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A Thin 7 year old

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posted by alias theirhistory on Friday 16th of March 2012 09:31:49 PM

Unless I knew the history of this photo, I would not have been able to pick myself out had it been a class photograph. Age 7. Height approx 4'3". Weight approx 4 stone. (26 Kg) Condition Thin. My rather thin tall build was an advantage at the infants school, I was able to out run most of my own group. There was one disadvantage, when some of the older junior boys were in trouble and received the cane, I was given it too, the Headmistress thought that I was also in the juniors, I can understand her thoughts, I don't look like a child that should be in the infant class. Well a school record for the only infant for many years to have been caned. I think during the school holidays without school lunches I lost some weight, thus the rather thin look to my face. Six months later I was put into a Children's Home and started to put on some more weight. In 1964 most boys would have had school shorts that almost reached their knees, my shorts had to be for a much younger age group to stop them falling down, even then the waist band is taken in as much as it could. I was just an odd shape. ---------------------------------- Boarding school Part 1 The Boarding School before I went into The National Children''s Home December 1964 Age 7 years, 11 months. Boarding School My arrival at my new school was a little frightening at first. Everyhing about my arrival had happened so quickly. On arrival at my new school, the first person I met was Matron. The first thing was to have a look at the possessions I had with me. It was explained that a few items like knives and cigarettes were not allowed. It was mainly the older boys who seemed to have those, but to make it fair all of us had to follow the same rules. Now I was taken to a small side room. If I ever wanted to find her, this was where I should first come. When she was not on duty, there was another lady whom I also should address as Matron. Any problems other than matters to do with lessons, I should come to see either of them first. My bag of toy cars was put on the table, sorted through; there appeared to be nothing that I should not have. Next Matron asked what I had in my pockets. One by one, everything I possessed was checked over; my mother had done a thorough job of removing any non-essential object from my possession before we left. I was now told that I could leave my bag of toys and raincoat here for the moment as I was just in time for lunch. When that was over my clothes and which dorm I was going to be in could be sorted out. I followed matron along a corridor and was shown where the boy''s lavatory was. There was a mention that a good wash of my hands was required as an inspection was often made before we sat down to meals. Soon cleaned up I was escorted to the dining room; an orderly queue was forming close to the door. I was taken past the queue; several boys of around my age were near the head of the group. Matron singled one boy out and suggested that he should look after me during lunch, and then bring me to her afterwards. With that I was left alone with all the other boys. The nearest boys soon asked my name and how old I was, within moments it was worked out that I was the third youngest, the three of us would become eight the following month. The main conversation was on the food, most days it seemed to be all right, Mondays were the worst with liver at lunchtime. Soon in a similar fashion to ordinary school lunches we had our plates full and were sitting down at a table. My main question was how many boys are there at this school. I was now told that in our lower form there were eleven, with me it would make twelve, in the middle form there was about fifteen and the upper form had eight, it was best to keep out of their way, as they could bully at times. Everyone wore grey shirts with grey pullovers, I stood out a little although my jumper was grey, I had a white shirt on. The main conversation turned to what I had done to get sent here, eventually they persuaded me to tell them that the adults had accused me of trying to push a friend under a bus. I was asked was there much blood, they seemed disappointed when I explained that my friend had fallen onto the pavement and the bus had stopped some distance away. Those that were close to where I was sitting explained why they had been sent here, one set fire to a barn, another kept running out of schools, one of them did not get on with his parents and there were several other reasons that seemed similar to mine, it was just that adults did not seem to believe what we ever told them and did not like the mischief we got up to. The two boys that were younger than myself had come here a month ago. I was told by them that they liked this place more than ordinary school. Lunch was over, it was explained that our lower group had it easy after lunch, it was thought that we should have a quiet time after a meal, so we were encouraged to go and read for a while before going outside to play, the middle and upper forms have half an hour of chores to do before they are released. It is nothing very major, the dining room needs to be cleaned up and the upper form is normally in charge of the washing up. The others left us I was now taken by the boy who introduced himself as Martin took me in the direction of where matron might be found. He mentioned that I might get a little confused over names. Whilst the boys and matron will normally call you by your first name, the other staff and the teachers will use your surname. When Martin learnt of my surname, as it was one of those that was equally used as a Christian name he thought that there would be no problems for me, with some of the boys when their surnames are called out, it can lead to a bit of fun. Matron was ready and waiting for us, I was asked had I enjoyed lunch, compared with some school meals that were cooked in bulk, I replied that the meal had been fine. Matrons main aim was to kit me out with most of the clothes I needed, it was explained that I would not have to carry all the clothes in one go, just enough to be going on with, with name tapes to put in each garment, new boys could