Chapter 3


Going to School



When the war ended everyone had flags flying from their windows, we were given allied flags to hang out. My mother hung out the British and American flags from an upstairs window. I used to play on the top of the concrete and brick air raid shelter which was just down the street. Getting on top of the shelter in the first instance was quite difficult because I was only a child but I certainly got down from it very quickly when old Mr Cook appeared shouting and waving his walking stick. He used to wear a straw boater hat whilst most of the men wore flat caps. I understood that Mr Cook was the street shelter warden and held the keys to the door.


I loved my Mickey Mouse gas mask which I did try on now and again, gas masks were issued as a precaution against the Germans dropping gas bombs, but my prize possession was a pilots leather helmet that had been given to me in 1944, I wore it until the day I went to school and gave it as a present to my play mate Jack Peacock I put it on his head and said you can wear it now Jack because I’ve got to go to school. He still mentions it on the odd occasion we’ve met since then.


I was taken to the infant’s school on day one by my eldest sister and introduced to the Head mistress a lady called Miss Bellinger I was then taken into a classroom to meet the other children and sat down next to a boy called Davy Douglas a police man’s son whom I got on quite well with. I can remember some children playing in a small play pen area in one corner of the room.

Next day however I didn’t fancy going back to school so my brother George had to coax me to go back on the promise that I could have a treat, 2 ounces of Pontefract cakes and an ice cream cone from Baldasera’s shop, which I hadn’t quite finished eating when   I was led into the classroom where the other children were in the act of playing, jumping up and down on the spot, I joined in and lost the remainder of the cone onto the floor


My favourite times in the infants were the story times, we used to sit on the floor with our legs crossed, Mrs Charlton used to read the stories to us. Besides learning how to read and write we used to do mime and sing songs

The infant school was next to the junior school and they were separated by playgrounds and quite high walls, both schools were approached by one entrance past the care- takers cottage lived in by Mr & Mrs Shevels, the cottage was built of stone and was said to be one of the oldest building in the village along with Rock Farm which was close by. There was a large open area between the Schools, the Blacksmiths, the Royalty Cinema and the main road, this area was an annual stop off point for travelling shows.


Going to primary school apart from the first couple of days was quite an enjoyable experience. All children had to make their own way there and back; we travelled in small groups and looked out for each other Rain, hail or shine whatever the weather we all walked to and fro. I can’t recall anyone ever being picked up or going missing.

I recall sitting on a bench seat next to a little girl who’s name I wont mention ,she wet herself and the wee ran along the bench and wet my backside I jumped up and the teacher said what’s the matter John? And I said please Miss, Evelyn…..  Has wet herself, poor Evelyn…. she cried and left the room to be attended to whilst I sat and dried out naturally, no one was bothered about me. 


My oldest sister Sylvia got married and had a baby girl called Sheila, I was now an uncle at 5 years of age and Sheila’s Cottage won the Derby. that year in 1946. My clothing was standard attire for that era short trousers, jersey. Socks and boots the same outfit was worn for all occasions. Father used to do the cobbling for the boys and he used to put in hob nails to give them longer life. We used to Slide along the pavements creating sparks. I have also experienced holes in the bottoms of my boots and have placed bits of felt or cardboard in the inside to give them a bit longer life, or until they were re-cobbled, most kids in the village were in the same predicament and sheds with felt coverings had bits torn off for running repairs and of course it was ideal for starting up our little campfires which we regularly had going. Making vegetable stew in an Ostermilk tin was a favourite activity amongst the kids. Each kid would supply what ever they could, potatoes, cabbage, carrots and turnips were the usual, gravy salt and water all brought to the boil on our open fire, one of the older kids, Stevie used to insist on being the stew cook, The occasional snot would emerge from his nose and hang precariously over the stew but much to the relief of the rest of us would be sniffed back out of site for the time being. On one occasion he was shot up the backside with an air rifle while bending over tending to his stew. The lad who shot him later became a policeman.


My older brother George got married in 1947 at Cassop, to Irene Raper a lay preacher’s daughter who had served in the Wraf, It was a special day for me because I got my first ride in a car, it had tinted windows. The winter of 1947 was one of the worst on record with huge snow drifts everywhere. Council workmen and volunteers cut trenches along the roads to allow people to get out and about.


Early one morning in 1948 my sister Olive came running into the house to tell us that Mrs Raines house at the top of the street in Luke Terr. had burnt down and 2 children had died, we all ran up to have a look at the blackened shell.

The empty shell stood there for a couple of years before it was rebuilt.


In1947 my Grandfather Anthony Worthington died I’d only been to see him once before when I was about 4, at that time he had been re-married and lived in Henderson Ave opposite my aunt Alice Cain (nee Worthington) who lived in Cain Terr (named after Teddy Cain) Grandfathers second wife was called Polly and they had 2 sons Henry and Robert.

Aunt Alice married Michael Cain who was the brother of Teddy Cain who was a well known local Labour stalwart, Councillor, Magistrate, Wellfield School Governor and who also received an M.B.E. in 1967.for his services to the community in local government.


Nearly every child in the school lived in either council or colliery houses, academic achievement wasn’t in a pressure cauldron it seems to be in these days but a good grounding in the three R’s was expected. Teachers were respected and parents seemed to have control of their children. If you got into any sort of self inflicted trouble you could expect very little sympathy especially from your Father. Most teachers used the threat of the cane to help maintain discipline and it was common-place to see it administered in the junior school. I got caned for talking in class and can assure you it hurt. Outbreaks of head lice were commonplace in school and my mother used to say why are you scratching your head John and then she would have me place my head over a newspaper and give it a good combing with a lice comb and wash my hair in coal tar soap. When the time came to leave the infants school the Headmistress came into the classroom to ask us to promise to go back down to the school to let her know if any of us passed to go to the Grammar School at the end of our years at the Junior School. I wonder if anyone else can remember this.