In winter 1947 I and my fellow classmates took the exam which determined whether one went to the Grammar School in Thorne or to the secondary school in Armthorpe. We called it ‘sitting the scholarship’. The exam was scheduled to be taken at the school in the neighbouring village of Kirk Sandal, but the weather was so bad that winter that it had to be postponed. Heavy snow had fallen and the roads were blocked. We sat the exam later when the weather improved, but there was still plenty of snow around on the day.
When the results of the exams came through, the headmaster read out the names of the pupils who had passed. My name was not among them. After a few days a second list was read out of more pupils who had passed, and this time my name was in there. It worried me a lot because I didn’t know what to expect at the grammar school and I felt that having only been in the second list I wasn’t as good as the first ones. I told my parents that I was worried and my father said that if I didn’t want to go I didn’t have to.
Next day at school I was telling this to the girl sitting next to me and saying that I thought I would go to Armthorpe, when a fellow classmate, Freda Smith, who was sitting in front of us, heard what I was saying, turned round, and said that it was an opportunity I shouldn’t refuse. Her father was a school teacher, and it was her encouragement that made me decide to go to Thorne. She remained a good friend, and I still keep in touch with her today over 70 yeas later.
It must have been a struggle for my parents to buy the school uniform as there was only one shop in Doncaster that sold them. It was called Pearce and Marshalls, and it was rather pricey. The school uniform had previously included a hat shaped rather like a pirate’s, but just before I started the headgear was changed to a big beret, which I hated. One morning, as we were walking to school up Church Street in Thorne, a boy grabbed my beret and threw it over a wall into the garden of a big house, and that was the last I saw of it. I’m not sure if I got another hat after that.
The first day at the school all the new pupils were lined up in the playground. There were four classes in each year: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. (The headmaster, Shipley Turner, was very keen on Greek and Latin.) Our names were called out to announce which class we would be in, and I was in Gamma. The teacher said there was no difference between the classes, but the best pupils were in Alpha and Beta.
Freda was in Alpha, and eventually we made other friends in our own classes. One of my friends was called Audrey Morris. We still keep in touch by email.
Looking back, it seems strange that my husband Arthur, who also went to the grammar school, had left before I started and was then in the RAF.
The school was noted for performing Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and I used to go to watch the dress rehearsals as you didn’t have to pay to see them. The productions were very good, and I really enjoyed them.
I wasn’t very happy at school at first, but after a year or two I was more settled and started enjoying lessons more, especially the language ones. I wasn’t clever enough to be in the Latin section, but French and German were two subjects I enjoyed. Along with English language they were the only subjects I managed to pass for the school certificate when I was 16.