“My Orford” - School Days

I was born in 1924 in the house known as Three Chimneys also known as the Reading Room and presently called The Old School House. Shortly after I was born we moved into the cottage next door 82 Crown Lane and a few years later named it Well Cottage it was here that I spent my formative years.

It was not until some years later that I was to find out that my first recollection was when I was only two years old. I remember being taken by my mother in a push-chair, as they were then known, in company with some other mothers and children to the bottom of the first hill past Mill Field Cottages known as Megbeggar Hill to watch the arrival of a Royal Horse Artillery detachment as they entered Sudbourne Hall park through an entrance between the trees. I was later told that this happened in 1926 on the occasion of the General Strike when the Army were deployed to strategic positions around the country.

I started school in 1929, the infant teacher was Miss Crawford, the Head Master was Mr Petley, other teachers were Miss Alice Webb known as Ally Kate, Miss Hannah Whayman known as Wheezy Anna who later became Mrs Large. School hours were from 9am to midday and 1-30pm to 4pm with a ten minute break morning and afternoon.

During the winter months the school was heated by a fireplace in each classroom, the teachers desk was always nearest the fire and the pupils at the back of the class did not get much benefit from the fire and sometimes had to wear greatcoats and mittens to keep warm.

The 1930s saw great changes at the school, Mr Petley retired and Mr Overfield became Head Master, a new class room, two cloak rooms and a boiler house were built and central heating was installed in the school. Shortly after a big new multi purpose building was erected on part of the school gardens which was to serve as a school canteen and also for woodwork and cookery classes.

The introduction of a school canteen was necessary when the school became an area school, which meant that children over a certain age from Sudbourne, Iken, Chillesford and Butley were to attend Orford school. As a means of transport they were supplied with bicycles by the Education Authority and also waterproof clothing for use in wet weather. Bicycle sheds were erected in the playground.

With the necessity for increased staff came Miss Holmes later to become Mrs Thompson, Miss Worne, Miss Spratt the cookery teacher, whose named provoked a few ribald comments and Mr Newby the woodwork teacher.

Its amazing how some childhood memories remain forever, two which stand out for me were one, being taken outside into the playground to see the airship R101 fly over and the other was seeing a viper hanging in the school which had been killed by the caretakers husband, Jim Fell, in the playground after school hours.

With all the construction work, the new teachers and a new headmaster, this must have been a milestone in the history of the school, and we, the pupils, were unknowingly a part of it.

There was a need at about this time for a temporary teacher and this was filled by a Miss Fleming who would travel to school on horseback each morning, leave her horse on the meadow opposite the school, now the site of Toller Close and return to her home in Eyke after school each day.

Mr Overfield, the new headmaster, brought many new ideas to the school and looking back I realise he was years ahead of his time for a village school.

He started by dividing the school into houses named after great men of history, Shakespeare, Raleigh, Nelson and Drake. Points were awarded, not only for academic work but also on the sportsfield and the school gardens which were divided into four plots, one for each house. The house with the highest number of points at the end of the school years were awarded the challenge shield and had the house name inscribed on it.

It was an astute move on his part, it encouraged keen competition, not only in our own thirst for knowledge but also on the sports field and the gardens.

One of the smaller class rooms was turned into a science laboratory where our inquiring minds enjoyed carrying out practical experiments and writing them up in our science books.

A debating society was started where a subject for debate was chosen and one half of the class would speak in favour of the motion and the other half would speak against. A lifelong friend of mine, Fred Welham who now lives near Kings Lynn, still recalls one debate when we were on opposing sides which turned out to be one of the livelier ones.

With the opening of the new canteen, cookery classes for the girls, later extended to the boys were started, as were carpentry lessons for the boys. To convert from carpentry lessons to cookery lessons the carpentry benches were placed end to end and boards the width of the benches and the length of two benches, were placed on top thus forming a suitable surface to prepare food. I found the carpentry lessons very interesting and an oak stool which I made has stood the test of time and is still in my possession.

