Remembering Our School Days

We ran a competition recently asking for residents’ memories of their school days. It provided a perfect activity to do over the course of a week or two, great in a group, but also a fantastic one-on-one activity too.

You can read the winning entries here – and we’ve included all the runners up and a few other favourites below, because we enjoyed them all so much. You could use them to run a school days reminiscence session in your care home – read out your favourite entries and see what resonates with your residents.

Bobby Cowdell, White Rock Nursing Home (AC – Anne Moxom)

I was in a convent in Southampton during the war as my mum had died, and my father was fighting in the war. The nuns ran a convent school and most of the children were evacuated to Dorset but my grandfather wanted me to stay in Southampton, so I was there with my sister and the nuns. I was only four years old at the start of the war. To a child, the war always seemed mad. Each Sunday the nuns would invite the German POWs along with French, English and troops of other nationalities to the convent chapel. They would all sing and pray together, but when they left, they were suddenly sworn enemies again. It didn’t make sense to a child. I remember one of the German POWs was a good pianist. The nuns let him practice on their grand piano. I used to sit underneath the piano and listen to the beautiful music he played. It gave me a love of music I have had throughout my life. Then, many years later, my husband and I were on a walking holiday in the German Alps, when we came across this isolated cottage, it was very picturesque. We walked up to it for a closer look. As we turned to walk away, we heard someone calling and turned to see a man coming out of the cottage. He called us back. It turned out that he was one of the German POWs who used to attend chapel in the convent in Southampton, and he had recognised me! It was quite extraordinary.”

Peggy Payne, Littlebourne House (AC – Patrycja Godzwon)

“I remember my first day at school. I had lovely white shoes on and one of the girls stamped on my shoes because they were WHITE! I remember running to school and I ran straight into a lamppost, breaking my nose. A lady took me into her house to clean me up and look after me. I remember going dancing at school at 16 and the girls sat one side and boys sat on the other side, every girl was waiting to dance with somebody – we were learning the quickstep. I was always dancing with flowers in my hair. When boys walked us home they were only allowed to do so up to the gate, and if we were lucky, we got them to the porch or to the front door without being seen by the parents for a kiss!”

Roy Powney, Alexandra Court (AC – Lindsay Allen)

“Roy went to Bailey School in Fleetwood and fancied taking up French lessons, but his English teacher put a stop to that as she said ‘he was rubbish’ at English, so stood no chance with learning French. So he took himself off to Music class instead – but was soon kicked out of these lessons as the teacher said he was a terrible singer! So it was suggested to him that he took up helping the beekeeper, which he did for the last two years of school. They started off with five hives which grew to nine after the two years. During the winter months, the bees needed sugar but this was a bit difficult due to rationing, so Roy made a deal that anyone who donated sugar for the bees got a jar of honey. He thoroughly enjoyed tending to the bees, even though he ended up with several bee stings over the two years.”

Beryl Batey, Abbeyfield Care Home (AC – Beverley Haston)

“Due to the war, I was evacuated to a boarding school in the country. I remember we were always up to mischief. We would be sent to collect acorns for the pigs and rose hips for making syrup. We would eat as many acorns as we could ourselves, and the rose hips we would peel back for the seeds, as it was great itching powder. For breakfast we were given cod liver oil capsules which were awful, so we would squeeze them at each other which made you smell really fishy! My school friends became my family and I was very sorry to leave.”

Elizabeth Richards, Perry Manor (AC – Scarlet Burris)

“When Elizabeth was 12 she was sent from Yorkshire to a Catholic school in London. Elizabeth travelled by train alone and very upset. At mealtimes at her school, no-one was allowed to sit or speak without the nuns giving them permission. Elizabeth remembers that every Friday was ‘fish day’ – red herring and roe. Elizabeth didn’t like fish day – between the idea of what roe was and the undercooked herring she was always put off. One day Elizabeth tried to hide the roe so she didn’t have to eat it but she got caught so she was made to eat them cold in front of the whole school for tea time. She remembers being able to hear the younger children crying for their parents at night. One of the nuns, Sister St Pauline, would always look after them and comfort them. Sister St Pauline was much nicer than the other nuns, she was lovely, warm and humble. On Elizabeth’s Holy Communion everyone taking part had to wear all white. She felt embarrassed and didn’t want to go because she hadn’t been able to buy new things like the other girls, and she had to borrow a veil and a dress and her once-white socks were now grey. Sister St Pauline told Elizabeth that she looked beautiful. Elizabeth didn’t believe her, but her effort did make her feel better. Elizabeth remembers waiting for the wafer to be placed on her tongue, wondering if something magical was supposed to happen, however, she wasn’t surprised when it didn’t! By the time Elizabeth was 17, World War II was over and Elizabeth’s father was stationed at Salisbury Plain. It was Elizabeth’s final day at school and emotions were high. When the whole class was together, one of the girls locked the door of the classroom and the class began singing the school song together for one last time. Elizabeth remembers singing with her head buried in her arms on the desk as she cried – she was sad and frightened about leaving, and about what the future held. All of a sudden, Sister St Mark banged on the door and demanded it to be opened. That’s when one of the other girls explained that they all just wanted to be together, just one more time.”

Anthony McCallion, Owen Mor Care Centre (AC – Michelle Hegarty)

“Always porridge, every morning before school, porridge. It was good, it filled me up. You always had enough porridge at school, I sat behind Margaret, her hair was always full of knots. I got the school bus at the crossroads, as my mother did not want us to be collected at the house, so we had to walk to the crossroads. Mother was too classy. I used to get into fights with the other boys at school. We used to throw stones, and if you got caught, the rod was used. The teacher would come up behind you, no warning. It was sore, it made you think that you wouldn’t do it again. I was normally good in school, you knew you had to be. You never told anyone at home, Mother or Father. I wasn’t that stupid. We did not play games at break time – it was a Catholic school. After school we used to pass through the orchard and gather apple and pears.”

Anonymous, Woodlands Care Centre (AC – Sarah Taylor)

“I went to a school in Needhams, in Ely. I didn’t like school much, so I used to be quite naughty. I remember it being April Fool’s Day in the 1960s and I decided to climb the stairs at school, which took you to where the roof was. There were four of us who did it, all boys. We put a bike on the roof, it was so hard carrying it up the stairs, but we thought this was so funny, and so did the other kids! The teachers on the other hand, didn’t. I think we got the slipper across our backs! I was waiting for the school bus, but never really wanted to go into school so I used to hide under the hedge until the bus left. I was so small I could do that. I then used to walk four miles into Ely, go into school, have my register taken and then sneak out of the back door and go home. I also liked football at school, but being very small, no other children would pass the ball to me. When they eventually did, I used to kick the ball in my own goal! Just because I thought it was funny.”

You read the winning entries here.