King Edward & Rosemary Street Schools
School Taken Over by Soldiers
My name was Doreen Lummus and I was born in Mansfield on August the 12th 1933. I was the youngest of five children. I had 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I was just five years old when I began school, and the second world war began on the 3rd of September 1939. So I had just one year, or thereabouts, at school before our school was taken over by the military so as to house the wounded soldiers to live in when they were brought back from Dunkirk. (I didn’t know where that was! I just remember Mum and Dad talking about it.) This school was KING EDWARD SCHOOL. This take over took place on the 28th of May 1940 and was noted in the school Log Book.
When this happened the younger children had to go to the recreation ground at the bottom of Berry Hill Road for our schooling to take place and on fine days we had to sit on the grass for our lessons, but mostly we played games like rounder’s and races, or we would be taken by our teacher for nature walks. When it rained or was too cold, we had to go to The Church of Christ Chapel on Littleworth. It was a very dark place inside and the thing I remember most of all about it was that the seats had ‘swing backs’ which would turn either way so you could face one way or the other, (rather like the old tram seats). We had to play indoor games when in the chapel.
As soon as the war began everyone was issued with a gas mask which we had to keep in a cardboard box that had some string on it to hang it from your neck or shoulder, and it was to be taken with you everywhere. In class it was to be hung on my chair back.
Air Raid Shelter
In the early part of the war, before the soldiers came, we had air-raid drill every morning. We were told not to run but to walk quickly and smartly holding hands with the child who was sat next to you in class. We all had to follow our teacher over the allotments next to the school and into the air-raid shelter beyond. The shelter was built underground in the school playing field and the grass put over the top again so that it wouldn’t be seen from the air if any German aircraft came to drop bombs on us. Thank goodness this never happened. It was very damp inside with puddles on the floor, and had wooden seats for us to sit on. It was lit with small electric lights, all rather frightening, but the best thing was we were all given one, or two if we were lucky, little boiled sweets covered in sugar no bigger than my finger nail! But seeing we didn’t have many sweets during the war it made going to the shelter worthwhile to we small children!!
I don’t remember if the air-raid siren would sound for our practices or whether we were just told by our teacher when the practice would take place. The sirens were usually placed high on the school roof in a structure made something like a box with slatted sides so that it was protected from the weather but could be heard as loud and as far away as possible.
Gas Mask Check
On my way home from school I used to have to call into an air-raid shelter which was built just inside Titchfield Park by the gate that came out onto Nottingham Road (where the toilets used to be). I can’t remember how often but the air-raid warden, by the name of Mr. Groves and lived on Portland Street, used to check my gas mask to make sure it would work all right, and that it fitted well around my face so that if any gas bombs were dropped my gas mask would keep out the gas and me safe until I got home.
When we could eventually have our school back from the soldiers, on the last day before they left, they stood outside the school gates and gave we children lots of little sweets that were given to us in the shelters, when we came out of school at home – time!! All of the boys filled their pockets, and, if we girls hadn’t got a pocket, we gathered up our dress hem and carried them home making sure we didn’t drop any!! The school re-opened on the 29th of July 1940.
School Milk, Recycling Clothes
As I have mentioned earlier, everything was on ration (see later). However we children had a little bottle of milk at morning playtime. I think it contained one-third of a pint, and Mum paid 2½d in old money for the week, now lp. The bottle had a wide neck with a cardboard top or lid with a little hole-cover that had to be taken out to enable a straw to be put into the milk. (it really was a short length of straw we used in those days). We brought those tops home, washed and dried them and then used them to make pom-poms to put on the ends of our knitted slipper cords, or knitted hats to keep us warm with gloves or mittens to match. All these things were recycled (it’s been going on for years!) from the backs or sleeves of jumpers or cardigans (the front always wore out first). Mum washed the wool and reused it again.
Sewing and Games
Mum was very good at sewing and often unpicked the clothes of older members of the family coats, skirts or trousers, washed them, turned the pieces over, and, using the opposite side as the right side to make we younger children ‘new’ clothes. During the war ‘make-do-and-mend’ was the thing!! But we were always well kept and fed. It was at Mum’s sewing times that, if she had a spare minute or two, she would find some paper and sit my brother, and afterwards me, on her knee and let us ‘make stamps’ for when we played ‘post-office’ etc.. Of course, Mum peddled the machine and made sure we didn’t come to any harm. But how we loved to make those stamps. This was an activity we were only allowed when Mum needed a new needle in the machine because the old one had become blunt. But she didn’t tell us this until years later! She often said she had many a laugh to herself when listening to us playing shopping or putting on a play or two. When my older brother and sister put on a concert, or my sister said a poem, always The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes and announced by Dick, my elder brother (10 years my senior), my brother Wyc, sister Irene and myself always had to clap them as hard as we could and call out ‘More, more’ We hadn’t a TV or radio in those days but we had a lovely happy child hood. Never ‘bored’ as we had always something to do or play with.
