Hazelbury Road Open Air School reminiscences pg9

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Peter M. (1937-1939): We had occupational lessons where we made small mats by pegging short lengths of wool into canvas nets. We also made signature books which were popular pre-war.

Another project was to draw a plan of the school after a teacher found me measuring the frontage with a piece of string about a meter long. Later the class did it with a proper tape and eventually we drew a plan.

Wendy (1949-1952): I can remember being just outside the classroom, in the playground, wearing my sun-suit, and doing “sums”. A classmate and I had a large tin bath of cold water, measuring  jugs of different sizes, and the instructions to see how many gills there were in a pint, pints in a quart, and quarts in a gallon. We had to write it down for checking.  It wasn't a particularly warm day and we got quite wet and cold.  I can clearly remember thinking that this was a very bad idea, and that if only I had been given a list of measures to learn I would have learned them very quickly.  As it was we had to go and see Miss Moscrop who was in charge of issuing sun-suits that day, and ask for a dry one.  I felt like Oliver Twist asking for “more” as we were distinctly made to feel very bad for being such naughty girls!

Tony (1952-1954): I do remember doing the mensuration stuff now you mention it. I think now that it was a really good idea: actually "hands-on" learning, plus giving children choice of subject matter to work with.

Doreen (1940-1947): I remember the seagulls on the field They came every winter in droves. I used to wonder why they came so far inland and how did they find our field? They would take off together and then settle down again together like a blanket across the field. We spent a lot of time pondering this when we should have been thinking about our sums. But trying to count them was a bit like doing your sums, wasn't it?

Jeff (1948-1953): To encourage outside activities there was gardening and I remember cleaning and oiling the tools afterwards.

Tony (1952-1954): When I had a car later and did my own servicing I realized that it was used sump-oil from someone's car we used to oil the garden tools; the smell brought it all back.

Jeff (1948-1953): Yes, I remember my dad, who also serviced his own car, supplied some of that used sump-oil.

Wendy (1949-1952): I did gardening too, and yes Tony, you are right about the smell on the rags with which we wiped the tools; I too smelled it later in life and it immediately took me back to those days. The other thing we used to wipe spades and fork prongs with was handfuls of grass; maybe they had run out of oil on those days.

Margaret (1948-1951): I always enjoyed the gardening lesson but loathed the cleaning of the tools. With thick hessian material, covered in the most ghastly smelling substance, we had to rub the tools hard to get them really clean. The awful odour was never forgotten.

Pauline (1961-1965): We, also, did gardening from time to time.

Doreen (1940-1947): In my time, the boys grew vegetables and the girls tended the rockery and the flowers. They were lovely days, with us all chattering and enjoying what we were doing. Until, that is, it came time to clear up. We all wore wooden clogs for gardening which came in three sizes: small, medium and large and were quite heavy. The clogs had to be cleaned and put away in pairs in the box. Then the horrible oily rags came out and all the tools had to be meticulously cleaned and oiled. Then the rags were folded and put back into a big tin.

Peter W. (1952-1957): I wonder if the time capsule we buried in front of the rest-area garden has ever been dug up or is still waiting to be discovered.

Peter M. (1937-1939): We built a small fountain in a garden that we tended and I remember removing the ice from around it one winter.

Jeff (1948-1953): To further encourage us to be outdoors, we were taught to recognize and press wild flowers.

Doreen (1940-1947): Miss Stretch took us on nature walks through the field where we gathered grasses, as many different ones as we could. And we could get up close to the glorious poplar trees - still my favourites.

Tony (1952-1954): I remember the pressed flowers (I still have some in my mother's old bible).

Doreen (1940-1947): In the summer we sat outside to do needlework with Miss Moscrop. I hated needlework and Miss Moscrop told my mum that I didn't sew the material - I stabbed it! She never let me forget it. We made gardening aprons with a big pocket across the front with an embroidered picture of garden flowers. That way we learnt every embroidery stitch that ever existed. I didn't like it but I learned a lot. We made hankies for our mums with drawn threads to make it lacy, hems and tucks, gathers and if you were very advanced - smocking. Alas, I never got to that stage. I was probably still "stabbing" at a hem when that lesson was taking place.

In bad weather we worked in the hall, in the area where the teachers had their food. I maybe wrong about that but that is what I seem to remember. The boys did woodwork at the same time at the other end. They made things like little stools, and probably photo frames and things like that. They all used hammers, I do know that!

Pauline (1961-1965): One winter Mrs. Male got us to fill a medicine bottle with water, stopper it, and bury it in the snow overnight to see what happened. My first ever science practical I guess. I'm no scientist but to this day, I know that water expands when it freezes.

Peter M. (1937-1939): We had a big do dressing up in crêpe paper uniforms to chant “Alice is marrying one of the guards”. I think this was a show to entertain the mayor or some other bigwig who came to formally open the school in 1938 although I was sick with asthma on the day.

Jeff (1948-1953): I remember us joining the Hazelbury school across the field to watch their May Day maypole dance (Margaret’s husband, Roy, supplied a photo of the event).

Wendy (1949-1952): Yes, we did once do maypole dancing as well although we always seemed to end up with the ribbons in a knot and someone falling over the child in front. There was lots of hissing the directions to each other, but it always went wrong much to the consternation of the teachers as the class was meant to perform to various visitors on May Day. I don't think we ever all got it right at the same time but May Day came and went and it was good enough.

Do I have a memory of sharing May Day celebrations with the ordinary school next to us? I think that one year there was a little girl as May Queen who came from the other school. Is it possible that we shared the event?

Tony (1952-1954): Maypole dancing! "Come lassies and lads, take leave of you dads and away to the maypole high......" etc. I wonder if they still do it anywhere in England? I know they do morris dancing - I saw some near Lake Windemere eleven years ago when I was over there. Nice to see the old traditions being kept alive.

Jeff (1948-1953): I remember being assembled in the dining hall to listen to the radio at the launching of the aircraft carrier "Ark Royal" which Wiki says was 1950. I also remember seeing a 16mm black-and-white Western movie at Christmas(?). I remember it featured Gabby Hayes and a stagecoach (I was fascinated by the wheels seeming to spin backwards). It might have been a "Hopalong Cassidy" movie.

Tony (1952-1954): I remember a trip to Whipsnade Zoo when the whole school went on Grey-Green coaches. Great day out.

Jeff (1948-1953): I don’t remember that so maybe it was after I left.

Pauline (1961-1965): I have particularly happy memories of annual class outings. These included Whipsnade Zoo (twice, I think), the Commonwealth Institute and Greenwich. Greenwich was best of the lot; I loved the exhibition of figureheads on the Cutty Sark and somewhere in a box of photos, there's a picture of ten year old me, with plaits and a big smile, standing across the Prime Meridian with one foot in the east, one in the west!

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