Oct 2012

Kings Norton girls school: Memories from the War

1941-50 Memories of Kings Norton Old Girls
During the war  Most girls arrived at school    by bicycle or by utility buses which had uncomfortable wooden seats.  After an air raid, girls used to collect shrapnel on the way to school. It was often difficult to know what time to arrive if there had been an air raid. The arrangement was if the "all clear" went after midnight, school did not open until 10 a.m. This might be a problem if you were sleeping in a shelter and did not hear when the "all clear" went. When girls arrived at school they were sometimes sent home because the coke had not been delivered to heat the school. The entrance hall, the back corridor, and the cloakrooms were reinforced and there were air raid shelters in the quadrangles. One day there was either an air raid or a practice during lunch time and the girls went scurrying to the shelters with their plates of dinner.
 
Great fun was had during gas mask practice to see who could make the most noise when air was exhaled. Cookery was a great problem as most ingredients were rationed. Dried eggs and milk replaced fresh. Clothing was difficult because of rationing and shortages; often blazers and tunics were on order for months.
 
Who remembers:
 School milk?
 Gas mask drill?
 Mice eating the rice paper in the bible?
 

A Family affair!
 
My association with KNGS is quite a long one, my sister Jill was a pupil from 1938-42, both my mother (then Winifred Washbourne) and my father (Richard Price) were pupils from the first day at Northfield Road in 1911 and an aunt and uncle followed them two years later. A cousin was at school when they moved to Selly Oak road. My father was chairman of the 'Old Nortonians for most of the war years and my mother was on the 'old girls' committee in the early 40's.
 
Our gym mistress was on the staff right through from my mother's time and addressed me as "Winnie - er- -Lexie - er - what's your name" having taught my mother, my aunt and my sister!
                                                                               Mavis Taylor (Nee Price(1942 - 49)
  Needle work - knickers!
In 1938 in the first year, the domestic science project was to make oneself a pair of knickers. My sister was measured by Miss Reid "down to the bend of her knee and 2 inches more for bending" - Passion Killers! Even in those days, this was well below the hem of the average gymslip for an 11 year old.
By 1942 Miss Ried had retired and a younger teacher helped us to make quite a snazzy pair of French knickers.
 
                                                                                   Mavis Taylor (Nee Price(1942 - 49)
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Wartime - Evacuation 
We had classes in the afternoon at Denmark Road High School. Mornings we used either the school gym or had classes in the church hall. Such pocket money as we has (very little) was paid into KNGS each term and on holidays we queued up in Denmark Road School hall to receive it from members o staff according to the allowance made by our parents. 
                                                                                                       Vera Curtis 1938 – 43


 
School Harvest Camp
In 1944 and 1945 I, with a number of other girls aged 15 plus, went to School Harvest Camp. It lasted for 2 weeks, we rode our bicycles to our destination - Admington Nr. Stratford Upon Avon in 1944 and Clavedon in 1945. They were our transport to the various farms we were sent to (a coach took our luggage to and from school).

It was hard work:   - loading up the horse and trailer  - helping stack the wheat in the barn, bits sticking in your clothes and down your neck
-threshing - a very dirty job, we looked like sweeps afterwards!

 
We all thoroughly enjoyed our work and the camaraderie back at the head-quarters after supper, although we were soon to bed, tired from the day's excursions and preparing for the next day's work.
 There were 2 or 3 camps during the summer and members of our staff looked after us at the headquarters.
 
V.J.Day 
August 15th 1945, saw me and two other girls 'helping' on a farm clearing out part of the cow byre - the smell was terrible. It was a rainy drizzly day and we couldn't get into the fields to bring in more crops, so we asked if there was anything else we could help with - hence given this task. Although the others stayed till late afternoon, I succumbed and had to go back to the camp for lunchtime!
 
                                                                             Eileen Statham (Nee Emms) 1940 - 45
 
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In 1945 I was one of the first intake of pupils benefiting from the Butler Education Act, which made Grammar school education free for the first time.

 
We had to buy the uniform of navy-gym slip and light blue blouse, plus coat and obligatory navy hat or beret, but all school materials were free. In those early post-war years we had a 'rough book' for making notes and as paper was still in short supply, we only used pencil and then rubbed everything out to reuse the notebook a second time.
 
