DOWN MEMORY LANE A whack with a cricket bat '“ and why our ears were pulled

School days at the Lancastrian continues to stir many memories.

Thursday, 10th March 2011, 9:42 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 5:51 pm

Stan Chatfield, of Halnaker, writes: My family and I arrived in Fishbourne from Fratton, Portsmouth, in the 1930s, and the next school I was to attend was the Lancastrian Senior Boys in Orchard Street.

Education at this school was of a higher standard, and if I was to do well, with good marks, I must quickly pull my fingers out.

I remember a large crowd of schoolchildren of all ages, walking every day in all weathers the mile or so to school from Fishbourne and back again in the afternoon. Not many parents had a car and no-one could afford the bus every day.

The teacher in my class was a large man (I don’t remember many names), who took mathematics and also physical training. He was mad about cricket and carried a cricket bat everywhere, and if you got out of line, you were bent over for six of the best with the flat of the bat.

Mr Hanson was headmaster. He was keen on hygiene, and woe betide if anyone had dirty hands or nails.

Another teacher took science, and all through the lesson kept eating chocolate toffees from a big bag on his desk. Gosh, how we all wanted one – our mouths were dribbling.

My poor mum could never afford sweets for us – she would say they were bad for our teeth.

Another teacher took English, writing and reading. He would get you to read a passage from a book and if you could not pronounce a word, he would not help you to break up the word quietly – oh no, he would have you out in front of the class, shout and pull your ear, until you could pronounce the word and say it over and over again.

One boy was so scared of him, he climbed out of the window and ran home. I’m sure one of my ears is bigger than the other.

The best teacher in the school, for me, was my art master, Mr Norris, who helped me considerably to win a place at art school. In his end-of-term reference to me, he wrote I had abilities above average in these subjects: mechanical drawing, geometry, sign writing and cartooning.

One morning, which I remember so clearly, was Coronation Day, May 12, 1937. We attended school, had prayers in the assembly hall, then for a treat, we all sat down on the floor to watch a conjuror.

He asked first if on this special day there were any boys with a birthday. I was bursting with joy and waited for any other boys to stand up, but out of all those boys in the hall, I was the only one. So for his act to start, I was to be his stooge or helper.

Finally, when his act was over, the magician presented me with a lovely badge to wear. Recognition at last! We also all received a Coronation mug.

In my last term I won a free scholarship for a year to attend art school, two nights a week, which was in rooms above the Butter Market in North Street.

While there for a few nights, one of the teachers suggested I try sign writing or cartooning as I seemed to shine in these subjects. Unfortunately, the next few years was to change our lives dramatically – the art teachers had to join the services and they closed the art school for the duration of the war.

I was so disappointed, but we all had to get on with our lives and, at 18, I too joined the services, and that’s another story.