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!

Bob Alston

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 [email protected]

Bob Alstonhttps://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/author/bobtamg/
Tameside reporter, website and magazine designer and editor.


  1. Bob has not changed a bit.
    I entered the world on a very snowy day in December 1951 at 5:45 p.m. followed a quarter of an hour later by my twin, Margaret. Sadly she was still born and as fanciful as it might seem I still miss her.
    I was born in the bed that my Dad had brought downstairs to the front room. This was because there was no heating upstairs. I believe that that winter was so bad that I didn’t go out for several months.
    In front of the house there was a play ground complete with slide, see saw, rocking boat, witches hat and king’s crown roundabout. Beyond that was Tomlinson’s field and then the next farm belong to another family. I loved theoe fields. Tomlinson’s grazed cattle in them and in the summer cut and bailed hay. We built dens with the bails but neither Jake or John Tomlinson told us off.
    School was almost a village school made of the original stone one room building which had been extended with three further classrooms.
    I can’t remember my first day at St Matthew’s but I do remember Mrs Deaton and I can remember mirror writing from the board. I don’t know how I managed this symptom of dyslexia other than copying what others did. It was something that I learned to deal with myself.
    During the early summer for a few years our class was joined by the son of a travelling family who I presume came to help with hay making. I can’t remember his name but he is in a class black and white photo and I know he is wearing a yellow jumper.
    As I started work in late July of 1968 the fields in front of our house were dug up and houses built. Hares and rabbits escaped by running into peoples gardens and the skylarks that I would watch high in the sky as I lay in Tomlinson’s field were gone.
    52 years later I am still in the house I was born in. It’s changed a lot around here but we still have some green space. Like a lot of the greenbelt around Manchester it is under threat. If Covid 19 has shown us one thing it’s we need our green spaces.

    • Thanks for sharing Jean – we will add this to our letters page as I am sure more people would love to read it!


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