Growing up in the Fifties - 2

Photo:The Wee School in 1969

The Wee School in 1969

Photo:A slate and slate pencil used in 1950s

A slate and slate pencil used in 1950s

The Wee School

By Margaret Foster

The public school at Addiewell has a long history but for me it started in 1950. I was only six then and some of my memories may conflict with the memories of others, so feel free to question. More importantly please add your own memories as I am sure there are lots out there.

The public school consisted of two buildings - “the wee school” and "the big school." The wee school housed the infant classes and there were two classrooms in which the children had to pass through the first to get into the second. I wonder what health and safety would say to that now in regard to fire regulations!

 There was a dinner hall, a staff room and a cloakroom; commonly known as 'the pegs' where each child had a peg to hang their coat on. The first classroom was under the supervision of Miss Henderson. The desks were aligned in three vertical rows, each row containing children at different stages of education.

 As there were two intakes of children per year (February and September) it took a while to get them all working at the same level. I remember it as: the orange book kids, the green book and the red book. I think they were Tom and Ann, or maybe it was Dick and Jane. Too early for Janet and John. Around the walls were alphabet posters with huge "A for apple, B for ball, C was a black cat" (with its tail curled round like a c). It was all bright and colourful.

We wrote on slates with either a soft light grey slate pencil or a hard dark grey one. The hard one would often screech across the slate which set our teeth on edge.  We carried a piece of damp rag in a tin to wipe the slate clean. The slates themselves were in a wooden frame just the size and shape of one of today's ipad. How things have moved on! The blackboard was fixed to the wall and had a little shelve to rest the duster and chalk on. It was a privilege to get to clean the duster. It was a piece of material with a wooden backing, shaped a bit like a large nailbrush. To clean it you had to go outside and bang it on the steps to free all the clogged up chalk dust. In retrospect, I don't think our mothers would have thought it a privilege; just imagine the state our clothes must have been in!

If memory serves me, there was a glass case in Miss Henderson's room with a stuffed bird, an owl I think. There was also a mongoose attacking a snake; a real drawcard for five and six year old boys. At that time the fireplaces were still open and were surrounded by huge metal railings where children were sometimes allowed to hang their wet gloves and even, on occasion, damp shoes.  Later black coal fired stoves were installed in the fireplaces.

The two dinner ladies, Jenny Walters and Peggy ?, did the cleaning and janitor duties, but often some of the “big” boys were called in to carry the coal buckets from the coal shed to the classrooms. 

Each child was allowed a small bottle of milk every day. I think it was a third of a pint. These came with quite a large opening covered by a cardboard top which had a little round perforated bit where you pushed through for the straw. These tops were great for making pom poms. The big boys also got the job of bringing the milk crates up from the gate to the various classrooms. In winter the milk would freeze and rise up pushing the tops off. When this happened it had to be thawed out by the fire railings. This made the milk warm and although some kids liked it that way I found it horrible. But we were made to drink it because, after all, it was good for you and it was free.

This page was added by Margaret Foster on 09/10/2012.
Comments about this page

Enjoyed your memories of Primary school in Addiewell. I went to St Thomas' school just down the road and our conditions were exactly the same as yours. I too hated when you had to drink the milk hot and our teacher, Miss McLinden, stood for no nonsense so we had to suffer in silence. We had two staff rooms just off the main hall, one one the left and one on the right, the ladies classroom on the right made the tea for the headmaster Mr Brady and left the hot tea pot outside their door where a pupil passing would deliver it him. My cousin Peter Cassidy was doing the delivery one day when another pupil came running through the swing doors and knocked the hot tea all over his face and head! His sister Catherine and myself had to take him home to Loganlea after butter was applied to the burns (the worst thing to do), but in those days that was supposed to help. We all had a good education at those schools and it has stood us in good stead. I am always boasting that I had the benefit of a Scottish education.

By Catherine Alleyne
On 12/10/2012