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Your Memories

My Barnes Road experience by Eddie Appleton

My relationship with Barnes Rd school started in 1940, situated a matter of 3-4 minutes walk from my home in Iddon Rd, in fact I think all the kids lived within a few minutes walk to the four schools in Skelmersdale at that time. Some of the teachers even walked and at best rode bicycles with the one exception Miss Brunton, using public transport from the Wigan area. A far cry from the various modes of transport that contributes to major traffic congestion at school times these days.


My first class in the infants was taught by a loving Miss Eccleston who lived in White Moss Road, I remember her to be a sweet and caring lady ideally suited to newcomers to school life. The second class I remember was held by Miss Brunton ( headmistress ) a very smart but stern lady. The third class in the infants in fact the last class before moving up to the Big Ladzies as it was known was held by Mrs Cottam who lived in Witham Road opposite the park, this class was a major if not a little frightening compared to the previous classes with ones own personal lift up desk top and the higher demands on pupils.


The day had arrived I think most of us had dreaded with rumours abound of joined up writing with pen and ink, I remember to this day what I thought to be a major mistake when the class was instructed by Miss Staziker to head the paper she had handed out with ones initial followed by full surname, I had to get it wrong didn’t I giving my Christian name in full followed by the first letter of my surname, It’s strange what silly things one remembers.
Miss Staziker rode to school from Rufford each and every day in all weathers on an old upright frame bicycle minus the luxury of a three speed gear throughout her teaching career, I Think the only luxury she did afford herself was a white leather helmet worn in adverse weather conditions.


My move to the second class was about the time the second world war ended releasing more staff to the teaching profession, Johnny Green, ex navy and Mr Cadman ex RAF. Johnny was often asked for his cigarette butts or at the very least a light. This influx of new blood to Barnes Road created a reshuffle of staff and consequently Miss Staziker took my second class, my third class was held by Mr Cadman, at this time all fun and frivolity ceased it was an uneventful period followed by the dread of moving up into Charlie Bands ( headmaster) class. This was a period however as the end of the war contributed to a new style of school attire, kids were turning up wearing ex army battle dress tops and forage hats particularly in cold weather, It must have resembled the Hitler youth movement to some degree.


Another legacy from the war was an M.O.D. dump situated behind Pennylands which we would scavenge for war memorabilia which included various calibre of live bullets, this created a great opportunity for a new trading practice being a far cry from the usual rabbits eyes and hens feet as we called them acquired from Hutton and Lowes in Sandy Lane. The hens feet did remain a good second favourite to scare the girls when pulling the sinus to expand the claw, the swaps that took place was incredible, marbles by this time was old hat, shrapnel was a topical line perspex another, the bigger the better. An American bomber crashed in White Moss woods but because of the twenty four hour guard little was retrieved.


When you think a year or two prior to this period M.O.D staff visited the schools to caution children about unexploded bombs and in particular butterfly bombs and the next minute kids are attending school with live ammunition in their pockets with a view to trade, it’s beyond belief. You would experience Charlie Band caning a lad maybe three of the best for some misdemeanour when the same lad may well have three or four rounds of live ammunition in his pocket, it’s quite funny to think of it now. Caning was administered by the Head only and with a ferocity, God it hurt, and if you dropped your hand on the first stroke the second came with double the ferocity, never the less I don’t think it did any of us any harm.


Having passed through Charlie Bands class with relatively little loss of blood I joined Mr Robinsons ( Robbie ) class which was a new classroom adjacent to the old school, this was a happy period although Robbie was no soft touch, I thought him stern but fair. It appeared to some degree to be a relaxation period before going out into that big wide world.


One feature of school life was Jim Peters or “Jem Peters” as he was known. Jim was the truant officer,  responsible for all reports on truants at the four schools. What a site to behold wearing his black homburg riding his bicycle throughout Skem. A stare from Jim whether you be in or out of school time was enough to deter you from any thought of truancy.


The school was given a greenhouse by a local resident on condition we dismantle it and leave the garden in a respectable state, well I ask you, how can school kids be expected to dismantle a typically traditional greenhouse which included 4″ diameter cast iron heating pipes and brickwork together with timber and glass and leave the garden in a respectable state? It was an utter disaster, the wartime blitz on Liverpool had nothing on that poor garden, however it was eventually moved to a site near to the school.


Barnes Road school greenhouse


Prior to the greenhouse gift, the gardening class was held on a plot of land adjacent to the Methodist church in Clayton St, this meant a five minute walk from Barnes Rd passing near to my home when sometimes I would hide behind a wall or hedge and then slope off home as others did at times. Because of the lack of amenities this movement of class was a regular weekly practice, woodwork class for instance was held at the Endowed school which was situated next to the Tawd Vale public house, to see inside a pub was too much of a temptation to miss so at play time as it was known then about 4-5 of us went into the pub and each asked for a gill, “a gill of what?” the female publican asked, this we hadn’t reckoned on so we said a gill of beer, “what beer?” was the reply and with the vacant expression on our faces she served us with a gill of mild beer each.


Albeit wrong of the publican we continued to give her the benefit of our weekly business. Possibly the wood work class did pay off with the greenhouse construction venture, during this period the work detail arrived at school in all manner of clothing as indeed we did in earlier years because of lack of labour on the land we went potato picking. We would jump aboard a tractor and trailer parked outside the school gates and off we would go to the various farms.


What a school, WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!  Eddie Appleton