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U3A Writing: Fishes And Pear Drops

….My teacher was Miss Walker. We wrote on slates with slate pencils, which made squeaky noises when we used them. I remember dried beans for learning how to count, add and subtract.

When leaving school on Fridays Miss Walker rewarded those who had been very good, or had done exceptional work, with boiled sweets (fishes and pear drops). I never qualified in either category. No surprises there!…

Nancie Dyson recalls her primary school days.

I started in the Infants in September 1931, aged five. Seventy-six years on I only have vague memories of the time I was there.

My teacher was Miss Walker. We wrote on slates with slate pencils, which made squeaky noises when we used them. I remember dried beans for learning how to count, add and subtract.

When leaving school on Fridays Miss Walker rewarded those who had been very good, or had done exceptional work, with boiled sweets (fishes and pear drops). I never qualified in either category. No surprises there!

After eight months in the Infants I didn’t attend school full-time until I was eight. I spent the time in Mill Hill Fever Hospital with typhoid, diphtheria and scarlet fever. But that is another story.

In the 1930’s female teachers who married were not allowed to carry on working – a law of the land, for which I had every reason to be thankful.

My parents had friends whom my brothers and I called Aunty Dorothy and Uncle Jim. (No child addressed a grownup by their Christian name only in those days.)

Aunty Dorothy had had to give up teaching when she married, and whilst I was unable to attend school, she gave me work to do that kept me up-to-speed with my contemporaries.

My reading improved by leaps and bounds. It filled in many lonely hours and remains my favourite pastime to this day. Aunty Dorothy also taught me to play the piano, but I’m afraid I didn’t get very far.

In 1935 I returned to school. Miss Dyson taught us girls to knit and crochet, and I remember her reading The Wind in the Willows to us on Friday afternoon before we went home.

My first year at junior school – Miss Lees was our teacher – is not a time I look back on with any affection. One day we arrived at school to find the hall filled with desks. We, the top class, were to sit an exam.

We were given a coloured sheet on which we had to write our name and date of birth, and then we were asked to spell the word ‘thermometer’. Easy peasy. Thermometers had been a regular feature of my life.

We were then issued with exam sheets and told to get on with it. Later we sat a maths exam. We never asked why we were having these exams; we just did as we were told.

I can’t remember having games lessons or doing PE, but perhaps it was because we only had concrete schoolyards.

In the summer of 1937 I said goodbye to my school friends. We were all going our separate ways, not knowing what the future would bring.

A man is not old when his hair grows grey.
A man is not old when his teeth decay.
But a man is nearing his last long sleep
When his mind makes appointments his body can’t keep.

Huddersfield U3A


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