- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Joan Wilby (now Patterson)
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 July 2005
It all seems a very long time ago! My memory ‘plays me tricks’ nowadays, too, and I’ve made little effort to sort out when things happened.
Those of us who started in the Central School looked forward so much to going to the grammar school that I am surprised I cannot remember the first day. My classmates, many of the teachers, and our headmistress, Miss Welbank were of course old friends. The school building was most impressive — a large hall, a gym, with showers! A lecture hall, a science lab, a sick bay, lots of classrooms with new furniture, a library. We were very surprised to find heaters in the ceiling in the science lab — we knew that heat rises so that didn’t seem to make sense. We started to learn physics, and chemistry and biology (albeit as part of a general science course) and not just botany. I was the one in my group who was persuaded to wield the knife to dissect a fish. The next thing I knew I was lying on a bed in the sick bay.
From 1939, of course, we were at war and life did change, although Derby did not suffer as much as we feared. At school we practised what to do if there was an air raid warning, although I cannot recall the sirens during the daytime. I lived very close to Rolls Royce and the railway carriage works but the camouflage was so good, that very often the aeroplanes passed overhead, and dropped their bombs elsewhere. An air raid shelter at the gates of Rolls Royce was hit one morning and some people we knew were killed, including a few ex-pupils from Homelands. Nights were often spent in the Anderson shelter in the garden.
At school we had lessons in the school hall for a while, morning or afternoon. All I really remember was singing songs from the Mikado and the like. There was a barrage balloon at the front of the school and we were supposed to walk up the left hand side of the drive so as not to speak to the RAF men in charge! Public exams, School Certificate and Higher School Certificate were at times a nightmare. I recall on several occasions putting my head down on the desk in despair after a sleepless night. Somehow we got through and the results for most of us were as expected. At my last Speech Day Noel Baker presented the prizes and I remember how friendly he was as we chatted over refreshments in the library.
I got friendly with Frankie Sennett who joined us from London for a while — so much more sophisticated and worldly wise than most of us and so self confident. Seems unbelievable now that Miss Jewsbury came to London with me when I went for an interview at Bedford College, London University. I opted for Manchester in the end. I met Miss Welbank in London after I started teaching and in retirement she was doing some social work. I have never forgotten her saying, ‘Joan, I never knew how the other half of the world lived’.
One day a week, I assume, we stayed behind after school. I don’t remember what we called ourselves (Homelands Service Corps?) but we learned some First Aid, collected nettles for making wine without being stung — a lesson which has been very useful through the years. We knitted gloves and socks and wrote letters to the service men. I believe the school adopted a ship and we made up parcels at Christmas. Even at the time I remember we did not seem to be doing much to help the war effort!
We played hockey, netball and tennis and did some athletics but there were no sports days. We dressed up for dances and had ‘cards’ showing our partners and were expected to have some dances with members of staff!! I am sure we had some plays and concerts. I do remember our farm camps and staying in village halls, sleeping on straw palliasses on the floor. We worked in the fields stooking sheaves of corn which I found very satisfying, although very tiring.
I am in touch with no one from school now except my cousins Beryl and Betty Walker, and was disappointed in 1988 not to meet any one from my form. I have mentioned Miss Welbank and Miss Jewsbury and other teachers I knew well were Misses Yates, Pakeman, Hughes, Steele, Moore, Bennett, Miss Land who took P.E. and frequently checked the length of our tunics and the other Miss Land, her sister. Of Miss Fowler who came from Cambridge to teach us English, I remember only the nickname.
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