I started school at St Mary’s Infants School in Herd Street, that was a mixed infants school. After a year’s spell at infants, the girls still stayed at the same school in another part of it while the boys went elsewhere.
Eventually I went to St Peter’s Boys School in 1937. St Peter’s Boys School was in the High Street where the town library is situated. We had a very strict Headmaster. At the time we thought he was hard, but looking back, the way things have developed, he was probably right on everything he said, and one of the things he taught us, which you probably don’t get now, was manners. That was drummed into you, the cane was in use then, you did not answer teachers back. Mr Charles A Bartram was the Headmaster’s name, when he wasn’t about he was known as Bill Bartam, when he was about he was known as Sir. Mr Bristow was another one, he used to go round the classroom flicking the ruler round your ear and if you weren’t doing right, that would just accidentally come across your knuckles but you learned by this thing.
I went to school when I was three. I loved the old school teacher, the governess when I first went and she lived up Salisbury Road, just above where the old Monastery used to be. She was such a dear and she had a tea service, a wooden tea service, and I can remember now saying in turn for each child to go out and lay as though they were laying the table. Everyone was doing the same thing, putting the cups and the plates together but that was wrong you see, the cups had to stop near the teapot ready to be poured out. I always remember this, I wondered afterwards what ever happened to this lovely wooden tea set.
I always remember St Peter’s Girls school where the library is now. On the right hand side up the steps was the Infants school and on the left hand side was what we called the big school where you went when you were seven.
They never had Play Schools; I was five in the June so I don’t suppose I started perhaps until the September. I can remember in those days, you know, they had like wooden boards what you could lie on, they used to encourage us to have a little rest.
School dinners were just about coming in then, most of the kiddies went home like myself, I never did stay for a school dinner, but we used to have a third of a pint of milk. We were in the days of the blackout so school finished early so you weren’t going home in the dark; nobody had lights or anything like that. Another thing he used to have us doing, which was great fun for the boys obviously, he had you marching up and down the road. We didn’t have a gymnasium we had to share the gymnasium with the Marlborough College. A great stickler Mr Bartram was for marching you round where you were keeping in step, probably we enjoyed it because we all thought, lets face it the games you used to play was playing soldiers in the war time. You swing your arms and you kept in step, great time.
Next door was a little paper shop it was then Maynards, really like a little tuck shop for us kiddies. We could nip in there on the way home. The thing I remember about that, immediately to the right of Maynards and before the next shop, there was a giant thermometer, a huge one probably about three feet tall which to us was giant then. At fourteen you left school at the end of term nearest your birthday, I left in December 1944 when the war was still on.
We really looked forward to College prize days, all the mothers around the college used to get into their black blouses and skirts, and college supplied them with little white aprons and little white bows they used to put on their heads, and they used to go up and do the waiting on the parents, and we used to go up there after they had finished and it was lovely, we used to take our milk cans up and got them filled up with ice cream. Fortes used to do the catering, and Mrs Knapton, her shop was over where Tudor Café is now. She used to make all the ice cream, and she made beautiful ice cream, her brown bread ice cream was out of this world. They would divide the cakes and that which were left to the people that had been helping so we used to get a nice lot of cream cakes. And then in the evening ladies and gentlemen, the boys’ parents, they used to come in their lovely evening dresses and some of them had tiaras and lovely jewellery and silks and satins, it was lovely, we used to look forward to seeing them.
The thing which I think is most interesting in comparing those days to these is that I went to school, I suppose when I was four or five, at Miss Kinder’s which was near where Sempringham now is and I went with a girl called Pamela who lived near us and we walked along Silverless Street and if we were lucky we caught the milk cart which was taking milk down to the London Road, that got us that far and we walked the rest. You couldn’t do this with a child nowadays you would be run in for dangerous practice I suppose.
I came to Marlborough in 1939 when I married Garnet Kempson. I taught the violin during the 60’s and 70’s at the Stedman Secondary Modern School which was in the huts on the common at that time, but I also taught younger pupils in my own home or in their homes which was mainly the piano.
For the weekday school treats Mr Dell, he had the Mill, he used to clean out his cart, get all the flour out, and the little ones sat in the horse and cart, the Marlborough band used to go up in front and then the rest of us from round Bridewell Street and Holts Row used to all march up behind and it was real fun. Mrs Wiggins, that was our neighbour, she had a lovely rose bush, Seven Sisters, and she used to cut us all a rose, and we thought we were the cat’s whiskers.