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Byline: David McGrory

RECENT Time Tunnels have prompted some readers' memories of their school days. This week DAVID McGRORY shares their recollections.

WHEN Ivor Giles was a pupil at Radford School in Coventry, an inspiring teacher brought history lessons to life by recreating some of the key battles from ages gone by - in full costume.

Ivor, who now lives in Hermitage Way, Kenilworth, says staff in the 1930s included a Mr Walker, affectionately known as "Daddy", who out of all the teachers impressed him the most.

"His subject was history and the way he taught it involved the children making things, painting and acting," he says.

The school had a magnificent timbered hall, the panels of which were adorned with medieval-type shields of kings and knights.

It was "Daddy" Walker, Ivor says, who was responsible for "these medieval shields and swords, which were most realistic, and chain mail made from coarsely knitted woollen jumpers, dyed a steel grey. He made many other things, including helmets and crowns, and we reenacted the Wars of the Roses and the Crusades dressed up in these costumes.

"Under his guidance we made a 4ft sq model of the walled and gated City of Coventry, including the cathedral and all the churches, houses and roads. Authentically reproduced in cardboard, painted matchboxes, etc, based on ancient maps. Alas it was lost, as was the school, as a result of bombing in the Second World War."

Radford School used to be situated at the junction of Radford Road and Lawrence Saunders Road, on the same site as the present school, but by the road.

Ivor was born in Foleshill but at the age of four the family moved to a new home in Bridgeman Road, Radford. He says the school's other teaching staff included Mr Galdsworthy, Miss Makepeace, and the head, Mr Horton, a Gallipoli veteran of the First World War and others.

As a child growing up he says it was wonderful to have Hollow Farm on one side of the road and Radford Brook and Naul's Mill Park on the other.

Among his fellow pupils at Radford School he recalls Ivan Elwell, Dickie Robinson and Norman Cross, later a builder, a Miss Foster, whose parents had a shop opposite the school, and also Lucy Simkins, Bobby Howes, Betty May, Pittaway and Lewin - most boys had nicknames.

EDITH COXWELL'S memories of old Coventry and Wheatley Street School (Time Tunnel, January 31) prompted Joan Shipley to write in regarding that school, perhaps one of the best-remembered in the city.

Joan, of Ramsay Crescent, Allesley, says: "It is not so much the building, but the warmth I felt remembering my time there, nit nurse and all."

She says that on the end-wall of the hall were depicted the pink and navy girls (the school colours), whose pleats were filled with the appropriate coloured card for good work. A round of applause rewarded the girls whose house pleats were first to be filled.

"Miss Williams took laundry classes. This was long before the 60s, but I burnt her bra. How dare she bring her undies for us to practise our ironing skills! I was still squashing myself into a liberty bodice with attachments for thick black stockings in the winter."

Joan's favourite teacher was Miss Walmsley, who enriched their geography lessons.

"The only time her voice was raised was at the end of writing practice, when she would slowly call out 'p-e-n-s d-o-w-n'. By the time she had reached the end of the last word we were all to have our pens back in the desk groove, by the inkwell, and all be sitting up straight with arms together."

Joan confesses: "I'm sure its now safe to spill the beans regarding what happened after one cookery lesson. My friend Doreen and I were given the job of tidying and washing down the pantry shelves. With cloths and carbolic soap we set to and I helpfully suggested to Doreen that we wring our dirty cloths out, not in our clean bowl but in a big saucepan in the pantry. Doreen agreed.

"A tap on the door eventually stopped our new routine. 'By the way girls,' Miss Walmsley said: 'Mind the saucepan over there, it's the stock for tomorrow's soup.' The door closed on us and on our secret.

"But we were always prepared to lend a hand if some unfortunate had 50 or a hundred lines to write after school. One would write the must-nots and the other add the misdemeanour.

"Once when I had to write lines for eating chewing gum, thinking fewer words were better, I wrote: 'I must not eat chuddy.' The teacher was not impressed, so the hundred lines became two hundred and I have never been partial to chewing gum since.

"I recall one time my friend Doreen had the ruler across her knuckles, I think because she had to run back home for her gas mask. She was whispering to me almost in tears that it was her left hand, her writing hand. The teacher called out: 'Stand up, Durreen!' It was so posh it was regal, it was almost worth being naughty just to hear it ring out across the classroom."

"I was telling Joan, it was my left hand Miss," Doreen told the teacher, who responded: "And it will be your right hand if you're not careful. Sit down."

Joan adds: "Edith's memories of country dancing transported me back. I also remember the war effort, I can smell the oil, recalling the off- white wool we used for knitting sea boot stockings.

"The bricks were there at Wheatley Street School on which to build our future. I was sad to leave, and at the same time excited when I became a butter patting girl at the Maypole Dairy in Far Gosford Street."

TIME TUNNEL reader Elsa Barnett, of Willenhall, also remembers the school.

"Miss Clews was well-known and Miss Powell, who taught French. Miss Lucas would rap your knuckles if you didn't get it right.

"I can still see the pink blouses, which were very smart. Miss Clews lived in Earlsdon, as I did then.

"Later, long after I had left school and married, she would stop and have a chat outside the shops in Earlsdon."

COULD the gentleman who left the large picture at the Evening Telegraph reception of the men in bowlers and boaters going on a trip please write to me at the address below to tell me about it?

IF you have anything interesting concerning old Coventry and Warwickshire write to David McGrory, Time Tunnel, Coventry Evening Telegraph, Corporation Street, Coventry CV1 1FP.


RADFORD SCHOOL DAYS: A picture of the class of 1930/31 (above) sent in by Ivor Giles, who is on the left at the back overshadowed by the panelled door and (below) dressed for school plays in the school yard, a photograph sent in by Betty Rothwell
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 21, 2004
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