I was born at Farnborough hospital in October 1942 and as my mother died giving birth to me and my father was serving in the army my maternal grandmother decided to bring me up. Unfortunately it did not work out as we never got on well even though she did her best. I still live in the same Chatterton Road house opposite what used to be Joe Russell’s sweet shop “The Popular”. I still recall seeing crowds of school children anxiously hovering over the newly installed YZ chewing gum vending machine waiting for someone to use it so that they could claim the two pack bonus for the fourth penny inserted. What a mad scramble that was !
My time at Raglan Road school commenced in January 1948 and I left to attend Cray Valley Tech. in June 1955 after I passed my 13 + exam. The infants school headmistress was a dietetically challenged lady named Miss Crossley. We youngsters used to throw six inch square bean bags to each other and I made a raffia table mat that my gran used to stand the tea pot on. Each 24th. May on Empire Day we would all march round the playground behind Miss Crossley as she carried a huge Union Jack flag then we would go home as was the case when, on Wednesday 6th. February 1952, the headmaster of the junior school named Mr. Pepper came into our classroom and informed us King George the Sixth had died. The classrooms were heated by three large black water pipes that ran along the back of each room.
When Miss Crossley retired we bought her a mirror and she told us each time she looked into it she would be reminded of the lovely children. My favourite teacher was Mrs. Taylor who took a shine to me. Other teachers that come to mind are “Dusty” Miller, Mr. Lewis, Miss Nora Fox, Miss Cosgrove, Miss Kerrigan, Messrs. Jones, Ingward and Hunt, David “Loopy” Lake, “Hoppy” Harwood, “Ripper” Gantley, “Potty” Parsons, and “Percy” Sessions. The caretaker was Mr. House.
One day we learned that Mr. Pepper’s house in Southborough Lane was on fire so we all rushed round there to gloat. A thin lady named Mrs. Payne would go from classroom to classroom selling 6 pence and 2 shillings and 6 pence National Savings stamps. We also used to pay small amounts into a boot club in order to save up for new footwear which we bought from the Co-Op shoe shop on the corner of Addison Road and Chatterton Road. The money was entered into a small yellow booklet. Miss Fox was very strict and took no nonsense from anyone. She had no classroom and ran her class just in front of the stage. Mr. Lewis had his classroom in the corner next to the stage so any children who arrived late for his class had to disturb Miss Fox’s class and got a ticking off from both of them. The music teacher was a strange “Percy” Sessions. Several times we went on strike. On each occasion we waited for him to complete his long piano introduction then as he turned to us to start we remained silent. After another attempt he gave up. Peter Woodward took over from him. David “Loopy” Lake was our PT [physical training] teacher and at the end of term we would play Pirates in the gym. This consisted of pulling out all of the ropes and each team had to get from one end of the gym to the other using the ropes or wall bars without touching the ground and avoiding being caught by the other team members. He called me Happy Harry Appley and was a lovely friendly man. Years later when I worked at the Town Hall and used to sit on the Ivy Bridge near Bromley South station waiting to see the steam trains during my lunch hour he suddenly appeared pedalling his old bike up the hill and had a lovely chat with me. His favourite saying was “You frivolous fannies – anyone would think it was friday” and it was ! “Potty” Parsons took us for chemistry and as the science lab. had gas taps on the large benches one of the village idiots would regularly light one of the taps and burn the bench. One experiment was to make glass “divers” that looked similar to cycle light bulbs with holes in the end. When placed into a screw top lemonade bottle filled with water the “diver” would sink to the bottom as the top was screwed down then pop up when unscrewed. He was another lovely master and would give me chemicals to take home and experiment with in my back garden. In those adventurous days there was no such thing as the Health and Safety curse. If you blew yourself up it was hard luck ! His favourite saying was “Oh my godfathers”. “Ripper” Gantley was a nasty man who put me off literature for life. We had to read certain recommended classics then write preces on them. I used to cheat and crib other pupils preces but eventually the supply ran out so, in desperation, I wrote about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. He went mad.
