Saturday, November 06, 2010

The changing world (3) Catton School

It was NOVEMBER 13, 2007 when I blogged my last memoir.'The changing world (2) Skipton on Swale'. I ended that with my name carved on the bridge together with that of my teenage love. Visiting there last month I was saddened to see the bridge closed for renovations which will mean the loss of my lovelorn inscription.

My schooling started age 5 in Topcliffe, the old school in the centre of the village. All I remember of it is we had slates when I started. But within a year we moved to Skipton and i was at Catton School.

I saw it last month, now a private house. But in 1952 the children between the ages of 5 and 15 from the villages of Skipton and Catton were all there in two classes. The only escape was to pass the 11 plus exam. When I was there until 1956 I knew only two locals who had gone to Thirsk Grammar School. You started in the infants class then went up to the older one. I cannot remember at what age I moved up but i was a precocious child who suffered some bullying for being perceived as teacher's pet. Well I was Miss Mather's star pupil.

What I remember from her are a few poems. She taught me Daffodils by both Wordsworth and Herrick. From Westminster Bridge, and Going Downhill on a Bicycle. She got me through the 11 plus at the age of nine, a year earlier than normal so I had a year in hand all the way through senior school at Thirsk.

At Catton I was introduced to politics. There was a general election and everyone supported the local Conservative M P, Robin Turton. His Thirsk and Malton constituency was one of the safest Tory seats and he eventually became Father of the House of Commons, Local children chanted,

Vote for Turton.
Don't go for a burton.
Vote for Mytton
And get bitten.

Being the natural reactionary and finding my father to be Labour I suggested we put up the village's only labour poster. dad had more discretion than political valour. Being chapel, Methodist, when the majority were Church, Anglican,, one was used to being different. We went to Sunday School in the morning and chapel in the evening. The only times we has afternoon services were Sunday School Anniversary and Harvest festival. The latter was followed by Monday evening service, harvest supper and auction sale of the harvest produce which had decorated the chapel. Fir the Sunday School Anniversary we pupils were seated on a special platform over the Communion Table. One had to learn a recitation. my first, back at Topcliffe in 1950, age four was,

Jesus died for all the children
All the children in the world.
Red and yellow,
Black and white,
All are precious in his sight.
Jesus died for all the children
All the children in the world.

That 11 plus exam was in two parts, the first local, the second in Thirsk. I recall being somewhat tearful with the strain of the second part.

Age 8 in 1954 we had a new family member, my brother Geoffrey. My father had graduated from an Autocycle to BSA Bantam 125 on which I could ride pillion.

I remember Bonfire Night with local bonfire and fireworks of our own in the garden. Boys threw penny bangers and we liked the jumping jacks too, now all gone. November 4th was Mischief Night when we knocked on doors and ran away. We also tied garden gates together. But letting off fireworks except on November 5th was not acceptable.

Christams and New year mornings children would rise early and go round the village luckybirding. We sand and begged.

Lukybird, luckybird,
Cluck cluck cluck.
If you don't get up
You'll have no luck'
A hole in your sicking
Hole in your shoe,
Please will you spare us a copper or two.
Lukybird, luckybird,
God bless you.

Before I left Catton I had already earned some money too. Autumn term half term week was Spud Bashing week. Even under 10 one worked potato picking on local farms for a few shillings. Being allowed to bring up the tractor along the row was a treat. But the old horse was more efficient. You only had to call for the horse to bring up the cart into which one tipped the skip of spuds.

There were several old RAF sites around the village and the old war time bomber aerodrome. We plated around them as children. Most have gone now but there still stands the old RAF cinema building. There in June 1953 I won third prize in the Coronation day fancy dress competition. I was an old sea dog, a pirate with pyjama bottoms for trousers, mainly sun tan lotion to darken my torso, and a goose wing for a cutlass. it was a cold wet day. The next weak we saw the Coronation on film at a Thirsk cinema.

Cinema visits were a rarity. The only films i was taken to were religious ones, Quo Vadis and The Robe. Entertainment was dad's valve radio. It had MW, LW and SW. Of course it was all BBC except for the adventure of Radio Luxembourg. Favorites were have a Go with Wilfred Pickles, Mabel at the table and Harry Hudson on the piano. There was Life With The Lyons and also Dan Dare. Sundays were radio free

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