Hazelbury Road Open Air School reminiscences pg12

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Doreen (1940-1947): One boy I spent some time with in the sick bay was Roy Holmes. He never grew very much and had a huge hard frame round his body that he used to say was his "iron lung". I have no idea what was wrong with him but he was a very clever boy. He lived near the tram terminal in Lower Edmonton. He made marvelous little models of the trams that ran from the terminus. They were perfect scale models and we had some on show at school. He left about the same time as me. Another boy of around the same age was Maurice Russell.

My best friend was Doris King. She had always suffered from a weak chest and was inclined to be round-shouldered. Her mum was always telling her to straighten her back and used to make Doris walk about with a coat hanger in her coat so that she couldn't stoop. Doris used to go to dancing classes and used to dance at some of the working men’s clubs. She also danced at the school Christmas parties. She was brilliant! Her dad made her a tap board out of venetian blinds which were made of a very light, very fine wood, I think. He fixed cloth on the back leaving it still flexible enough that she could roll it up. It wasn't heavy and with a piece of string wrapped round it she could carry it anywhere. Then the string was undone and Doris just threw it down where she was going to dance. So clever!

Doris left the Open Air School at 14 and went to Hazelbury Girls School. She then went to work in Klingers Stocking factory in Silver Street until she contracted TB and was sent away to a sanatorium for a year. She recovered and we stayed friends until I moved away from Edmonton about 1970, then we just lost touch.

There was a big boy called Eddie Cook, or Cookie as he was known. He was able to do heavy jobs and in the summer when we all carried our desks out on the field poor Cookie was the one who had to help the ones who couldn't do it themselves.

I had a friend called Eileen who had infantile paralysis and was severely handicapped. Her poor legs were twisted and she wore calipers. Her hands were also twisted so it was difficult for her to hold a pencil but she was always laughing. Her speech was difficult but she made us all laugh. Years later I saw Eileen from my window when I was working for a bookmaker in Weston Super Mare. She was married with two children and still laughing.

Jeannie Mitchell and Rosie Piggott lived near to each other in Gilpin Grove which was known locally as “Little Russia”, I have no idea why. Rosie was like a little doll, all pink and round with beautiful white blonde hair.

Jeff (1948-1953): I had not heard Gilpin Grove called “Little Russia” before but I was able to find an explanation on Wikipedia.

Doreen (1940-1947): Thank you for the information about “Little Russia”. I never knew all that but yes, it was a very rough area and not the cleanest of places: a small turning off the High Road, Edmonton, nearly opposite Woolworths. I remember tall, thin, gloomy houses with four or five stone steps up to the door, and basements. Lots of people lived on one floor.

Jeff (1948-1953): It’s interesting how it’s all relative. I lived in Gilpin Grove and we looked at other areas in the same way! Certainly the houses were old - see the photos on the Gilpin Grove pages. The 1952 Kelly’s Directory shows some of the houses divided into up to three flats. The Piggott family is shown as living in flat 3 of No. 16 but I don’t see an entry for Mitchell.

Doreen (1940-1947): On reflection, some kids may have been undernourished rather than sick. Jeannie Mitchell and Rosie Piggott were always very polite and well mannered. They didn't start at the Open Air School until they were about 10 or 11. I find this all so interesting and it seems to be answering a lot of questions that I have been pondering about for years. Why, when I wanted to meet Jeannie or Rosie after school, did my Mum always insist on me meeting them outside Woolworths?

Another friend I had was Rita Watts who looked quite delicate and, though she could walk, spent a lot of time in a wheelchair. Sadly she died from heart failure when she was 18. Betty Eastwood lived near Rita. And another name Brian may remember: Betty Powell. She was about my age. Her dad was the Manager of Bata, the shoe shop in Fore Street, Edmonton.

I have just remembered another two pupils: Joan Jeffs and, a bit later, her brother. I am not certain but  I think his name was Dennis Jeffs. Both quite tallish and slim. Joan was nearer to my age and her brother about two years younger.

Jeff (1948-1953): I wonder if they were related to a woman called Lil Jeffs who I remember lived in Gilpin Grove at number 68.

Wendy (1949-1952): I’ve just done some research and found that Joan Jeffs was born in Edmonton in 1933, and her brother Dennis in 1934. I remember Lil Jeffs living in Gilpin Grove but I really cannot remember any children there, even though they would have been quite a bit older than you and me. As far as I remember, Lil lived with her mother.

Brian (1941-1948): The boys Doreen remembers: Eddie Cook, Roy Holmes and Maurice Russell, along with a boy named Brian Overington, were all good friends of mine while we were at school. In fact Eddie Cook, Brian Overington and myself all joined the 7th Enfield Boys Brigade together in 1947 and stayed in until we were 18 when you had to leave. Eddie Cook actually stayed on and became an Officer and helped run the company for many years. We lost touch with each other after we were married and moved away from Edmonton. I have seen Roy Holmes a couple of times in the past sixty years; the last time was about four years ago.

Other boys I remember are Ronald Pursey, Alan Lodge, Donald French, Peter Blick and his younger brother Robin Blick, Stanley Avery, Kenneth Cole, and Alfred Hoy. I don’t think the Blicks were related to Gerald Blick as they were the only children in their family.