cause a lot of work, but it was far easier than trying to match up unknown items with their rightful owners, if I ever had something with either a loose or missing tape I should tell her before it went into the wash. Looking at my height it was remarked that some of my garments could easily find their way into the middle dorm. Martin stayed with me while various measurements were made, there were comments that I was like a bit of a beanpole, a belt would be one of my main needs as school shorts came in regular sizes. Soon a pile of vests, socks, shirts, together with plimsolls, shoes, wellingtons, jumper and a host of other items soon began to pile up. Matron explained that the new clothes were either for schooldays or if we were taken out, our play clothes usually were clothes that had been grown out of by other boys, if we did have a bit of a ruff and tumble then allowances could be made when things eventually became a little worn. I was now asked to change completely into a fresh set of school clothes, it was explained it was far easier to look after our clothes if we all were wearing the same items at any one time. Each garment on had its blank name tape lettered with my surname and my first initial, followed by the letter L, matron mentioned that if anything fitted when you went up to a higher dorm, there was extra space to replace the letter, it made sorting our clothes far easier. Once dressed and matching Martin I was told that would be all for the moment, when tea was over we should both return, most of my clothes would be ready to put away. There was the sound of a bell ringing at some part of the building, from the look on Martin''s face he was either worried that he would be late or disappointed that our leaving matron was at the same time that afternoon school started. If there was anything to put a smile on his face it was when matron asked that I be shown around the school, it might be easier to show me around whilst the others were in their own form rooms. If he was asked why he was not in lessons he should say that he had matrons'' permission to be out. Martin was asked was there a spare bed in his dorm if there was I could have that. I was led off at top speed, once out of earshot, I was thanked for getting him out of lessons, as it was games on the playing field today, not one of his favourite subjects. As I was led around the building it was explained that it was really divided into three separate parts, the top two floors were for the staff, unless we were invited personally by the staff we should not go up the main staircase to their part of the building. I was led part way up the staircase to the first floor; this was where the dormitories and sickroom was. If there was any pleasure it was that matron was going to allow me to be in his dorm, which would even up our numbers, as our lower dorms were in two sections odd numbers could be a bit of a problem when it came to chores. We went along a corridor I was pointed to two rooms, that was where one of the masters on night duty would sleep, when we misbehaved in the night anyone on duty would soon come and sort us out. If there were any major problems during the night, it was their rooms that we should knock on first. Next was the middle dorm, this was one large room, once you were nine you would be moved up there, at the same as you moved onto the middle form for lessons. Next came the other lower dorm, our two dorms were almost identical so matron could have put me easily into that one. I was now taken into the dorm I was going to be in, Martin pointed to his bed, then to a bed next but one, which would be mine. Everything in the room was identical, by each bed was a chair, which had a small mat in front and between every other bed was small chest of draws and in each corner a large wardrobe. Play clothes went in the lower draw, school clothes into the top draw of the ones I was to use. The wardrobe was for best clothes that might need hanging up, play coats and the like were left down stairs when we came in. Clothing that was for washing was to be put in the wicker chest at the end of the corridor before we went to bed. We left the dorm, I was now taken to the rooms we could use when we were not in lessons, these were all on the same floor, I was told that the general rule was that during lesson time you were to be on the ground floor, if you were indoors and not either at lessons or doing chores you were to be on this floor. It was explained that the adults had an easy method of making you remember the rules here, minor items and it was one stroke with the plimsoll on your hand, anything more then it was one on each hand, after this it was lightly that the cane would be used or several hits with the plimsoll on your rear, one or two hits simply sting anything more and it will start to hurt. I was now shown the library, when you wanted to read books or comics this was the place to be, there was the system if you had comics once you had read them you were to leave them in the library for others to read rather than to put them away with your toys, when they had been well read and become tatty matron will throw them out. When you find a comic with a coupon or other item you wish to cut out, even if it is your own comic you must write your name on the front of the comic and the page number where the coupon is to be found, you will be allowed the item when all have read the comic, as well as your name you have to put a number by your name to show if you are the first to request something to be cut out. This seems the best way to prevent the comics falling to pieces before all have read them. Next was the activity room, each of us had a locker where our own things other than clothes are to be kept, only the staff really have the right to go into your locker, but don''t tell on any of the older boys you find hunting through or your life will be awful a short while later. Now I was shown where the bathroom and showers were, in the evening if you are either filthy or scheduled for a bath you normally go in pairs, with two baths matron thinks it is safer in pairs as you can watch out for each other. In the mornings we all have showers, the water was normally only warm at that time of the day, the upper and middle dorms go before us, so we have to be quite quick