I used to love writing, and still do. Although the effort to write that small article in November 1949 "Alive Alive O" about cockling in Minster would not have exercised many mussels (whoops!) I did in fact win the 'Prize for Composition' in December 1948 and, to this day, have my prize winners book, "Strangers in the Islands" (a poor man's Famous Five yarn about war-time spies, submarines, blah blah blah...) with Miss Bryan's hand-writing in the front cover. She was our form teacher at that time; Mr Mossley 'finished us off' ready for the Eleven Plus and our exit from WT. We all then scattered in the wind.
Harvey De Friend before me has mentioned Gillian Briggs, and her role in an (alleged) de-bagging. Why do I remember Gillian Briggs? At 10 years of age I was fairly short, (I am probably even shorter now), but Gillian Briggs had legs that were as long as I was tall. She was dead keen on netball and all sports, and was School high-jump Champion.
I can also name most of the 1949 football team, and many others of the boys who, like me and my twin brother David, left WT in 1950; quite a few belonged to the 1st Aldborough Hatch Scout Group and turned up in great numbers in the Autumn of 1996 for the Group's 50th Anniversary Reunion.
My sister, Pat, has many memories of the then Junior School Head Teacher, Mr Train; she recalls his favourite Hymn for School Assembly (Eternal Father.) and how he would be moved when the children of the war-time William Torbitt school sang of 'those in peril on the seas'. She remembers the day he retired, when the children sang it at his last assembly; she noticed tears rolling down his cheeks. She remembers it vividly, because 'she had never seen a man cry before'.
My sister also learned very many years later, through private connections, that Mr Train's own family nick-named him 'Puffer'. She doesn't recall any of the children of those years ever creating nick-names for teachers, however obvious a name like 'train' must have seemed. Are today's infants at WT so 'innocent', or respectful?
I should take the opportunity of asking you to pass my kindest regards to Miss Billington, who was the first teacher my brother and I had at WT. Is there just a chance she will remember the Roper twins (John and David) arriving in 1944, in the same class as the Ritchie Twins (Margaret and Anne)?
Miss Peacock I remember too, who as Head Teacher of the Infants was the whistle-blower: the person responsible for blowing a (policeman's) whistle in the event of an air-raid, so that we should all move 'quickly', whilst dragging our chairs 'quietly', into the corridors for safety and away from (the front) windows. The air raid's were most often made by pilotless flying bombs ('doodle-bugs'), and VII rocket attacks. My sister has told me that, as a Junior at the school and therefore 'upstairs' at the WT, the Juniors had to bring their chairs down to the ground-floor corridors where they continued lessons.
How we loved to collect the shrapnel from the pavements on our way home to Applegarth Drive, and how we loved it even more when we arrived one morning to find all the WT's (front) windows blown out from a bomb-blast across the Eastern Avenue, (at that time waste ground - now where the Maisonettes are sited). We were allowed to stay at home 'on holiday' for weeks.
Somebody was asking about the Dinner Huts. Pat is certain that she never ate in them and remembers having to do her turn at preparing tables for dinner either in a classroom, or more likely in the Main Hall. I seem to remember an occasion when the Dinner Rooms were officially opened, which would make it later than 1947 (when Pat left WT), but I could be wrong on that one. I believe they had two wings with kitchens in the centre. I also believe that, at one stage, children of Downshall School were bussed up to eat there too? Perhaps somebody could verify that.
Downshall School children also came up to the WT each year to use our marvellously large Sports Field for their Annual Sports Day, as I don't think they had a field of their own. On these occasions they also 'took over' one of the toilet blocks ( the one in the playground on the North side of the school) and we were told to keep clear. We didn't need telling because most of us were terrified of these bigger children racing about.
At some stage my class was bussed (I cannot believe we walked - but we might have) up Aldborough Road, along Painters Road, and then left up Hainault Road, to visit Padfield's Farm halfway up on the left, opposite a group of buildings that now form an array of light industrial units. The year of this visit? Somewhere about 1947 I think. In those days Padfield's Farm was probably a dairy farm, but of importance to the visit, it was also the local milk bottling plant, and perhaps the source of the milk delivered to the WT?
I do remember that it was a fascinating visit for any child seeing for the first time a factory process; watching all the bottles jinking along conveyor belts through washing and steaming cycles to the final filling and capping stages.
