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The Day Before Yesterday: 8 - Full Marks for Trying

...We didn't wear shorts. I would be sixteen when I got my first pair. We had navy blue knickers. The legs of these had elastic in them and a pocket for a handkerchief on one leg. We wore white blouses and black pumps (little black canvas shoes that laced up). We did all manor of exercising and being used to walking everywhere, we were very supple...

Gladys Schofield recalls her school days.

Huddersfield had always been well known for its fine singing voices. From as far back as I can remember choirs and singing groups seemed to dominate the villages. Everyone seemed to sing. A Huddersfield choir came first in the world one year. It seemed natural to sing as you worked, and men whistled while walking or working. Why is it such a silent world today?

We took singing lessons in the big hall at school as the piano stood in this area. Twice a week we would stand in lines and practice our songs for the various functions throughout the year. Now and again Miss Moorhouse, the junior teacher who also played the piano, would say, "Someone's grunting." We had to keep on singing while she walked between the rows of pupils until she found the culprit.

After one summer holiday I moved up to the junior class. This was a big step as the infants were mixed classrooms. From now on we were single sex. The boys must have found the biggest change, as they moved to a different school.

I had only seen this teacher in the hall before, occupying a seat at the piano. She was a wonderful player, she was there each day as we marched in single line into our classrooms. Each time we came into school, morning, afternoon and playtime, the bell would ring and each class would form lines, starting at the seniors.

As soon as the piano started its rousing march, each row filed into their classroom. The doors of these were at intervals around this hall. Everything had to be orderly. If anyone ran they would be sent back to walk the distance again. You got a smack with a ruler for misbehaviour. They attempted to turn us out as polite young ladies. I gave them full marks for trying anyway.

I felt very worried moving up to this grown-up atmosphere and thought Miss Moorhouse could be stern, but I soon found her bark was worse than her bite and settled down. She told us a lot about the world and sometimes got so lost in stories we would get startled with the ringing of the bell somewhere in the school, and she would say, "Goodness me, I didn't know the time had gone so quickly." She had the gift to always make the lessons interesting and most of the pupils enjoyed being in her class.

We still had the long row of desks joined together, but now the lids of the desks lifted to store our books and an inkwell sat in a little round hole on top. We each had a scratchy pen to write with. Hand sewing and embroidery were included now, and we were taught to knit socks on four little steel needles. I remember only managing one small sock and Mum saying, "What use is one sock to anyone?"

Milk seemed to be introduced at this time. It cost one penny per bottle. We also got Horlicks for one halfpenny a cup. The poorer families whose fathers had no jobs got milk free and some schools also got biscuits, but not ours. Although our dad had a job, Mum could not manage one penny a day for milk but said we could have the Horlicks each day. The senior girls made this in the cookery room. They also delivered the milk around the classrooms.

We also got a chance to buy some books of knowledge, as they were known then. There were eight volumes costing six pounds, six shillings. These could be bought by instalments through the school, and my parents said yes to this. We found them very interesting through our school years. They helped us a lot.

Dad always was on the look-out for good books and collected quite a lot from the secondhand bookshops around. Some evenings he would read aloud to Mum as she sat with her needlework.

We also started having gymnastics. I grew to really enjoy this and could bend my body all ways. Being of a small build helped me, I suppose. After I had had all my family, I could still walk down the wall with my hands over my head backwards until I reached the floor and arched my body like a crab. It would be a major disaster if I attempted it now.

We didn't wear shorts. I would be sixteen when I got my first pair. We had navy blue knickers. The legs of these had elastic in them and a pocket for a handkerchief on one leg. We wore white blouses and black pumps (little black canvas shoes that laced up). We did all manor of exercising and being used to walking everywhere, we were very supple.

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