Re: Heber primary school memories
Posted by returnofthenative
29 April, 2013 23:24
I do not know the Miles family, but am a Heberite in more ways than one. I went to the school from between 1964 to 1970. During that time the school had its own infants, with a separate Head to the junior. Mrs Dawson was the lovely head of infants, and I was in the class of Miss Winnie Wakinshaw. She came from Sunderland originally. She was in her fifties when she taught me to read and write. Around 1968, when I had since moved on to the junior school, she married a gentleman named Ron Alcorn. During the 1970s she had left Heber and had become a Head herself at Keyworth school in Kennington. Moving up to the junior school in 1966, my class teacher was the wonderful Miss Evelyn Mabel Bromley, from Woodwarde Road. Yes Wardy, she had lived with her mother who had died in her nineties, so would have been a contemporary of Churchill. Anyway, Miss Bromley would tell us tales of her brother who lived on the coast at Eastbourne. She was a lovely lady, and I can picture her now with her hair tied in a bun and her hands covered in chalk. She always called any silly behaving children 'duffers'. Now, I believe that my class may have been her last one; she retired around the late 1960s, I think. I do know that unfortunately she succumbed to cancer in 1974 and sadly did not emulate the great age to which her mother had lived.
In 1968, John James Heester retired. We were at the special assembly for this, and the press came and took a photo for the South London Observer (not the SLP!). My elder brother and I were a part of the group sitting in front of the outgoing head for the press shot, along with a small number of others. Mr Heester's successor was William Stevens. He had the idea of knocking down walls between the classrooms and created some very large learning areas. My year was unaffected by the changes, as I passed from the classroom of Miss Bromley into that of Mrs Olga Baker. However, my younger sister was caught up in this trendy sixties learning revolution. The formal teaching of kids became a team-teach exercise, which had debatable outcomes. Subsequently, some secondary schools were complaining that their new intake from Heber required remedial work in basic Maths & English.
The schools at that time had classes of 40 children. Heber was no different. I became a teacher myself much later in life and baulked at the idea of teaching any classes larger than 30 students. I really admire the dedication of teachers dealing with classes of such sizes. I suppose baby boomers had meant that class sizes were so large. At Heber, the Science block was still in existence in those days. For the information of the younger inhabitants of this area, it stood at the Crystal Palace Road end of the school. It had three stories, although the ground floor was a vaulted area away from the playground where we could escape the rain at play & lunchtimes. The first floor was the pottery area, including the kiln, and the top floor was where Mr Simon Wood taught Science. He also covered some of the craft work. I still own a pair of cuff-links I made and which was my introduction to enameling. I can remember cutting the copper, cleaning it up, adding the powder and then holding the article with a pair of tongues in a Bunsen burner. Health & Safety today would never allow anything so risky! Mr Wood was a great character. He not only taught science but at one year's Christmas party did a whole conjuring act; he was a member of the Magic Circle. Great entertainment for us kids. Later, he became head of the Heber overflow school, the annexe in Darrell Road.
I can also remember some of the less-liked aspects of being at Heber. I am the opposite to Wardy, and was never the sporty type. There was a South African teacher called Regan who only ever liked kids who were great at footie or cricket. Neither my brother nor I remember him being that favourable to us, and our cousin was actually in Regan's class, so had him as his class teacher. Therefore, we all knew that Regan was having an affair with one of the teachers. My cousin's group was told to keep looking to the front of the class, and not to turn around. Crafty old Regan was snogging this teacher at the back; my cousin took a quick look, being unable to resist. Many years later, we learned that Regan had died from a heart attack, but never did secure the divorce he desperately wanted so that he could be with his colleague lover.
Another unpleasant teacher was Mrs Dawson, not the same one who had been head of the infants. I recall her being on playground duty one playtime, and I happened to be near her. She was in the corner of the Crystal Palace Road end yard, and right by the entrance to the alley. The alley was the frontage of the school building behind the railings on Heber Road itself. In those days, there was no gate there. The wooden ones standing there today are quite a recent addition, as are the bicycle racks. The alley was out of bounds, but the boys would nevertheless venture down to play marbles against the building wall. She sent me down to get the boys to come back into the playground. As each one did so, she whacked each one on the back of the head as they passed through the arch. I was last through, having done what I was told to do, and received a whack as well for my efforts. Talk about injustice!
I never knew about the fire at the school until I read Wardy's account. I do remember Miss Bromley telling us that the classrooms upstairs were only half tongue and grooved; the rear of the room was made up of sheets of 8 x 4 boards. This was because in the early days of the school the rear portion had tiers, with the desks rising high to the back wall of the rooms. Similarly, they each had their own fireplace which necessitated coal being shovelled on them during lessons. By my time, the school was heated by a wet central heating system and Mr Smith the caretaker had taken a small group of us on a special visit to the boiler room. He lived in the caretaker's building within the precinct of the school, near the now-demolished bike shed.
I have done some extensive research into my family tree. I knew that my grandmother had attended Heber as a little girl - she was born in 1903, and would run up Cyrena Road with her younger sister as the school bell in the bell tower was being rung. So grandma was an early pupil, but further research revealed that her aunts and uncles had also attended the school, just after it opened in 1882.
I could go on, but now finding myself living right opposite my alma mater means that I never escape the memories.
Just a short after thought: in the year 2001, I met up with many former members of Miss Bromley/Mrs Baker's class of the late 1960s. That was wonderful!