it was your natural hand. It was first noticed by the teacher when we were let loose with a bit of chalk and a small blackboard. “No John you MUSTN’T do that, put the chalk in your right hand”. Try as I may I struggled to say the least, no amount of cajoling or promise of a sweetie could convince me even at that early age that the teachers knew everything! Tears and tantrums were frequent in writing lessons as every opportunity the teachers had to embarrass me they took it. After a period of attempting every trick in the book I knew to avoid going to school my mother saw the teacher to find out the problem, even mom was told to try to make me write with my right hand! My father and his brother were both ambidextrous so it wasn’t difficult to see where I had inherited the “problem” from. The reason both my father and uncle could write with both hands was because both were probably forced to use their right hand even though both were naturally left-handed; when they were boys in the 1920s it was no use complaining as it was the teachers who had the cloth ears and not the pupils! My problem was resolved after a couple more visits from both of my parents and a letter from our family doctor. Hopefully other left-handers in the school also had an equally positive outcome to their “problem”.

Harvest Festival c.1953

I can recall some of the names from 61 years ago but not all sadly, here goes:- Back row, left to right, ?, Raymond Boulton (possibly), Sandra Day, Jean Preston, Michael Dinsdale and Kenneth Butler. Front row, Angela Genna, ?, Edward Davenhill (possibly), Susan Lovick. Look at the crust on the loaf behind Sandra and Jean….bostin!

This photograph was taken in the autumn of 1953 at the start of our second year at the school. This was in the days when kids still celebrated the gathering of the harvest and come spring we all danced around the Maypole, not the grocers, the pole with ribbons on it!

It must have been around this time an amusing incident comes to mind regarding plasticine! It was our last lesson one afternoon and we had all been trying to make something that resembled anything from plasticine the modelling gunge. Again, to protect the guilty, I will just use his christian name, Brian. As home time approached our teacher, possibly Mrs Bloor, came round collecting the plasticine and she got to Brian, “may I have your plasticine Brian”, “no miss” says Brian, “why not?” came the reply……“because I’ve eaten it Miss!” When school finished for the day his mother was summoned and was advised to take him to the doctors and get some ‘physic’! We didn’t see poor old Brian until the following week fortunately looking none the worse for his ordeal.

Strange how happenings from over sixty-years ago remain as fresh in the mind as if they occurred yesterday. One afternoon we were in the main hall waiting for the bell to go so that we could go home and Miss Fletcher split us into pairs and told us to throw and catch a ball with each other. All went well until I threw the ball and my partner, Kenny,  missed it, it bounced once and then a second time disappearing up Miss Fletchers skirt! When the ball struck she reacted by rising on the balls of both feet emitting a small cough at the same time. This was one occasion when we were literally saved by the bell and we all made our way to our waiting mothers sniggering and giggling to each other. Looking back on the incident over sixty years later it reminds me of a scene you would expect to see in Dad’s Army……… and Captain Mainwaring couldn’t have re-acted any better than Miss Fletcher!

Next to the West Bromwich Street entrance to the school was an extremely handily placed shop were we all attempted to bribe our mothers into buying some sweets. I am sure it was from here, (or it may have been Ropers a bit further up) that the ill-fated orange iced lollies were purchased sometime around 1953 or 1954. Metal foil as packaging was in its infancy back then but one company, can’t recall who, decided to wrap their orange iced lollies in this new fangle material. Sadly the people who made the foil failed to check with any medical authorities as to the effects of wrapping a delicious iced loll’ in a foil that contained quite a high proportion of lead…. yes lead! Throughout the country kids were throwing up here there and everywhere on account of having mild lead poisoning. Imagine a similar scenario today, the lawyers would be picketing school gates! One endearing image I remember from this sad event was seeing my teddy bear, reeking of disinfectant, hanging forlornly by one ear on the washing line to dry. Unfortunately he was in the firing line when I was sick!

JubblyI was put off orange iced lollies until the famous Jubblys came out, an orange drink contained in a triangular-shaped carton. Some shop owners with foresight decided to freeze them and you had the biggest iced lolly ever seen one of those floating in the Irish Sea could have been a danger to shipping! Before ripping open a corner of the Jubbly you smashed it on a wall to crush the ice so that you could start to bite into it…..God forbid if you had any dodgy teeth.

