Hazelbury Road Open Air School reminiscences pg5

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Mr. Robinson, Teacher of Class 2

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Mr. Robinson was the teacher of the second class.

Peter M. (1937-1939): I believe I was in class two but I cannot recall the teacher’s name. There were four boys in my class with the name of Peter.

Jeff (1948-1953): I have vague memories of Mr. Robinson but remember learning "real-writing" and composing poetry. An anecdote about "real-writing": when I returned home that day my mother asked me what I had learned and I said "real-writing, but we only learned how to join the letters of the words, but not how to join the words together".

Wendy (1949-1952): I was with Mr. Robinson from 1949 to July 1952 and remember him as a very kind and patient man, not too tall - probably 5' 8", portly, and with dark, thinning hair. As was usual then, he taught us all subjects. I loved Mr. Robinson (who gave me 2 shillings when I left because he really liked me). I flung my arms round him! It's such a shame that we don't have any class photos of our time there; I can't even remember any being taken.

Tony (1952-1954): Like yourselves I don't have any pictures of the school, which is unfortunate.

I spent a year in Mr. Robinson's class but I never felt I knew him really well. I remember he had a goitre - of some fascination to a small boy who'd never seen one before! It was also known, I found out years later, as "Derbyshire Neck" - due to lack of iodine in the Pennine water, and he came from up that way somewhere as I recall from his accent. He taught us lots of sea shanties, one of which was very non-PC called "Johnny Coming Down to Heilo" ("I've never seen the like since I've been born / as a big buck nigger with the seaboots on / singing Johnny coming down to Heilo / poor old man....etc"), and also a beautiful song called "Island of Mine", which Mr Rapley was particularly fond of because it had been written by a dear friend of his, he told us.

Wendy (1949-1952): I remember that Mr Robinson  taught us a lot of songs such as 'There was a wee Cooper who lived in Fife, nickety, nackety, noo noo noo.....”; “Come Lassies and Lads”; “Summer is a coming in...”;  a sea shanty whose words I can't remember but do remember doing the hornpipe as we sang it;  “Molly Malone” (In Dublin's fair city where girls are so pretty...); and “Now is the month of Maying, fa la-la la la la-la”. They were real old classic English folk tunes that stay with me today. I don't think that I would have learned them at any other school.

We had spelling games where classmates would call out words to one child who then had to spell them, and if they were right they got another turn. I was good at spelling and had been having a turn for quite a long time, thoroughly enjoying it, when one kid called out "spell 'café'".  I was thunderstruck. I had never heard a word sounding like “caffay” and so I was beaten. When I found out that it was a word I could spell but at home we pronounced it “caff”, I thought that she was wrong. But Mr Robinson soon put me right and I was mortified. 

We had craft lessons with papier mâché. First we had to tear up newspaper into small pieces - which got your hands very black, and then stir them into a bucket of paste. We were each given a large ball of Plasticine and had to cover it in layers with the soggy paper, then let it dry, repeating this again and again until the paper was about a quarter of an inch thick. When it was dry again, the whole ball was cut in half, the Plasticine was recycled, and the two hard paper shells were stuck together again. Then we painted them. Once they were decorated, we each had a glove puppet head and the lucky ones were given a piece of material to make the body. The aim was that we would end up doing a play but, sadly, we had all got bored having to keep sticking on layers of paper, and most heads lasted about five minutes, including mine, as they were so thin!

Peter M. (1937-1939): We, too, made heads for puppets with Plasticine and papier mâché which I found disgusting. I hated the slimy bits of paper dipped in flour paste!

Tony (1952-1954): Papier mache I recall, too. Messy stuff. Plasticine was a big stimulus to recall primary school, as was the smell of poster paints. But these have now been replaced by Play-Doh and other types of paint so it's not the same when playing with the kids any more.

Margaret (1948-1951): It was at the school that I produced articles from papier-mâché for the first time. I also remember endeavouring to carve a large piece of white slab into a castle, not ever knowing whether the slab was a large piece of chalk or some other substance. All I know is that I was afraid I might ruin it.

Wendy (1949-1952): On another occasion we were allowed to make what we wanted and I chose to make Stone Henge! I must have seen the real thing by then and thought it would be easy. All went well until the unfinished model had to be found a place in the classroom to be put away. It was left on a large board on a table at the back of the classroom, but every time the boy directly in front of the table pushed his chair back, he knocked the table and down came my model. It never did get finished. To me, in my imagination, it was going to be so wonderful, so I was quite disappointed. I guess it was eventually thrown away.

Another time, Mr Robinson brought in strips of pewter and asked us all to bring in a clothes or shoe brush.  He showed us how to cut and fix the pewter to the back of the brush and inscribe a pattern into it. We all thoroughly enjoyed that and had something useful to take home to our parents. Basket weaving wasn't such a huge success as it hurt my fingers and kept coming undone where I finished off the top. I don't think that my basket ever came home. We had to keep the canes wet as we wove them so that they didn't break, and that's another smell I will always remember.

Jeff (1948-1953): I remember making wicker baskets in Mr. Robinson's class.

Peter W. (1952-1957): Mr. Robinson taught me how to get a really sharp point on a pencil, a thing I do still to this day, resting it on the fleshy lump on the palm of the hand under the thumb and scraping with a sharp knife.

Margaret (1948-1951): Looking at the small photo of me on page 1 reminds me of the dress I was wearing that day and what happened to it. Mr. Robinson was on duty in the rest shelter this particular afternoon and had asked me to carry the tray of ink and pens from his desk in the classroom to the desk in the shed. I was obviously being extra careful not to spill the ink and clutched the tray so tightly against my body that the ink bottles tilted and added extra colour to my pink and white dress! Mr. Robinson was greatly alarmed and immediately I found myself in the green sundress, my pink dress being taken to the kitchen for removal of the red and blue stains. Unfortunately, this was found to be impossible!!

Pauline (1961-1965): I don't remember Mr. Robinson since I missed out the second class, moving directly from class 1 to class 3.

Doreen (1940-1947): Mr. Robinson was a little dear. I was never in his class but I do remember he had some very quaint views about angels and he could teach us some sweet songs. He may have been in the Navy at some time.

Margaret (1948-1951): Mr. Robinson was my teacher for most of my stay at the school. What stands out in my mind most of all is the great kindness, gentleness and love simply oozing from him. Here are photographs of a book he presented to me for producing a pressed flower book and a beautiful mini painting he did in my autograph book. Also a small paper cutting concerning his death. I don’t have the date of his death but the cutting was from The Tottenham & Edmonton Weekly Herald and was handed to me in the 1960's I believe. (click on them to see larger versions).


Doreen (1940-1947): I too used to have the Weekly Herald but never saw that piece of remarkable Open Air history. Mr. Robinson would be amazed, and proud, of the lasting impact he made on his pupils. Imagine Margaret keeping it for all these years. Amazing! Well done Margaret.