if we are to be in time for breakfast. I was now shown the upper bogs, paper was normally in each, but before you sit down just make sure there is some. It is the same for the downstairs ones. The upper floor dealt with I was now taken down the side flight of stairs, these were the ones we should normally use, they were stronger and did not echo so much. There were three main form rooms, the upper and middle forms were in use so we did not spend anytime near the doors, I was taken to our room, it was empty it appeared that our form mates were on the field. Martin told me that if you were on the field either at games or play you normally wore your hobs, these were the shoes that had the hard toecaps and the solid soles, those were more up to kicking the ball. When you came in from outside they had to be taken off, for indoor use you would normally wear either shoes during the day or once tea was over plimsolls could be worn, on a dry day it was all right to wear plimsolls on the hard ground. The form room I was going to join was just like any other school room I had been in only here there were fewer desks, I was told that you mainly sat in pairs, when you were troublesome you would sit on your own at the side of the room, then you were more at risk from a hit with the plimsoll as you were right next to the side alley where our teacher walked up and down. Out of the form room and I was shown where the staff had their offices, the worst room to be sent to belonged to the man in charge, unlike a normal headmaster he is on duty all the time. We appeared to be lucky at the moment as often during the afternoon period he was away from the building. I would probably meet him at teatime, he appeared to be very strict but really he was the best of the teachers, if he punished you it was only when you were really bad. A bell was rung in the corridor; this was the signal for our fifteen-minute afternoon break. It was best it seemed to allow those from the other to forms to gain their freedom, if we came out into the main corridor, as I was new here they might want to pick on me to see if I was any good at fighting. If I proved early on to them that I was not going to challenge them in any way I would be left alone after a couple of days. Their favourite trick it seemed was to hit you gently each time they passed, if you did nothing then soon you would be ignored, retaliate in any way and you will always be in fights. The main corridor went silent after a while, it seemed safe to leave, I was now shown the remaining rooms on the ground floor. Soon there was the sound of the others returning to their rooms. Martin decided that the rest of the afternoon could be spent showing me the grounds and where I was not allowed to go. We headed back to matron it seemed it was best to ask her permission to go outside as really her intention was that I be shown around the building. With no lessons indoors it could not really be suggested we join our own form. Matron gave the idea for a tour of the grounds her blessing, we were handed some of my outdoor clothes, these had been named up, if we were heading outside it would save her a journey. I was soon told what the remaining clothes were for. There were two raincoats, the new one was for if we were taken out of the grounds, this should be hung up in our wardrobe, this task could be done later, the older raincoat was for when we went out to play, when it gets muddy it was best to wipe off any excess mud before hanging it up, they were never meant to be spotless, but if too dirty you will be in trouble, the hob nail shoes were for football and general playing outside in, both these and the school shoes had to be cleaned by supper time, they would be inspected after supper, if they are found to be dirty they will be taken away for a day and you will have to wear wellingtons, do this twice in a week and you will get a whack and loose your shoes for a whole week. I was shown the other type of play clothes, when it was cold it was best to wear your combined jacket & trousers, these were known by all as suits. They were nice and thick so often you did not need your coat, as the trouser parts are long they are far better than shorts. If everything is clean you are allowed to wear them indoors. They go into the wash only on a Saturday night, so don''t get them in a state before that if you want to stay warm. We both changed into the suits, Martin suggested that they might give me a little more padding when the older boys found me later, if you get a whack on the rear by the staff the pain was less so there were advantages to changing into them once lessons were over. Martin suggested that wellingtons would be the most comfortable things for me, as the hobs took a little getting use to. Once outside I was taken completely around the building, we avoided going close to the two forms that were having lessons. Although we did have permission to be here, it seemed it was best that we did not draw attention to ourselves. The main warning I was given was not to go on the fire escape, it was all right to be on it if there was a fire or we were having a fire drill, but at all other times if you were spotted on it you would be punished, this could vary from a couple of hits with the plimsoll if you were on any of the first few steps, to the cane once you reached the first turn or above. On the doors that lead to the escape you could open the door without any key, but once the door was opened it was impossible to shut the door without the key, that only matron or the teachers possessed. The boiler room was our next stop, in the morning the upper boys have the chore of moving the coke from the main store to the area near to the boiler for the amount that was for that days use, the other chore is moving the ash from the bottom of the boiler, the grounds man normally rakes it into a pile first thing in the morning, so when they come to move it, the ash is either cold or only just warm. Sometimes matron or the teachers will tell you to bring odd boxes of rubbish down here. If you are caught with something you should not have often you will be taken down to the furnace and made to put it into the fire, at that point you might get a whack. I was told that most of the clothes that I had changed out of would soon be put on the fire