Before we knew what had happened our introduction to schooling had completed its first phase and we were onto the Junior School. I decided, the reason escapes me now, that I really didn’t like the Junior School. As my mother put me in through the West Bromwich Road gate I was straight across the playground and out the Weston Street gate and back home before she had got to Fereday’s bike shop! This went on for some time, Mr. Lester the headmaster, attempted to get me through the gates by offering me a ride in his A40 Austin Somerset, a novelty in those days believe it or not! I was having none of it and come to think of it, Mr. Lester was part of the problem I now  recall, he always seemed to be using “the strap” or tawse. Eventually I settled down and got on with it, what options had I?

Of the teaching staff I can remember a few, Mr. Peake, Mrs Lovick (I think), Mr. Aston, Mr. Humpage, Mr. Brittle, the latter being as small as Mr. Peake was big! Mr. Peake was a good teacher who I think was in charge of both the football and cricket teams and he used to be instrumental in anything to to with school plays, nativities etc. It does make me wonder today why he wasn’t headmaster, he always seemed hardworking and had the best interests of the school at heart in everything he did. Below is the nativity play from 1957 or 1958, can’t be anymore specific I’m afraid, but I do know Mr. Peake was in charge of the production. In the photograph I am holding a crook, not a very good one actually, which I borrowed from an older lad named Roger, who also lived in Sandwell Street. During the cut and thrust of rehearsals, probably messing about really, I managed to break into two pieces just below the crook itself. Panicking as to what Rog’ would say I hot footed it home with the two pieces and waited for my dad to get home, if anyone could do it, he could! And sure enough he did, a perfect repair, Rog’ never even noticed the join until I told him, as I was advised to do by dad! The picture of the cast is shown below along with as many names as I can recall.

Back row:- ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, Janet Greystone, ?, Zania Bottomer, Robina Willetts, Elizabeth Mold, ? Second row down:- Susan Levitt, Carol Morgan, Hilary Thompson, ?, ?, Sandra Day (I think), Diane Griffiths, ?, girl who played Mary is unknown, Philip Sturrock (I think) who played Joseph, Peter Martin (I think), ?, ?, ?, Graham Barrows, Philip Morris (I think), David Letts, Diane Reynolds (I think). Third row down:- ?, John Griffiths, Stuart Ormonde, John Pitcock, Raymond Hyden, ?, ?, ?, Brian Burgess. Left hand group standing:- ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, Susan Horlick (I think). Kneeling;- Graham Worrall, David Harper, ? Right hand group standing:- ?, ?, Michael Garbett (I think), ?, ?, John Russell. Kneeling:- Peter Morris, Francis Gale.

Back row:- ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, Janet Greystone, ?, Zania Bottomer, Robina Willetts, Elizabeth Mold, ? Second row down:- Susan Levitt, Carol Morgan, Hilary Thompson, ?, ?, Sandra Day (I think), Diane Griffiths, ?, Carol Fox who played Mary, Philip Sturrock, Peter Martin, Janice Fields, ?, ?, Graham Barrows, Robert Morris, David Letts with a much better crook than my borrowed one, Diane Reynolds. Third row down:- ?, John Griffiths complete with crook, Stuart Ormonde, John Pitcock, Raymond Hyden, ?, ?, ?, Brian Burgess. Left hand group standing:- Paul Coleman, ?, ?, ?, ?, Susan Horlick (I think). Kneeling;- Alan Smith, David Harper, Les Barnfield. Right hand group standing:- ?, ?, Michael Garbett (I think), ?, ?, John Russell. Kneeling:- Peter Morris, Francis Gale.

Back row:- ?, Carol Gill (I think), Margaret Clift (I think), ?, Diane Reynolds (I think), Gwyneth Longmore, Cherry Holford, Christine Walker. Middle row:- Margaret Allison (I think), ?, Ann Allsopp, Paul Aldridge, Cheryl Longsborough, John Pitcock, Peter Jarvis. Seated front:- Peter Baldwin, yours truly, Brian Burgess, Stuart Ormonde, Susan Levitt.

Back row:- Iris Beale, Carol Gill, Margaret Clift, ?, Diane Reynolds, Gwenyth Longmore, Cherry Holford, Christine Walker.
Middle row:- Margaret Allison (I think), Anthea Willetts, Ann Allsopp, Paul Aldridge, Cheryl Longsborough, John Pitcock, Peter Jarvis.
Seated:- Peter Baldwin, yours truly, Brian Burgess, Stuart Ormonde, Susan Levitt.

Another of Mr. Peake’s productions was a play called Roast Pig which was put on as an end of term play in July 1958 if I remember correctly. The cast can be seen in this photograph which was taken in the garden on the West Bromwich Road side of the school. This was to be our last play at Whitehall Juniors as in the following September we all moved to senior schools.