The headmaster of the senior school was Mr. Bullock and I well remember standing outside his office on many occasions waiting to be given the slipper or cane for my endless examples of bad behaviour. I am not much better now.
We read comics like Beezer, Film Fun, Eagle, Hotspur and, of course, the wonderful Dandy and Beano.
The games we played were marbles, conkers, cigarette cards, five stones [later to be called jacks], yoyo, hopscotch and we made models out of plasticine and glitter wax. We would sing silly ditties like “Tell tale tit, your mother can’t knit, your father can’t walk without a walking stick” and songs like “Glad that I live am I, that the sky is blue, glad for the country lanes and the fall of dew, after the sun the rain, after the rain the sun, this be the way of life ’till the work be done.”
Our sports day events were held in Whitehall Recreation Ground and in those days we had winners and losers rather than the present day situation where everyone has to be a winner. Sometimes we would walk to the Blue Circle outdoor pool in Crown Lane for swimming lessons. I believe we also went to the lido in Baths Road. A group of us would regularly scale the railings at night and climb over the bike sheds fence and onto the balcony of the lido to swim naked in the large pool. On several occasions the police were called because of all the noise we made but we just hid until they went away.
A lad named Robert Hayward kept bullying me so one day when he was standing at the top of the playground stairs I pushed him off and he rolled all the way down to the bottom of them. We got on well after that.
In the winter we used to make ice slides the whole length of the playground. One day when I was sliding someone must have tripped me up and I fell onto the back of my head and was rushed to hospital with concussion.
My gran’s cooking was so awful I thrived on school dinners. The lovely cooks included Mrs. Bartle, Mrs. Paige, and my dear aunts Maud “Sammy” Salmon and Peggy Lewis with Miss Bloomfield as chief cook. To the well known Max Bygraves song “Out Of Town” we would sing “Say what you will school dinners make you ill and Davy Crockett died of shepherds pie, all school dindins come from pig bins out of town.”
The building now the Studio was originally the workshops where Mr. Ingward taught metalwork and Mr. Hunt taught woodwork. Where the garden area now is stood a wooden building where Mr. Jones held his pottery lessons.
Our favourite sweet shop was Townsend’s opposite the Co-Op where we would buy liquorice pipes, gob stoppers, lemonade powder and sherbet dabs. In Wallace Pring’s the chemist we bought penny liquorice wood to chew. We took empty jam jars to Mr. Stansfield who lived in a gypsy caravan in Chantry Lane and he gave us a penny for each one. He always wore wellington boots and was the wayward son of Lord and Lady Stansfield. We walked to the local stream to catch sticklebacks or minnows and climb the ash heaps that were eventually levelled and landscaped to make Normans Park or go to Whitehall Recreation Ground which we called the “rec.” and play on the large swing by Union Road or sail our model boats in the shallow pond where the children’s playground area now is. When, for example, we cycled in the park the park keeper, Mr. Doggett, would chase after us, much to our amusement and derision. One of the keepers we nick-named Walrus because of his bushy moustache. The head keeper was Mr. Sid Mortimer who lived in the house at the corner of Walpole Road and Cowper Road. How many of you remember the lovely Victorian water fountain near the house that mysteriously disappeared in the 1950s ? Another pastime of ours was roller skating along the length of Chatterton Road or pushing each other in our home made soap box carts.
On Saturday mornings many of us attended the Gaumont cinema at Bromley South where, for sixpence, we would sing popular songs before watching features like Zorro, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Dick Barton – Special Agent. At one time we had yoyo championships on stage and my pal Pete Gilbert, another Raglan Road pupil, won a dart board and I won a cricket bat which I still have.
In the early days it was a very rough school with many poor and ragged children attending but over the years it has been turned into the high standard and desirable school it now is.
Despite all my domestic problems I do have very happy memories of my time at Raglan Road school and am very grateful to the teachers who fought hard to teach me my basic knowledge to face the outside world with confidence. Bless them all – even “Ripper” Gantley.