My Days at Laindon High Road

Memories, memories. I have enjoyed reading the comments. I may be able to clear up the question of the needlework teachers. Mrs. Virling took us for needlework in our first year when we had to make our domestic science apron and headband – yes yellow gingham decorated with blue cross stitch. As we moved up the school – probably in our second or third year – Mrs. Gay was the needlework teacher. Not my best subject at all. Her room was equipped with all the sewing machines – all our work with Mrs. Virling (or Verling) was hand sewing. 

Miss Green was my domestic science teacher but I did spend some time with Mrs. Badger – we did less cookery with her and more washing and ironing. 

Miss Jollyman was my form teacher in the first year and also took us for Biology which included human reproduction!! I remember that Coral Hewett led her a merry dance on the day she tried to tell us about the birds and the bees!!  Miss Jollyman introduced us to “Cranford” (which was very boring) and to some lovely poetry. 

My teacher in the second year was Mr. Bear. He cycled to school each day from his home in Crays Hill. He was of course our maths teacher and his remark in my blue report book (which is still up in the loft) was “Ann experiences great difficulty with maths” – how right he was – I certainly did. Whilst in his class we were introduced to Dickens with Oliver Twist. 

For the rest of my school life at the High Road my teacher was Mr. Anthony (Daffyd Griffith). As we moved into the extended course we were part of an experiment being the first pupils at the school to take “O” levels in our final year. 

Mr. Anthony taught us English and English Literature and introduced us to William Shakespeare with The Merchant of Venice and Julius Caesar. We were taken to the Old Vic twice and also saw a Shakespeare play at the Palace Theatre in Westcliff where we were not very well behaved and got into a lot of trouble. 

I was in the school choir and remember singing on Speech Day – Tales from the Vienna Woods, Nymphs and Shepherds and the William Tell overture. Our choirmaster in later years was Mr. Wood. 

I was awarded two prizes at speech day when in the third year – one for Geography and one for RI which are still on my bookshelves. I still have a little dish and a small vase made in Mr Minikin’s art class to remind me of those days of fluorescent socks (I wasn’t allowed to wear them) and hoola hoops, Tommy Steele and later Cliff Richard and Elvis. We were allowed to have pop music at Christmas from a record player in the classroom – Diana by Paul Anka and Its only Make Believe – Conway Twitty were top of the pops then. 

Modernisation began at our time in the school with the building of the new block which replaced the old wooden buildings which housed the woodwork and metalwork rooms and domestic science for the girls. I recall having art lessons from Mr. Smale in the new block. 

I never enjoyed sport but loved swimming and recall being taken to the Hutton Residential School pool before the swimming pool at the High Road was built. This was only just finished as we were leaving and I never recall swimming in it. 

Some of the children resident in the children’s homes at Hutton came to the High Road. There were between 15 and 20 of them. Quite a lot of them were Roman Catholic children and attended instruction with the priest each morning in the ladies staff room while we had assembly. These children will be on the school photograph and may be among some who will never be identified. Well I have browsed through the photograph and have managed to identify a couple more faces – but no one has managed to identify me yet so I had better put that right!!

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  • I attended “High Road” from September 1932 to August 1936. After study of photo ‘1933’ I can identify Mr Woodward, Mr Griffiths, Mr Cluff, Mr Radford (of loaf and flowers fame), Mr Finch the carpentry teacher who banned me from woodwork because I was left handed and Miss Jollyman.

    Others in my time were Miss Jeffers, Miss Cook who taught music, Mr Lane, Mr Moffat, Mr Gay and Miss Linford who married Mr Gay. I met Mr Gay during WW2 in the RAF where he was serving I suppose in a teaching capacity. 

    I remember my time at that school with some affection. They were mainly happy times. I also sung in the school choir. 

    I remember Mr Cluff who taught science, as a hard worker (as indeed they all were) with infinite patience and a bright sense of humour. Mr Woodward taught geometry and was a good shot with pieces of chalk at talkative pupils.

    A great pal of mine was a Dougie Swan who was a good all round athlete and a favourite with the girls. I last saw him during the war, a sergeant (corporal of horse) in the Life Guards. 

    I remember Joan Sims whose father was the railway stationmaster at Laindon station. 

    Other friends were Ken Shaw, Vic Nunn who later attended Grays Palmers. He was killed in action in 1943 whilst serving as a navigator on Lancaster bombers, Arthur Martin whose father worked in the Railway signal box. Others were Gwen Churchill, Gertie Lawther and Vera Backhouse who in later years visited my wife in 1951 after the birth of our son Phil. 

    Whilst serving as the village constable at Horndon-on-the Hill I had occasion to visit the school concerning bicycle thefts and spoke to Mr Woodward who then was head teacher. I could go on and on but at age 89 I’ll cease. 

    By Henry Rossiter (18/05/2012)

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