Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Schoolyard

This is the best photo I could find of the schoolyard at the back of Rutland Street School. That yard has changed very little since I was there as a kid. Some of the changes are the arches that you can see. They weren't bricked up as they are here. We used to play under those arches, mostly when it rained. And the only part of the yard that was concreted was under the arches. The rest of the yard was gravel... so if a child fell it usually meant badly grazed knees. We came down to the yard via a steep flight of steel stairs, and out into the yard which was about 150 feet long and completely surrounded by a high wall (about 15 feet high) topped by strings of barbed wire. Think of a prison yard and you'll be very close.

The toilets were in the yard too, and open to the elements. So if you needed to use the toilet it could be very uncomfortable in wet weather, and especially in frosty weather.

There was also a wall, not visible in the photo, which separated the boys yard from the girls one. Back then, at least in that parish anyway, boys and girls were strictly segregated in school.... and even at church. In fact men and women had to sit in different sides of the local chapel too. I've often wondered what kind of mentality was working to make those rules.

Earlier (below) I spoke of punishments. Well the yard could be part of your punishment too. For instance I remember one kid who wet himself after being 'awarded' twelve strokes of the cane, six on each hand. The whole class (about 40 of us) were brought down to the yard and paraded like soldiers. The kid who had wet himself was brought out, the teacher stood him before us and we were encouraged to jeer and laugh at him. Other punishments as far as the yard is concerned were kids being made to stand in the yard on a frosty day. I'm talking about kids, many of who didn't even own a coat to keep them warm.

So I have happy memories of that school? Yes I do. One is an amusing one. I had a female teacher at the time I'm thinking about and she used to sit on her table with her legs stretched across from her table and her feet on a front-row desk. Then she would call on us to come and polish her shoes. Those who were chosen to polish her shoes used to snigger while signalling the colour of her knickers to the rest of the class. I wonder did she know this, don't know how she couldn't have known. Other times she used to get us to pray that she'd meet a good husband. She never said whose. (Yes I'm smiling!) But I suppose my fondest memory is that of hearing the bell ring, the bell that signalled that we were free to leave... until the next day.

I said in an earlier entry that I'd speak more of our 'Great Escapes'. Well I'll be doing that shortly. So do drop back... there's more to come.

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