If anyone reading this can see themselves or can recognise anyone else then please let me know.

Thanks to old Whitehall pupil Gwenyth Childs (nee Longmore) for getting in touch and putting me right on a few names that I had forgotten.

Thank you also to Pat Woolley (nee Highway) for giving me the name of Anthea Willetts on the Roast Pig picture and on the Harvest Festival picture, Angela Genna and Edward Davenhill.

Here endeth the lesson!

© John Griffiths 2014

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§ 6 Responses to Whitehall Infant & Junior Schools – an ex-pupil’s memories

  • Gwenyth Childs says:

    Hello John,
    I enjoyed reading the history of Whitehall Scool on your website recently. I am able to add some names to the ones you mentioned.

    The Nativity Play photograph –
    The angel dressed in white with arms crossed in the centre is Janice Fields, Peter Martin is Joseph, Robert Morris is third from the right, second row from the back, holding a staff.

    Roast Pig photograph –

    Back row Iris Beale, Carol Gill, Margaret Clift, Diane Reynolds (my name spelled ‘Gwenyth’ Longmore. Etc.

    Middle row Cheryl Lansborough I think is the correct spelling – I believe she emigrated to Australia with her family.

    I will look to see if I have any other contemporary photographs to forward to you.

    My father also attended Whitehall, and I have happy memories of being there, especially of Miss Malpass and Mr Bennett.

    I eventually qualified as a midwife, practiced for 40 years, and have been living in Surrey since 1982.

    Best wishes

    Gwenyth.

    • Hello Gwenyth,

      Pleased to hear you enjoyed reading about Whitehall School and thanks for contacting me…… my apologies also for spelling your name incorrectly, my excuse is that it has been 55 years plus!

      Of course it’s Robert Morris (Philip Morris is an American cigarette brand I think) and I do remember Janice Fields.

      On the Roast Pig pic’, Iris Beale, her name comes back to me now and Cheryl Lansborough (not Longsborough) I will correct these asap so thanks for putting me right.

      The last time I remember your name cropping up was about four or five years after we left Whitehall in 1962. I enrolled at Walsall School of Art and there was a lady that worked in the office there (can’t remember her name now), I had to put down my previous schools and when she saw Whitehall she commented “my niece used to go there, Gwenyth Longmore, did you know her?” I am sure I have this correct, did you have an Aunt that worked there?

      I also remember her saying something about someone, a relative I think, who lived in the flats by the Memorial Gardens on Church Hill, do you recall those, the flats with the arch through to St. Matthew’s Church.

      If you find any photos I would love to see them, the ones on the website are all my Whitehall pics sadly. As you will have read, my mom, like your father also went there, it’s amazing how many of the people on the pic’ with my mom on it stayed around the Caldmore area, mom was always bumping into them while out shopping.

      We have a medical connection in Surrey too. Our youngest niece lives in New Malden and she is a junior doctor at St. George’s Hospital in Tooting, just been transferred there from Chertsey Hospital. We have been down a few times to stay with her and her husband, we always enjoy it down there except for the M25……and I thought the M5/M6 was bad! We live in Rawnsley just outside Cannock and go to Walsall every Saturday as my mother-in-law lives there……don’t know if you have been back at all recently but all I will say is Walsall ain’t what it used to be, being polite about it!

      I finished work in 2007 after 40 plus years as a graphic designer in advertising and printing. I do still do a bit but nowadays I only do books for local history societies and local authors, I also paint but I did that when I was working too.

      Going to correct the website now!

      Great to hear from you, hope I haven’t waffled on to long, best wishes,

      John Griffiths

      • Gwenyth Childs says:

        Good morning John

        Thanks for your reply to my e mail.

        Regarding Walsall School of Art, I won a scholarship there but didn’t persue it, and it is interesting to read of your career choice after studying there. How super to be a graphic designer! Have you ever painted pictures of Walsall, such as St Matthews Church or the Arboretum? I practised midwifery at St Peters Hospital in Chertsey from 1982 when we moved from Wales to Woking, where I still live, but retired in 2011, and really enjoyed my time there as part of the core labour ward team, and post and antenatal ward for the last few years. We used to go to St George’s for post graduate lectures occasionally.

        I had an aunt who lived in a flat opposite St Matthews Church at the time you mention, and it was very pleasant there then, but I don’t recall her working at the school of art. However, I have a feeling that may have been her daughter, my cousin.

