At the end of my last letter, I said my next real milestone was going to school for the first time, so this is where I begin part two.
Just to backtrack a little, I did attend nursery in Palmerston Street (prior to going to school) – just down the road from my gran’s house (remember – she who made mouth-watering oven-bottoms!)
On Monday, September 8, 1958, I was taken by my mum for my very first day at ‘Big’ school to All Souls C of E on Harding Street, Ancoats, Manchester, and I was terrified! This place was enormous to me at just 5-years-old.
Once in the school building, we were guided down a long corridor to the school hall, together with our parents, and all the children were told to sit on the floor. Towering above us was the infant teachers and helpers, and, in what seemed like an eternity, in walked the headmaster Mr Yates, a very tall slim man with a stern face, and he positioned himself on the stage at the front of the hall overlooking his new flock of lambs to the slaughter!
I listened in silence to what the headmaster had to say (I was that scared), but I could hear some of the new children start to cry at the thought of being left in this strange place when Mr Yates asked all the parents to leave for home – these must have been the children who hadn’t been lucky enough to go to nursery school.
Once we had heard all the do’s and don’ts from this tower of a man on the stage, we were put into of class groups and the name of our teacher was readout. Mine was Mrs Tideswell, a lovely lady, small in stature, but would stand no messing at all.
I really loved school, so got on well with Mrs Tideswell and all of the other children in my class. For a 5-year-old, I was a big lad – still am – and I soon made friends with a few other boys in my class.
Playtime soon arrived on my inaugural day at All Souls and I couldn’t wait to get out there, but you daren’t move a muscle without Mrs Tideswell giving you permission! “Stand up children, without a sound, lift your chair up and place it under your desk, and stand behind it”; she instructed. “Now, line up at the door and wait for me”; she continued. She then opened the door and said; “Walk in single-file down the corridor, on the left, towards the outside door and wait for me again. Do not go out!” It was amazing, everybody did exactly what she had said! Soon, we were released to freedom for the next 15 minutes.
Before I knew it, the whistle blew to signal the end of playtime and I lined-up with the others waiting to be told to enter the school building again and make my way to my classroom with Mrs Tideswell in tow. We stood at the classroom door and waited to be told to enter and stand behind our chairs once more.
I look back on this first day with pleasant memories and didn’t want it to end, it soon did, but not before sampling the best that the school cook could serve up – Meat, Veg, Potatoes, and Gravy – it was yummy. Followed by Sago and Jam – I’m now in food heaven.
It was an early finish on that first day, 2pm, and the stand, silent, chair, desk, line-up, single-file, the ritual performed exactly as it had been all day except that I was only set free when Mrs Tideswell called; “Parent of Robert Alston” and my mum answered; “Here!”
As I have already stated, I really loved school, and achieved good grades throughout the 7 years I attended All Souls. Sadly, the school is no more and I had nothing to do with that!
We’d love to hear from you with memories of your first days at school. How was your experience? Did it mirror Bob’s? Leave a comment below or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org