Hazelbury Road Open Air School reminiscences pg8

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Jeff (1948-1953): During the summer, as soon as we arrived at school the boys changed into shorts and the girls into sun dresses. I remember the girls sun dresses as being green.

Margaret (1948-1951): I, too, remember the badly fitting sundresses.

Tony (1952-1954): I wonder why only the girls had any sort of uniform? Seems rather odd.

Wendy (1949-1952): Those green sun-suits, they never fitted properly.  They were done up with two strings attached to the bib front, which were tied around the back of your neck. The bib front was only just wide enough to cover my non-existent  childish nipples, but it often slipped sideways while we were playing.  Even at that tender age I used to feel quite embarrassed but no doubt the cut saved money on fabric.  Thank God I wasn't a chubby child. I just can't remember whether the suit had a skirt or wide-legged shorts:  I feel that they had shorts but I can't be absolutely sure. They were brilliant on hot days, but we had to wear them in summer even if there was only a gleam of sunshine, no matter what the temperature.

Pauline (1961-1965): I'd forgotten all about the green sundresses but we still wore those when I was there. The older girls really grumbled because they had rather more to hide than I did and you weren't allowed to keep a vest, etc., on underneath.

Doreen (1940-1947): Summers were always outside, on the field or in the playground. In green cotton sunsuits for girls and shorts for the boys. The only part of the body that was not exposed to the sun was the back of the neck because we wore peaked hats with a flap at the back to stop you getting sunstroke. What a difference today. Sunscreen was unheard of.

Jeff (1948-1953): It was felt that fresh air was good for you and so each classroom had two walls that contained windows that could be opened in concertina fashion so as to open up the entire wall above waist height. If it rained or snowed, the window of one wall would be closed but the other remained open.

Peter W. (1952-1957): I have lots of memories of the open windows, etc. These features of the school did me a great deal of good.

Jeff (1948-1953): In sunny weather we ducked under our desks, balanced them on our heads while gripping the legs and marched out or the classroom onto the field. There we set them up for lessons alfresco.

Peter M. (1937-1939): I well remember the carrying out of desks as I still have a scar on my face where I ran into one boy carrying one out as I ran back for another.

Tony (1952-1954): I remember taking desks out into the field too, and the green (and probably expensive) paper we were given just for that purpose to reduce glare.

Jeff (1948-1953): In the winter, the windows were still opened in the same way but we wore overcoats and gloves at our desks. It sometimes got cold enough to freeze the ink in our inkwells.

Margaret (1948-1951): I remember the freezing classrooms with all the windows open. It never ceased to amaze me with so many sick children around.

Tony (1952-1954): Those winters were terrible. Do you recall one week we had 24°F all week, and those who had a complete attendance record for that week got a certificate? And Mrs. Male had us (still with those windows open!) in our overcoats all day and getting up at intervals and stamping round the classroom and rubbing the inner wrists together to improve the circulation to the hands. 

Doreen (1940-1947): Those freezing cold classrooms, where we worked in full Antarctic dress: woolly pixie hats for girls, balaclavas for boys and gloves without fingers (so that you could write) and we had our own personal numbered school blanket (mine was 55) wrapped around our legs. I'm surprised we survived. The only time the windows were closed was when it was foggy.

Jeff (1948-1953): Those were the years when everyone was burning coal and “foggy” meant a “pea-souper”. No wonder they closed the windows, those pea-soupers were not healthy!

Margaret (1948-1951): I remember the blankets which hung on the back of our school chairs for use on the canvas beds when we had our afternoon rest... and the extremely cold sheds we had to sleep in.

Doreen (1940-1947): We wore navy blue winceyette knickers (panties) with elastic legs (like bloomers) Above the elastic in the leg was a little pocket for your handkerchief. Great for hiding all sorts of things!! I also wore knitted woolen vests (knitted by my mother) and a liberty bodice which was like a little waistcoat, brushed inside, with a row of soft buttons down the front. Ideal for the cold winter days in the Open Air. But when I was about 10 I flatly refused to wear a liberty bodice, cold or not. It's hard to believe it now when you see the girls in their "flimsies". I don't think they make anything like that these days.

Jeff (1948-1953): After lunch we had to lay down on canvas cots in the shed-roofed shelters for an hour. The canvas cots had tubular steel frames and when not in use were stacked against the inside wall. Our first chore at nap time was to unstack the cots and arrange them in rows. We each got a blanket from a storage room at one end of the shelter. A teacher sat in the doorway of this storage room and made sure that there was no talking during nap time.

Pauline (1961-1965): We all had to lie on our right side and I thought there was some mystical medical reason for this until I realized that it was just one more method to try to prevent us talking!

Peter W. (1952-1957): I remember the sleep in the afternoons, where sometimes I would steal a kiss from a lovely girl, Josephine Stephens!

Jeff (1948-1953): As mentioned before, the shelters were open on one of the long sides. In rain or snow, we had to restrict the number of cots in a row so that we didn’t get wet. In summer, however, privileged kids go to take their cots out onto the semi-circular lawn that abutted the classrooms. There were cherry trees there and we would surreptitiously feel around for windfall cherries and pop them into our mouths. Surreptitiously - hah! We must have thought the teachers were stupid! In the shelter we would whisper to each other and "Be quiet over there" would come from the teacher.

Pauline (1961-1965): I'd forgotten about having rest hour outside in nice weather - and being allowed to lie on top of the blanket. That was so pleasant, with the sun on your arms and the birdsong. 

Wendy (1949-1952): The afternoon nap always seemed a curious idea to me as I was never sleepy. We weren't allowed to whisper to each other or move so it was quite boring and uncomfortable.  However, one day a blackbird decided to nest in the corner between the roof and the wall and I loved watching it fly in and out with its mate. Rest time was never boring once I could see that.

Tony (1952-1954): The poplar trees are probably the strongest link for me with the school. We'd fall asleep listening to the rustle of them. They're still my favourite tree as a consequence. I do remember the girls green summer skirts now I've been reminded, partly because it was possible, when lying on those camp beds after lunch in the warm weather when no blankets were issued, to look up the girls' skirts in the row of beds above. I can only dimly recall the cherry trees though.

Wendy (1949-1952): Strangely I can't remember cherry trees, but I do remember the poplars. I felt quite proud that I knew what they were called having been taught by my Dad, as there were poplars at Jaywick where we had our holidays.

Pauline (1961-1965): There was a gale one winter which blew down a couple of the poplars. One landed across the roof of Mrs. Male's classroom.  Fortunately it happened at night - we came in to find the damage in the morning, and had to switch rooms and double up in other classes for a while until all was made safe. I was also there during the fabled winter of 1962-3 in all that snow. Oddly, though, I remember more about the snow at home than in school.

Dressing for the Weather

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