Dig For Victory
During the war everyone was encouraged to ‘Dig for Victory’ by growing all the vegetables and fruit needed to feed their families. My Dad had an allotment and my brother and I used to ‘follow the horses’ with our wheelbarrow Dad had made every morning before going to school to collect the manure left by the Co-op horses when they delivered the milk all the way along Portland Street until our barrow was full (no cars or any other traffic on the roads) just horses and their drivers – and we two! Then after tea we would go to the allotment with Mum and Dad and the manure would be spread around the potatoes and any other things that needed it. Then my brother and I would play in the shed or dig ‘our garden’
The man that had the next plot to ours was Mr. Wilkinson, or Mart as Dad called him, and he was a local rose grower and a judge for rose competitions all round our district. He would often give me a beautiful bunch of roses to bring home. I thought I was the Queen! I now realize the roses he gave me had opened too far for him to enter in a show, but as a little girl I was thrilled to bits with them and thought he was a very kind man to give me such beautiful flowers, and indeed he was. Dad grew carnations as these were his favorite flowers, but he mainly grew all manner of vegetables and soft fruit such as blackberries, raspberries, loganberries and rhubarb. He also grew a couple of marrows for my brother and I to carve our names on them and then watch our names get bigger as the marrows grew.
Mum always made lots of jam and bottled the fruit for us to eat for tea during the winter or make lovely pies for our pudding. She would also salt down the kidney beans, and pickle the shallots and plait the onions to store them through the winter. We had lots of summer evenings after school on the allotment and lots of good food to eat on cold winter days.
Rosemary Street School & the Military Take Over.
My Secondary School was Rosemary School, demolished round about 1990, I think. This school was also taken over by the military and so we were accommodated at the Moor Lane Junior school and had to work in any place available. Most of the teachers were older teachers (one even had taught Dad when he was a lad!) that had retired I think but was brought back as all the young men were conscripted into the forces. Again our education suffered due to conditions brought about by the war, but at least we children living in Mansfield had no bombs dropped on our houses or schools. So that was something to be very, very grateful for.
We eventually got our school returned from the military about 18 months before I left school, and, of course, there was a lot to be done before we could move in. The school had to be completely redecorated and the windows cleaned and all the sticky paper removed etc. When we finally moved in we couldn’t have any lessons for a while as all the school equipment had to be brought back and put into place, cupboards, blackboards, desks and lots of things. We children had to form a ‘human chain’ all the way up the double stone stair case and stand with our backs to the wall and pass lots of books from the person on your left over to the person on your right and so on until they eventually arrived at the classroom they were intended for. This kind of preparation carried on for a week or so.
When we were eventually settled in we girls did have class work with the Boys, like the ‘three R’s’, geography and art. When the boys did Technical drawing, we girls did sewing, making first an apron, then a blouse and so on. And while the boys did woodwork, we did leather work, making ration book covers and a handbag, making sure all the punch-holes were measured properly so that the finished article fitted together correctly. We girls also did ‘Domestic Science’ as it was called in those days, but we didn’t do a lot of cooking with all the food still being on ration, it was nearly always a rice pudding in the morning and scones in the afternoon when we did cook, but otherwise we were taught how to set a dinner table (complete with flowers) or how to wash and iron, or clean the gas cooker etc. In other words, the boys were schooled to become trades people and girls were taught to become good housewives and mothers.
At this school we were taken for ‘potato picking’ days. I can’t remember if this was in school time or not, but we were collected from school with a bucket (a heavy metal one – no plastic) and taken to a farm in a cart or farm lorry with our teacher taking care of our dinner, which was hot soup kept in two or three milk churns with a slice or two of bread. We used to work up a furrow left behind by the farmer with his plough, and pick up all the potatoes that had been turned over with the soil by the plough. We were there most of the day, and at the end of the day we could fill our bucket to bring home. This was our payment for our days work!
We had lots of fun and laughs too, when, because I was hot, I put my coat on the hedge surrounding the field we were in and a horse came over in the field next to us and chewed most of the lining in my coat. The Boys retrieved it for me and we laughed all the way home!
As I mentioned at the beginning, my birthday fell during the school summer holidays and it was at this time that the school leaving age was to be increased from fourteen to fifteen. This meant that I was fourteen when the holidays began but fifteen if I had to return for the next term, but it was decided I could leave and not have to return the following September, so I left on the Friday and began work on the Monday as a trainee tailoress. My first week’s pay was nineteen shillings and one penny.
Many, many years later I worked at the Victoria Hospital and, whilst sharing my lunchtime with a colleague, we were chatting about our schooldays and discovered we both went to the same school! me at Moor Lane and she at Broom Hill. It wasn’t until then we both realised there had been another half to our school and by this time we both were well into our forties!!
It was at the time I changed schools during the King Edward to Rosemary school holiday that we left the terraced house I was born in, with its gas light (no electric), tin bath, black lead fireplace, no hot water one cold tap in the house, and lavatory across the yard (very cold in winter) and moved into a semi-detached house with electric lights, toilet inside, a bathroom, bay windows, a garden back and front with a row of trees down the side of the front path, and when I looked out of my bedroom window I could see rabbits playing in the fields. Although we had a very happy childhood in the terraced house, (and we did miss it at first), I and the rest of the family thought we were in heaven within days of living in our ‘new’ house.
Written February 2010