by matron, it stops us getting hold of them if we are planning to run away. If we are missing they will know exactly what we will have on. The kitchen was next, the cook or one of the helpers occasionally took pity on you if you offered to do any extra jobs for them, odd slices of cake could sometimes come your way, both the matrons however do not like you begging in that way. The playing field was now visited, we avoided the frozen group that were kicking a ball about at the far side of the grassed area, if we were spotted we might be requested to cheer our form at their game. The small wooded area was in my mind not that special; Martin mentioned that in the evenings it could be a little scary if you were out on your own, I was use to larger more remote woods. Most of the trees had been fully conquered; to make it even easier several small pieces of wood were nailed to the larger trees to make the first part of the climb very easy. There was a long thick rope hanging from a main branch, I was told that to prove yourself the older boys would see if you could climb to the top of the rope, if you can reach the top there is a branch that is easy to step onto, then you can either climb down the tree or use the rope. If they do challenge you try to be one of the first to get up the rope, they think it is fun when they get to the top branch to pee onto the rope, then it is almost impossible to climb the last few feet. Once however you could prove you could climb you would be allowed to use the full area of the wood, a few of our form have not yet managed it. Martin told me that he only succeeded on his third attempt. I was challenged to an attempt, however even if I did manage, it would not count as there were none of the upper form to witness my attempt. In one of the woods I played in I had managed to fix a small rope to a tree, it was not as long as this one and the diameter was far less. With raincoat and boots it was not really the best clothing for rope climbing, but I attempted to see if I could climb this rope. The wide diameter of the rope made it far easier than I imagined, within moments I was a good way up, my real reason for not going further was that once at the top I did not really want the climb down and without shoes I was not too sure of the grip I would be able to manage on the way down. Martin was pleased at my attempts and told me that at the first opportunity there was I should try it for real. It was now decided that we should be heading back, school lessons would end soon, there were a few chores to do before tea, if these were finished early it would give me time to meet the others before we sat down for tea. Once back indoors I was shown how our outdoor clothes should be kept. There were roughly three areas, one for each of our forms. If any one part became untidy it was quite easy to find the culprits. Our raincoats were hung up normally for two of us sharing a peg, there were a few extra pegs over in our area, until this point Martin explained that he had managed to have a peg for himself, but I might as well share it now. The system worked most of the time without problems, if you hung up a wet coat on top of a dry one it can cause problems, we are meant to take them down to the boiler room if they become too soaked to dry off for a while but few ever bother. There was no problem remembering where to hang my coat, Martin had managed to get one next to a small pillar so it was a little protected I was told from the regular battle that takes place if everybody is hunting for their coats at once. I followed martin to the boot cupboards. There was a row of wooden cabinets along one wall, unless we are actually putting something away they are meant to be closed, there are some slats in the lower parts of the doors to let air circulate to dry anything off that gets a little damp. Each of us had our own section, I was found an unused area in the cabinet next to where Martin kept his things, all of us in the lower dorms had the cabinets at the far end of the row, this was simply down to luck as we don''t get trampled on by the older boys. There was a set routine how things were to be arranged Each of the cabinets had three shelves, the top one was for our two pairs of plimsolls the indoor pair go at the front and the games pair at the back, the middle shelf has our school shoes at the front and our hobs behind, the lower shelf was for our wellingtons, the older boys also put their football or rugby boots on that shelf as well, but thankfully in the lower form we don''t do that much sport. Martin showed me the tables and where all the cleaning rags and polish were kept, with my school shoes only having an hour or so of use it was simply a light polish to return them to as new condition, the hobs needed no attention, and mud on our wellingtons had been wiped off on the long grass before we came inside, Martin had little to do on the polishing side, he told me that normally he did not wear his hobs, he disliked football so most days if he went outside he put wellingtons on. At the end of the day we are meant to have cleaned everything, most of us do this once tea is over as it saves time before bed if there was anything good on the T.V. Forget to do this and you will be in trouble, on most evenings there is an inspection, they don''t bother opening all the cupboards they just do a random selection. Anything not to their liking will be taken out and put on the side table for all to see. We changed into plimsolls and went in search of the others, who had come off the field shortly before we came indoors. Once afternoon lessons are over there is a short break before tea for the lower and middle forms, the upper form will be getting the tea set up, although it is a chore, they get to select the larger slices of cake and the like for themselves. Soon I was introduced to those in the lower form; it appeared that to the other I would be able to fit in, some boys when they first arrive spend the time balling their eyes out. I was taken through to the room that our lower form and the middle group used for activity periods, Martin took me to my locker to make sure the few things that we mine were still where we had left them; none of my new friends had made any claims.

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