The headmaster was aware that after school hours there was very little recreation for the older boys in the evenings, particularly in winter time, he then came up with the idea of putting two of the cookery boards side by side on top of the carpentry benches, obtained table tennis nets, bats and balls and gave up his time to spend two or three evenings a week teaching us to play table tennis. It is surprising how skilful we became in avoiding the crack down the centre where the two boards joined.

Later he and the carpentry master decided to build a sailing dinghy. It was to be flat bottomed, about 14 feet long and again the older boys were invited to help Mr Overfield work on it in the evenings. So what with this and the table tennis we did have things to help pass the long winter evenings and at the same time got to know the headmaster as a person. By the time the boat was finished I had left school and so missed the launch of the Penguin, so named because of its flat bottom.

Having spoken recently with others who shared these times with Mr Overfield we are agreed that he had a large influence on our later life, many of his principles, logic and philosophy remains with us to this day. I am convinced that we received an education second to none for a village school.

From the age of about ten I started doing odd jobs on Saturdays, after school and during school holidays in order to earn a bit of pocket money. The jobs I did were many and varied, at dinner time I would do shopping for a neighbour or take cakes etc to the bake house to be cooked. I have said dinner time deliberately, we had breakfast then dinner at midday, the main meal of the day and then tea at about five o’clock. It was only in the big houses, where no manual work was done that lunch was at midday and dinner was eaten in the evening.

At this time there were no rubbish collections by the local authority, Mr H J Cordle of Chantry Farm had a cart specially adapted which would collect rubbish from householders willing to pay for the service. I disposed of our rubbish by emptying the dustbin into a hand cart and taking it to the far end of the castle green where there was a dump used by the whole village.

I extended this service to other people and charged them sixpence a load. Rubbish collected from the upper part of the village I took to the Castle Green dump and rubbish collected from the lower part went to a dump near the quay known as the Kell.

At another period I worked in the bakery in Bakers Lane owned by Frank Berrett. The baker was Herbert (Hubby) Hawes. This was a Saturday job. I would start work at about seven o,clock but Hubby started in the early hours putting the loaves into the oven.

He used a long handled flat shovel called a peel, which was thrust under four tins at a time, and withdrew the bread from the oven, depositing it on the bench where we would use pieces of sacking to remove the hot loaves from the tins and stack the tins ready for the next baking. After all the loaves and bread rolls had been removed I would fill my delivery basket with hot bread rolls, place the basket on the trade bicycle and deliver them to the large houses in the village where the "gentry" liked to have hot bread rolls with their breakfast. For the rest of the day I would go to and from the bakery delivering large tin, small tin, cottage and sandwich loaves, cakes and pastries, entering all sales in the order book, collecting the money and balancing the book at the end of the day.

After a time I left the bakery and went to work as an errand boy for Mr W Chapman who had a grocery and drapery shop on the corner of Mondays Lane and the Market square. The entrance was from the Market square. On the left hand side was the drapery counter with a brass yard measure inset into the top edge for measuring material, elastic etc. On the wall behind were many drawers containing haberdashery and other items and at one end the counter was piled high with different coloured wools. Upstairs was the millinery department and ladies fitting room.

The grocery counter was on the right hand side, upon which there were a set of scales with a set of brass weights for use on one side and the curved metal tray for the ingredients to be weighed on the other. Blue paper bags of 1lb and 2lb capacity were used to weigh sugar, currants, sultanas etc which were kept in large drawers below the counter. The wall behind the counter bore many drawers containing ingredients such as spices and rice.

The money was kept in the till drawer. Goods would be priced and listed individually on a bill with a piece of carbon paper underneath for the shop records. The addition was done manually and very few mistakes were made. There were no electronic tills and bar coding of items. There were also no queues. Mr Chapman went out each morning and collected orders. The orders were prepared and I would load them into my delivery basket and set out on my rounds on the trade bicycle.

At age fourteen I found that if I was going to work on a farm I could leave school, but because I was going to work in a shop I had to stay at school until I was fifteen.

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