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A Shout From The Attic: Roller Towel Blues

Ronnie Bray recalls one of his school teachers, Miss Bessie Saltmer, a kindly lady who smoked Kensitas cigarettes.

To read more of Ronnie's engrossing life story click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page.

Miss Bessie Saltmer had perfectly groomed grey hair and a straightforward manner. We discovered that she smoked Kensitas cigarettes, which we considered very daring. Someone had seen a packet in her smock pocket. Because her hair was always just so, as if sculptured, we though that she might wear a wig. One brave girl cut off some of her hair during needlework, as she bent over to examine the work of the girl next to her. This was duly inspected and although few of us knew much about hair except that you could get nits in it, we decided that it was natural.

The cloakroom where we hung up our coats had a row of wash basins and a roller towel for hand drying that we used to dive through and swing on a lá Tarzan. One of the Archer boys had done some violence to the hand towel and torn it and was seen doing the damage. The headmaster, a Mr Armitage at this time - half a step below God - came into Miss Saltmer’s class with the torn towel. He insisted that a shamefaced young lad called Archer should sew it up under the watchful care of Bessie. Miss Saltmer provided him with needle and thread, she was the needlecraft teacher, and he set to work.

Like most lads he had no idea how to sew. Miss Saltmer took pity on him. She was in the process of sewing the thing up for him when the door opened and Mr Armitage again walked in. Miss Saltmer went bright red and offered a very short explanation. The headmaster seemed satisfied.

I often think of her kindness to the boy and warm to her. She died several years ago.


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