[Further to the above John writes: I have learned that the Dairy Farm now known as 'Padfields Farm', and mentioned in my story about milk bottling, was at that time called CLARKS DIARIES.
Clarks used to deliver milk in Newbury Park, (horse and cart) and were almost certainly suppliers to the WT in the 1940s and 1950s.]
In regard to the new Sainsbury's site (by Newbury Park Station), I have to number myself among the people who actually caught a steam-train from Newbury Park to go round to Ilford, Barking and Liverpool Street. The tunnels were not opened until several years after the War - between Newbury Park and Gants Hill I believe the tunnels were used as a munitions factory.
Do the children at WT still have to ask their teacher for permission to go to the toilet if they are 'caught short' outside playtime? And in doing so, do they still, as I had to once, have to publicly declare how many sheets of paper they think they might need so the teacher could then tear off and issue the appropriate number? And how many children like me, in my embarrassment, grossly underestimated how many sheets of paper were actually needed? Perhaps it would be better not to know!
Has anybody yet mentioned the turns we all had to take acting as class 'Milk Monitor'.
[From Geoff Gillon, in response to the above:]
Going to the toilet outside the 'permitted time' was, I recall, frowned upon. In all my years there, I never had to leave the class for that purpose - I suppose I was scared of having a black mark against me? I did, with another group of boys, run to hide from Mr Cowan when we had been seen on the grass whilst wet (a caning offence). We compounded our crime by hiding in the girl's toilets, thinking he wouldn't look for us there. We shut the cubicle doors and stood on the seats which just made things even worse when we finally gave ourselves up!
As for milk monitors, somebody out there must surely have kept their smart blue and white enamel badge which was worn with pride?
Memory No. 26
Thank you for all that you and others are doing to maintain the site. After I left WT, I went to Wanstead County High up to O levels, then to Ipswich to do my A levels, before going to Surrey University. A lot of people to keep in contact with!
Not surprisingly, I lost contact with everyone from WT but certainly have distant memories of those days. For example, I remember one year we all went out and lined the sides of the Eastern Avenue and waited for perhaps an hour until the Queen drove by at about 15mph. We all cheered and went back in. That was the last time I saw her!
I also remember seeing the Army lorries on their way to Suez (via, I suppose, Harwich) in 1956. They were distinctive in their sandy colours but I had little idea then of their purpose.
It's funny how the web site has reawakened memories.
Memory No. 25
A Playground Verse:
Old Miss Boot
Kicked Miss Ball
Out of the William Torbitt School
Who was Miss Boot?
I remember playing in the field, standing in a row holding hands with other pupils facing another row of pupils also holding hands. One row trying to break through the other line of pupils.
I also remember playing hoola hoop in the school playground.
I loved the penny crisps better than the school dinners! But are they better than today's Kettle crisps?
Memory No. 24
I have many vivid memories of William Torbitt, including Miss Ferguson, my infant school teacher, the inedible food served up in the dinner huts, my second year teacher, Mr Eagland smoking as he taught class and Mrs Bidgood who taught us in the 3rd to 4th years.
Memory No. 23
I had a great time at the school and spent all my break times, dinner times and games lessons playing football on the huge field. My brother Ian went through 2 years behind me.
Memory No. 22
I remember school dinners, to this day I cannot eat spam or lumpy mash potatoes. The smell that came out of the kitchen was something that will live with me forever. I used to love the fish pond area and the huge field. I remember making a snow man on that field. Handstands against the wall and kiss chase where my favourite ply ground games.
My favourite teacher was Mrs Barlow and we are still in touch to this day. I hated Mr Cowen because I nearly got the cane from him for fighting. I loved Mrs Richards and she to is a friend of my family still.
I used to get called match stick legs as I was so thin, I would love to be called that these days.
I used to be in all the school plays and have mostly very happy memories of my time at the school
Memory No. 21
The only events I recall are being debagged by a number of girls and a couple of boys. The ring leader was a girl called Gillian Briggs. That was in the summer of 1949. I had only come to the school the previous November and was still very much the outsider. A happier memory was the de-rationing of sweets. Scores of kids lined up outside the off licence across the road. We were let in two at a time to buy some sweets. We then took them back to the playground and 'swapped'
In 1950 we did a school show. I can't remember who produced it or what it was called but..I was a policeman dressed up like a foreign legionaire and sung a duet with another boy who had a real part. Some of the words were "In Barossa, in Barossa I'm/he's the potentate that rules". I've never had a memory for poetry, songs or lines in plays but those words have stuck in my head all these years. Someone must have worked very hard to get them in there. I have a photograph of the other boy and I if anyone is interested.
