Hazelbury Road Open Air School reminiscences pg6

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Tony (1952-1954): I moved up to do two years in Mrs. Male's class. "M.F. Male", of course; that's how she used to sign things. I never did find out what the initials stood for, and as kids of course you never asked!

Pauline (1961-1965): The M stood for Margaret but I have no idea about the F.

Jeff (1948-1953): I also moved to class 3 taught by Mrs. Male. That is where most of my memories come from.

Wendy (1949-1952): I never had Mrs. Male although I do remember her.

Jeff (1948-1953): I remember each pupil's pencil being stored individually in a long cloth holder under the blackboard. The rotary pencil sharpener was on Mrs. Male's desk and everyone itched to use it. However, its use was strictly controlled in order to conserve the supply of pencils.

Sometimes we used ink which resided in china inkwells that dropped into holes in our desktops. We used pen-holders with replaceable steel nibs and liked dropping them vertically to the wood floor where they impaled like darts. Of course, this was frowned upon but it didn’t stop us! I remember once going with Mrs. Male to mix more ink for our inkwells. She took me into the girls toilets to get water and I was mortified and kept my eyes down.

Perhaps each year (I’m not sure), Mrs. Male orchestrated the school p
lay to which parents were invited. One year I was cast as Kate’s music tutor in Shakespeare’s “The Taming Of The Shrew”. At the right is a family photo of me entering with the cardboard lute wrapped around my head (by Kate) and showing copious application of make-believe blood on my face! As part of my Elizabethan costume, made by my mother, I had to wear an old pair of her nylons which I hated doing [click on the photo to see a larger version].

Another year I was cast as Malvolio in Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night". At the first run-through, it was discovered that I hadn't learned any of my lines (I was/am a great procrastinator). I was put in disgrace and told to go learn them. When this was related at home, I discovered that my family's holidays (decided by when my father's factory closed down for two weeks) prevented me from being at school when the play was destined to occur. More disgrace. Someone else (I can almost remember his name, but not quite) was given the crash job of learning the part of Malvolio!

Tony (1952-1954): Twelfth Night; if that's the play with Sir Andrew Aguecheek...

Jeff (1948-1953): Yes, it is.

Tony (1952-1954): ...then I played him one year. Mrs. Male gave me a pair of her husband's old underpants for my mother to sew up at the front and dye yellow for part of my costume. I had no father myself. I never thought about it at the time but I suppose I could have done the same thing with a pair of Mum's old bloomers! I can recall adopting a lisp and a limp wrist and sprinkling the speech (as per the script) with many a "La! I'faith!". On one of my later visits I asked Mrs Male whether they were still doing Shakespeare for the school play, and got the reply "Those days are gone. You can't do anything like that with this lot!". We may have been the last of the summer wine for her!

Peter W. (1952-1957): I was once cast as the Wizard in one of Mrs. Male’s school plays but I cannot remember the name of the play.

[Peter supplied the photo on the left. Click on it to see a larger version.]

Doreen (1940-1947): At the end of term, just before the summer holidays, we would have Open Day. All the mums came (no dads: they were either at war or at work). Our artwork was shown as well as our needlework (girls) and woodwork (boys). Then we had our little "show". Anybody who could do something took part: singing, a bit of dancing, poetry reading and the "Performance of the Year". One year we did "Uncle Tom’s Cabin". I played Topsy (growed under a bush) and my face was blacked up with cold cream and burnt cork. It was everywhere: down my neck, in my ears, everywhere. Miss Moscrop, I think, organized all this but it was dear Mrs. Male who coached us.

Pauline (1961-1965): In my time, every class did a class play at the end of each year, and my finest hour was as Titania in the fairy scenes from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" which was the starting-point of my life-long passion for the plays of Shakespeare!

The rest area on the far side of the playground, near the poplars was also the open air theatre when I was at the school. It had sliding glass doors and there was a kind of pit below the edge of the room where chairs were placed for parents/the audience with a raised tier with chairs behind it - the room became the stage. One day we had a summer storm so intense that this pit flooded. We watched the water inching up. It stopped just short of flooding the room. When not used as a theatre, the room was used as a regular classroom; we had to move out the desks when we prepared it for the afternoon nap.