        At Whitehall, we once had a Welsh teacher who insisted on spelling my Christian name the more common way, as Gwyneth, rather than its proper spelling, and this is where you may have derived the spelling from!

        I haven’t had chance to go through the remainder of my photos yet, but I do have one of the recorder group with Miss Malpas our form mistress, which my friend Jennifer Cooksey (as she was then) gave me when we met up recently. She lives in Shropshire, so we don’t see each other often but keep in touch. We became friends when she moved with her family from Barrow in Furness to Walsall, and began attending Whitehall. I will forward this to you at a future date.

        Best wishes Gwenyth. Sent from my iPad

        >

      • Hello Gwenyth,

        I almost got it right regarding your aunt, I knew there was an association with the flats by St. Matthews. Quite how it links to the School of Art is now lost to me I’m afraid, maybe it was your cousin who worked there as you say.

        As soon as I saw the name Jennifer Cooksey I remembered it, didn’t realise she came from Barrow, nice to know you have stayed in touch all these years. My wife’s maiden name was Berwick and some of her paternal family went in the opposite direction, finishing up in Barrow and Cockermouth. Is Jennifer on that nativity play picture?

        You had a scholarship to the Art School but didn’t pursue it …….. on bad days years ago I often wondered if I should continue to pursue it! Think in general though your career choice was much more beneficial to society than mine but I did enjoy what I did and still do.

        When I started work we were known as commercial artists and then many years down the line we all got up one morning and overnight we had become graphic designers, why I don’t know. I was lucky really only did one full year at Art School and got offered a job at Walsall Lithographic and then moved on to advertising agencies in Birmingham and then London but only stayed south for a short time. I was self-employed for thirty plus years working out of an office in Lichfield and semi-retiring in 2007. I don’t think I have painted St. Matthews of The Arbo’ but I did do the flour mills up Wolverhampton St and the market, they were watercolour and gouache and I did an oil of The Bridge looking down from Park St. Also did some watercolours of old pub paintings around Walsall and some of those are on Walsall Life if you haven’t seen them. I used to be member of the Guild of Motoring Artists but got fed up painting racing cars etc and left the society……..I now do paintings of steam engines……this is usually the point where the ladies (and some blokes) look at me with a glazed expression!

        Small world isn’t it regarding the hospitals you have worked in, both associated with our niece, Fay. I was talking to my niece’s mother on Saturday and apparently Fay still works for St Peters but is working at St Georges for a year to gain experience in pediatrics, not sure how it all works but I am sure you do.

        Funny you mentioning how teachers insisted your name was spelt wrong and they knew better. Virtually all of the teachers at Whitehall insisted I wrote with my right hand when I was naturally left handed, it took a doctor’s letter and three parental visits before I was allowed use my left hand permanently. My dad’s sister was left handed and my dad and his brother were ambidextrous so the school were always going to lose that one.

        My aunt, who I just mentioned, was the mother of Hilary Thompson (from Trees Road, married name Middleton) she is on the nativity picture, do you remember her? She later went to Queen Marys. Sadly Hilary died three years ago aged 65 from Alzheimer’s, I must admit it was the saddest thing I have ever seen. In just over six years she went from music teacher and classical pianist to being little more than a vegetable, dreadfully sad.

        Sorry about ending on a sad tale but I thought you may remember her or some of her Whitehall friends, Jane Bridge, Janet Greystone (she married Peter Jarvis, see Roast Pig pic’), Elizabeth Mold, Robina Willetts. I saw the four of them at Hilary’s funeral and we relived our days at Whitehall which put a few smiles on some sad faces.

        Look forward to seeing the photographs when you have time.

        Regards and best wishes,

        John

  • Lynne Hemming says:

    Hello John,
    I’ve accessed this site from a Facebook link.
    I taught at the Junior school from 1978-1996 & recognise some of the names on there. Our Dep Head, Dave Caswell often used to tell us about Alf Lester, the Head when he started there.
    Dave is 86 now & just moved to Leeds.
    I remember Betty Lovick, the music/ singing teacher there & was interested to see her daughter, Susan on a photo. I think she had polio as a child. A wonderful school anyway.

    • Hello Lynne, Thanks for your message and pleased you enjoyed looking at the post. I remember Dave “Mr” Caswell as he was of course known to the pupils and he is 86 now and still on the move! I am glad you enjoyed your time as a teacher there and remember those days fondly, eighteen years there, that is a very good record. I am sure you are correct about Susan Lovick having polio, that is what we were told.
      Thanks again for getting in touch, John

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