In the summer of 1949 or 1950 there was a solar eclipse. It was a beautiful sunny day. We were all out on the field. My father brought some darkened glass from his work and so some of us were able to view the sun. Unfortunately the teachers hadn't prepared us as they would today so we were all under impressed and hadn't a clue what we were seeing. The darkened sky was not much different to one of those very dark summer storms. The following year my parents bought a set of encyclopaedias and I finally understood. [I remember this too - we had to look at it through photo negatives - it's a wonder any of us retained our sight! - Pauline]
Two names come to mind, friends of Diana. Linda Straker who lived in Cambrian Avenue and was about the same age and Beryl Richardson who was a year older, very serious and definitely wouldn't 'show us it' when playing 'doctors and nurses'.
Memory No. 20
Miss Peacock taught me to knit right handed and led me to every classroom to show my skills (I've never knitted since!)
Mr Cowan took me to the hospital on the "66" Bus with a broken toe!
I played kiss chase around the Toilet blocks.
I took my rabbit to school and my dog! and Mr Wilson the caretaker locked them in his shed until hometime.
Memory No. 19
just saw the photo of the school camp at the I.O.W. and it reminded me of the school camp at the Isle of Man in about '52 or '53 and quite a few of us went from W.T. as I remember. I remember the trip in a truck to the top of Snaefell and couldn't see a damn thing for the mist!! And I remember some tour guide showing us the marks on a telegraph pole where some motor-cyclist had hit it face-first during the last Isle of Man T.T. races. Us little ghouls loved it of course !!
One more memory has sprung to mind. About '51 or '52 we had a school concert and three of the pupils, whose names escape me, played a classical piece (Rites of Spring ? Sheep shall safely graze ? I dunno.............long time ago !) on bass recorders and this was recorded by one of the major record companies at the time, Decca I think. We were all very proud of this of course, especially the performers.
My memories are very shaky as after I left William Torbitt I went to three different grammar schools before leaving the last one a year early (under something of a cloud I might add) and since then have travelled the world many times and lived in many countries. Memories tend to blur and merge but snippets do keep coming back.
I think one of those bass recorder players might have been Geoff (Cole?), the same person who took the lead in the school play about the Scarlet Pimpernel........talented sort of cove, wasn't he? I honestly can't remember who the other members of the trio were though.
I do remember the dinner huts though but in my day, I am sure they were made of timber. There again, that might be a different school and different time and even a different me!! I do remember the pig bins out the back of them though and that all-pervasive odour of rotting food that used to emanate from them. I wonder if there is any connection between that and my decision to become a chef in later life? The mind boggles!!
In '52 or '53, we were all given a booklet entitled 'Royalty in Essex' (I think). It was about 30 cms by 18 cms and either purple or royal blue with the three swords of the Essex coat of arms emblazoned across the front. I remember it being quite an interesting book that told of the association Essex had had with royalty over the years. I kept mine for many years but I guess it got lost somewhere in the shuffle during my wanderings.
I also remember all the balls that used to end up on the school roof that the groundsman later retrieved and that were sold back to us at half the price of a new ball through the sweet shop in Aldborough Road!! He always denied doing it but we all knew different!!
I'll keep you posted as more memories work their way to the surface if they do !!
Memory No. 18
Mathew Farnes singing "Green Door"
Mathew Farnes ginger hair
Ian Parkes telling Miss Matthews not to bother with a "Cross your Heart Bra" since they "don't work properly". (His mother ran a lingerie shop).
Memory No. 17
remember spending, what seemed like, hours performing hand-stands and other acrobatics on the iron bars in the side playground with Janet and Cynthia.
[I remember the handstands "up the wall" and doing "overs" on those iron bars - so much for safety regulations!! - Pauline]
With shame, I also remember throwing the crusts from my sandwiches at lunchtime under the table (I still don't like the crusts) and being chased around the playground after lunchtime when it was discovered who had been throwing them there! Oh yes, and I remember chasing Andreas Hagland around the playground, but he, alas, was always chasing another girl!!
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