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The Day Before Yesterday: 22 – Chartering A Ship

…Miss Metcalfe was always testing our ability for quick thinking by firing mental arithmetic questions at us, and we in turn had to answer just as quickly. We soon got very good at this.

Another thing we did at this time was each pupil would charter a different ship and trace its journey as it travelled to different parts of the world. We had to scan the newspaper every day and learn the time of arrival and departure at the many ports of call. We marked their progress on a large map of the world. Several of these maps were hung together on the classroom wall and, just like a roller blind, you pulled on a string to select the map you required. It was a very good way to learn about places in different countries. We even got to know about New Zealand this way. Some people don't even know where it is today…

Gladys Schofield recalls the fun of learning.

As I got to know my way around the villages that interlocked each other around our town, I would explore new ways to get home from school.

I passed along the side of yet another mill and followed a tiny walkway the workers used as a short cut to get to and from their place of work. At one side was a thicket. The trees invited me as they always did.

I was soon exploring the ground seeing what new things could be growing in a place like this, and underneath the trees I found a bed of tiny seedlings, undisturbed by trampling feet. Each tiny tree was reaching up out of the undergrowth. I could see at least four species there. They were easy to pull out of the soft leaf mould, and I soon had an assortment of sycamore, oak, ash and silver birch, each one no more than a few inches high. I spent my time before tea planting them at intervals of about one foot apart all along the edge of the path that separated our garden from next door.

Mum never said a word. Was she pleased with my efforts to make her an avenue of trees or did she recognise a slumbering talent somewhere deep down in me? I only know in the weeks ahead a tree here and there would be missing until eventually only the odd one could be seen, and I had a new interest to fill my mind.

I moved once again and I was a senior at twelve years of age. We had a new head mistress, whose name was Miss Metcalfe. She was another elderly lady. Her health didn't seem all that great as one eye would be constantly twitching when she looked at you. Though we could not help noticing this, we tried not to offend by staring.

She was a person who did not smile a lot but then she didn't scold a lot either. We had single desks in this classroom, but the same kind of inkwell and scratchy pen sat on top with the lid opening up to store the books.

Miss Metcalfe was always testing our ability for quick thinking by firing mental arithmetic questions at us, and we in turn had to answer just as quickly. We soon got very good at this.

Another thing we did at this time was each pupil would charter a different ship and trace its journey as it travelled to different parts of the world. We had to scan the newspaper every day and learn the time of arrival and departure at the many ports of call. We marked their progress on a large map of the world. Several of these maps were hung together on the classroom wall and, just like a roller blind, you pulled on a string to select the map you required. It was a very good way to learn about places in different countries. We even got to know about New Zealand this way. Some people don't even know where it is today.

Being a senior meant you also were allowed to perform little duties about the school. We took turns to be milk monitors, distributing milk to the many classrooms around the school. We also marked the registers and made a note of anyone absent, and lots more little jobs. I suppose it enabled the teacher to concentrate more on actual teaching. Ours certainly needed this help and we thought it an honour to do these tasks at the time.

One thing I did get paid for was washing the dishes at school after lunch for the teachers. For this I got threepence a week. I had to hurry back to school to perform this duty after my own midday meal.

One of the children died that winter in the class. She was just thirteen and died of scarlet fever. We had the afternoon off to pay our respects, and all the class lined the route as she was laid to rest.

Mum brought out her remedies again, though cod liver oil and malt was bought every winter. We liked that so much we would eat it on toast. It became a great favourite and still is. At least we never lost one child, which was very good at that time with so many of us. I used to fetch the malt from the chemist. It was twice the size of the ones we buy today and cost one shilling and ten pence.


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