Jeff (1948-1953): I remember one day, with the 11-plus exam coming up, Mrs. Male discovered that I couldn't recite my 13 times table (or was it 16 times?). Anyway, she wrote it out for me and I had to study it during my after-lunch "nap" and be tested afterwards.

Peter W. (1952-1957): Before lunch most days Mrs. Male would have a spelling bee and leave sweets (candies) on your books if you got them all correct. Probably I’m good at spelling because I have a sweet tooth!

Tony (1952-1954): Whilst in Mrs. Male's class there was a newspaper item about the pilot of a light plane of which the engine had failed. Faced with the choice of landing in a field on which children were playing or landing in trees, he chose the latter and was killed. For some reason Mrs Male chose me to glue the article to a sheet of paper and write underneath this quotation from the Bible: "Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for a friend". She wouldn't ask me to do it now if she saw my writing!   

Jeff (1948-1953): I remember that lesson, too. There was also a lesson where we had to think up all the words we could use instead of the word “nice”, a word that she thought was not descriptive enough and should be avoided. Do you remember also being taught to recite The Beatitudes and Psalm 23? I couldn't recite them now, though.

Tony (1952-1954): I remember reading the morning lesson after being coached by Mrs. Male.

Jeff (1948-1953): Yes, I remember doing that, too.

Tony (1952-1954): I recall making woodwork stuff - a windmill moneybox from an Ovaltine tin that turned when you dropped in coins. And a clown strung on an "H" frame that somersaulted when you flexed the two lower sides of the frame.

Jeff (1948-1953): Yes, I remember making one of those jumping, somersaulting figures. Also making bookends adorned with gold-painted pine cones.

Peter W. (1952-1957): I recall we had a bird table in the garden and would paint pictures of the birds we spotted.

Pauline (1961-1965): Did you have correspondence with a ship's captain? We did in Mrs Male's class. Captain Hall was in the merchant navy and worked for the sugar line. About once a term he would send us a letter about his voyages and we would have to draw his route on a banda-machine map of the world! [See Mick Cheesman’s map of Captain Hall’s voyage] We would write back and, on one occasion, he awarded a prize for the best letter, which I won; I was very proud! He visited the school in his captain's uniform and presented me with the book I'd chosen (Lamb's "Tales from Shakespeare") in assembly. I still think this was a great idea and may be one reason why I always liked Geography at Grammar School and ended up taking it as one of my A-Level subjects (the others being English and French).

In Mrs. Male's class, we also used to learn all the standard traditional or folk songs, American and British. I remember things like "The Camptown Races" and "Ye Banks and Braes". I enjoyed singing but in my first term, Mrs Blight dismissed me as a "growler" and made me stay quiet. Mrs. Male was far more inclusive.

I think each class did a class song in a summer performance; the only one I remember was the New Zealand one for which we learned the Maori words - the song about "hurry back to Rotorua" in the English version. Each class also sang its own Christmas carol at a Christmas service and my main memory of that was before Mr Rapley left, while Miss Moscrop was still teaching, when her class sang the Advent hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and I thought it was the most beautiful music I'd ever heard. Thus began another lifelong passion - sacred Christmas music.

I can remember some pupils who were my cronies in Mrs. Male's class: there was Margaret (dark bobbed hair), June (ginger hair), Linda (fair hair), who was Oberon when I was Titania, and Shelley. I don't remember their surnames now, except that Shelley was Shelley Sarojini Selwyn which I thought was a magnificent name! There was also a girl called Brenda Chester who was on my bus and came to my birthday party one year, and a girl called Anne who lived in Wood Green.

Jeff (1948-1953): My last contact with Mrs. Male was when she came round to our house on on 2nd June 1953 to watch the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on our 12” black and white TV.

Tony (1952-1954): My happiest school memories by far are of Hazelbury, so much so that for several years afterwards I paid an annual pilgrimage back to see Mrs. Male and the school. I stopped when she and the headmaster were no longer there.

Pauline (1961-1965): Mrs. Male was my best teacher EVER! I was in her class for two years, then in my final year she had taken over the top class so she taught me again.


Mrs. M.F. Male, Teacher of Class 3

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