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Oh, how times have changed

Memory Lane | August Issue


It was gas marks rather than mobile phones for the school children of 1939

In the winter of 1938, when I was only four years old I enrolled as a pupil at George Road Infants School, West Bridgeford, Nottingham, where I remained for three years.The head teacher was Miss Enid Shatford who was a strict disciplinarian and I did my best to abide by her exacting standards. I did my utmost for my teachers.

One day I was summed to Miss Shatford’s study for a severe dressing down. I forget the misdemeanour, but I think it was for running on the stairs. After a while she said, 'It’s time you pulled your socks up'. When she saw I took her literally she just said, 'I do not mean those sort of socks'.

With the outbreak of war in September 1939, air raid shelters were built in the schoolyard. We had to carry our gas masks around all day. On the night of the Nottingham blitz (May 8th/9th 1941) , 160 people were killed and numerous buildings in the city and West Bridgeford were flattened. On the following morning we were expected to go to school at the normal time and carry on as usual – no ‘counselling’ in those days.

When the air raid sirens went off we had to assemble in the school yard and go into the air raid shelters. We then had a ‘sing-song’ led by Miss Shatford. ‘Way down upon the Swannee River” and 'Little Bobby Shafto' were among our favourites. It was not only the usual subjects that were taught at school, but also manners and values. 

Think of a world in which there was no TV, no computers, no electronic gadgets. We were content to create our own amusements in a world in which vandalism and graffiti were unknown.

JOHN HAMMOND


This story was from August Issue issue. Subscribe Now