Although we both lived in Edmonton, I never saw the last boy I mentioned, Alfred Hoy, around after I left the school. However, I was on holiday with my wife in Austria in 1964 and we were climbing up a hill near where we were staying as we were told there there were some nice views from the top. We had just got to the top when a chap came up a track on the other side of the hill. I thought he looked familiar - it was Alfred Hoy from the Open Air School!

In addition to remembering Doreen, other girls I can remember are Joan Jeffs, Elsie Mottram, Jeannie Mitchell, Doreen Cullen and Betty Hatchelor (I’m not sure of the spelling).

Doreen (1940-1947): That is amazing! After all these years. Yes, I do remember you, “Moxey”, and most of the others you mention. I think Alfred Hoy was quite a heavily-built boy and wore a built-up boot. Yes, too, to Donald French, Alan Lodge, Kenneth Cole and Stanley Avery. And yes, I remember Doreen Cullen, but Betty Hatchelor is not a familiar name.

Tony (1952-1954): I'm wondering whether Eddie Cook was Eddie, the gang leader I mentioned, that Mrs. Blight saved me from.

Jeff (1948-1953): It may be that Eddie Cook was your nemesis although Brian was at the Open Air School from 1941-1948 while you were there 1951/2 to 1954 so that may make Eddie Cook too old.

Tony (1952-1954): The only other children’s names I have always remembered are Gerald Blick and Robin Hall, as they were in my class and my friends as well. I recall a memory about Gerald Blick in Mrs. Male’s class: at one time we were learning about the Cavaliers and Roundheads, and Mrs. Male asked us to put our hands up if we would have liked to have been a Cavalier, and then asked the same for Roundheads; everyone except one put their hands up for Cavalier, but Gerald put his up for Roundhead. I guess either he came from a solid Labour family or he had a more aware sense of history than the rest of us!

Wendy (1949-1952): Well, what a surprise. I thought that I didn't remember anyone's name who was in my class, but strangely I do remember the name Gerald Blick. He was gingery, with a spotty face, and a heavier build than the rest of us.

Tony (1952-1954): Your recollection of Gerald Blick is perfectly accurate. A sturdy lad, as they say, and not very loquatious, but he passed his 11+ and went to Edmonton Grammar. The other boy I mentioned, Robin Hall, was slim with dark hair, a red complexion, and glasses. Mr. Rapley told me later that Robin had become a trumpeter.

I take it that Stanley Avery was not a relation of yours.

Wendy (1949-1952): My research shows that Stanley Avery was born in 1934 and lived in Montagu Road, Edmonton. I don't recognize Stanley Avery’s parents' names: Frank and Adelaide Avery, so they are probably not close relations. There were an awful lot of Averys around that area.

Tony (1952-1954): I remember too that a lot of the kids there were asthmatics, and it was not unknown to encounter someone having an attack in the corridor or playground. I think we had some epileptics too - anyone on the ground with a crowd around them!

Jeff (1948-1953): Yes, The only pupil's name I really remember is Martin Jones who was a year older than me and went to Latymer the year before I did. Martin had asthma and used an inhaler which, in those days, had a rubber bulb that was squeezed.

Peter W. (1952-1957): I can recall some pupils and hope that if they read this they will respond:- Michael Murray, Michael Morley, Josephine Stephens. As mentioned before, my sister Brenda Walker and my brother Geoffery Walker also attended the school.

Margaret (1948-1951): There seems to be a blank on my endeavouring to remember other schoolchildren. In my autograph book, though, I do have two autographs of boys that sat opposite me at the dining table. Eddie Cook lived in Hertford Road. (click on the images to see larger versions)


Pauline (1961-1965): Talking of names... Despite being working class, my family spoke something approaching BBC English, whereas most of the children at school had quite strong North London accents. I didn't, at the age of seven and a half, register this, but apparently I spoke the one kind of English at home, the other at school! Mrs. Collins, on our bus, occasionally confused me (and my Mum). I kept talking about an older boy on our bus called "Yew" (I'd worked out that his name couldn't possibly be "You"). It took a while for Mum to realize his name was actually "Hugh"!

There was another older boy on my bus called Fred, and he bore with tolerance the teasing due to the popular song of the day about "Seven little girls, sitting in the back seat, kissing and a-hugging with Fred". He must have been very good-natured!

Some of the children were very poorly. I remember a very nice boy called Christopher Pye who had cerebral palsy. When I first knew him, he got about mostly on calipers and crutches but had to spend more and more time in his wheel chair (which we all wanted to push for him) and eventually he became too sick to cope with school at all. Some years later, I saw a piece about him in a local newspaper - he was very involved in Ham Radio when there was such a craze for it.

There was also a boy called Richard, who died at the age of maybe ten or eleven during my time at school; I don't know what was wrong with him - he was in and out of hospital a lot. So was my first-ever boyfriend Gareth Whiting (friendship struck up in illicit whispering during rest time!). Gareth had cystic fibrosis and was the only Open Air School friend that I kept in touch with after I left. Sadly, he finally succumbed to the disease in November 1966 at the age of thirteen.

Despite the difficulties of some of my classmates' lives, it was a very happy place as I remember it.


Other Pupils

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