The infant school I went to, from about age five to seven, Chipping Hill School in Witham, Essex, is moving to a new location, after 109 years on its original site. They are, or were, looking for memories of ex-pupils’ time at the school. I’m not sure if they still want them, but here’s what I think I remember.
I remember there being three classes, one per year, with two classes housed in the original 1902 brick building, which was split by a wooden partition.
I remember a poster of an alphabet in the rear classroom, fixed high up on the partition. I would always get ‘u’ and ‘v’ the wrong way round.
I remember doing maths in that rear classroom, adding up big numbers. Digits carried over to the next column were referred to as “milk bottles on the doorstep.”
I remember making mistakes and trying to rub out the pencil writing with my thumb.
I remember being in the front classroom as everyone watched a television programme which included an insect or a bird or a small animal drinking water off a leaf. The water looked so fresh and clear.
I remember someone wetting themselves.
I remember that when I first went to the school the desks were old and wooden with hinged tops and inkwells that were no longer used.
I remember that dinner was served at our desks. We had to put our things away, under the hinged desktop, and plastic-coated, wipe-clean table cloths were laid over each one. The table cloths were a white, yellow and green gingham pattern.
I remember, 34 years ago, when the temporary-looking school hall was brought to the site. From then on dinner was served in the new school hall.
I remember going back for seconds.
I remember that the slice of school field behind the new school hall was out-of-bounds and during playtime daring children would try and run around the new school hall without being spotted by teachers or dinner ladies.
I remember standing in rows in the new school hall and singing.
I remember parents coming to see a nativity play in the new school hall. I was supposed to be one of many Christmas trees, all in a row, wearing black paper tabards, each featuring a green tree. But one of the shepherds was ill and I was promoted to a shepherd, complete with tea-towel headwear.
I remember the toilets, small outdoor brick buildings, one for boys and one for girls.
I remember boys competing to see who could pee the highest up the urinal.
I remember seeing one boy pee so high he overshot the urinal and peed out of the windows above, onto the head of a passing dinner lady. Or I might have only been told about it. I remember the memory of it.
I remember being behind the girls’ toilet block with my best friend, Simon, and trampling our friend Tristan’s coat into a muddy puddle.
I remember being in big trouble over trampling our friend Tristan’s coat into a muddy puddle.
I remember being told off in the office of Mr Harris the headmaster.
I remember being very upset at doing something so bad.
I remember it was autumn because I kicked my way through the fallen leaves on the way to my piano lesson that evening.
I remember our punishment was that we had to stay inside during playtime for a week.
I remember this was good because it was cold outside and we were allowed to read library books and finish off any of the bottles of milk that were left over.
I remember pupils got free bottles of milk.
I remember playing football on the school field and using the concrete pillars in the brick wall at the edge of the field as goal posts.
I remember Matthew, who was shorter than everyone else.
I remember joining some friends who formed a football club called The Midgets, because we thought Matthew was great.
I remember those of us in The Midgets walking onto the school field on our knees.
I remember I was six years old and it was the 1970s.
I remember someone drew a football trophy, and they drew ribbons on it in the club’s colours of purple and orange.
I remember the house on one side of the school where a witch lived.
I remember someone said they’d heard about a boy who climbed onto the house’s roof and looked down the chimney and saw the witch looking in a mirror.
I remember the house on the opposite side of the school where there was a ghost of a young girl.
I remember someone said they’d been in the graveyard of St Nicolas Church, across the road, and seen a ghost.
I remember the wooden shed a few gardens away that we could see from the playground, with one side open towards the school.
I remember seeing a white hand lying on a chair in that shed.
I remember people saying they could see the white hand in that shed move.
I remember we loved being scared.
I remember me and my friend Simon playing kiss chase with our friend Jane.
I remember knowing the name of every child in the school.
I remember one day every child in the school playing together in the playground.
I remember that some of the boys blocked the large gap between the old school building and the railings by making a human chain. The rest of the boys blocked the small gap between the old school building and the wooden staff hut by sitting on the ground between the two and raising their legs if anyone tried to pass.
I remember all the girls forming a chain and running from one side of the old school building to the other, trying to break through the boys to get to the front of the school.
I remember me and my friend Simon thinking we were in charge of everything, and running from one side to another making sure everything was going OK.
I remember feeling big when I was small.