For some reason we started in Year 2, then 3, 4, lower and upper 5th and so to the sixth form, lower and upper. Around 1950 the old School Certificate exam was changed to Ordinary level with an age limit of 16. I was too young to do the exam with my friends and had to do the first 'O' levels in 1951, after starting my 'A' levels which I completed in 1952. Once again I was too young to start a degree course and had to repeat another year. In those days a year off travelling the world or earning money, now considered so valuable, was unheard of.
 
The late 1940's were a confusing time for me: throughout my primary education during the war we had been taught to hate our enemy. Our role in defeating him was clear, carrying vital messages on our bicycles under his very nose. By the Autumn of 1945, the tables had turned - the atom bomb dropped. Europe in chaos - and we were being encouraged to have compassion on the enemy and learn to forgive. As a result of this initiative I became fascinated with Germany and must have been one of the first students to have a German exchange. Maria came to us from Berlin in 1950 and I visited her in 1951. The parcels we had collected in 1945 had landed in a girls' school in Munster, so there were also visits and exchanges with them.
 
Beyond that my memories were mostly happy. I was a real pain in the classroom and was awarded an 'order mark' more than once - the shame of it! On one occasion my friend Mary and I were practising a fireman's lift, a skill we had learned at the school's Youth Service Corps.
 
The YSC ran on Wednesday afternoons alongside some sports and other voluntary activities - though as I recall the only thing you couldn't volunteer for was an afternoon off! I think even by today's standards KNGS was a forward-looking and certainly a caring school which equipped us well for whatever was to come.
 
                                                                                  Eileen Holly (Nee Darby) 1945 - 53
 
The Y.S.C. Youth Service Corps
 
The classics teacher, Miss Folland (known as 'Caesar') began this excellent organisation.
We met every Wednesday afternoon (which was half-day off for the rest of the school) We had badges and cards in which we had to write down, and get signed, any voluntary work we had done for the community during the week.
 
We also went to camp at Ladram Bay in Devon every summer. My happiest times at school were at 'Camp', which was extremely well organised. We all had tasks, chores, duties etc. and I'm sure these experiences were excellent in character-forming and giving us a sense of responsibility and awareness of others.
 

Stella Sturgeon (Nee Matthews) 1943 - 50 

---------------
 
Ann Hayden-Jones - Wimbledon Champion
 
I remember a quiet, straw-headed, pleasant girl who watched us 'Big Girls' of
the Upper 5th playing tennis. I took pity on her and asked
her to join us on court. She was a table tennis star at the time, but her tennis serves
were staggering! 
                                             Stella Sturgeon (Nee Matthews) 1943 - 5


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Festival of Lights starts Oct 19th!

Park Friends and Robert Wilkinson Big Top Studios present a
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS in Cannon Hill Park
19 - 28 Oct 2012
DRAFT PROGRAMME NOTES
Set Up Dates: 15 – 16 Oct

SCHOOLS DAYS: 17 – 19 Oct Festival of Lights Arts Showcase with South Area Schools NetworkDiwali theme and Park Photo Exhibition, with installations and mixed media
Workshops with :–
Vanley Burke, community photographer
Andy McKeown, digital light artist with schools Park Kaleidoscope
Schools astronomers with Dark Sky Discovery
Light and sound recordings with Moths and Bats

    Festival of Lights with Big Top Studio and Robert Wilkinson Fun Fair Fri 19 Oct – Sun 28 Oct 2012
    with Big Top Studio and Park Exhibition, Festival Stage ‘Brum has Talent’, & Pool of Light Show after dusk
    Other events in the Festival Programme –
      ‘ Breathing Spaces’ – Birmingham needs for Peoples Parks, & young people’s playing fields.
      ‘ Birmingham Weather’ – featuring extremes from all seasons and effects on City livings.
      ‘ Holiday season in the Parks and Sands of Lincolnshire’ – family pictures from yesteryear.
        Contact: Tony Fox, Park Friends for Festival of Lights and Big Top Studio programme
        cannonhillfriend@aol.com 0798 1338138 www.bigtopstudio.co.uk
        www.twitter.com/cannonhillpark
        www.betweenyourears.co.uk Audio trails

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