Learning in the open air!

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Seeing this week’s featured photograph will roll back the years for all those people who attended the Brighouse Open Air School particularly when these children attended during the 1950s.

I wonder how many ex-pupils can remember that journey they took into the town centre to visit the school dentist in rooms near to where Chambers Solicitors had their offices. If you can remember that you may be able to recall visiting the same school dentist in later years when it was based in the detached house at the end of Atlas Mill Lane.

I remember visiting there both for my teeth seeing to and having to be issued with a bottle of the dreaded ‘Gentian Violet’, not something that went down well with a young teenager.

Many old pupils of the Open Air School may also remember experiencing the toothpaste they had to use. It was in old flat tins, the same tins they would have had during the 1920s which while quite serviceable never looked like or matched up to the old and now quite valuable pot versions.

Before breakfast, a meal many will have fond memories of but not necessarily because of what it was but only because it would take the taste off one of Doctor Appleton’s prescribed potions. Children were at the Open Air School for various health reasons but generally these children were described as ‘delicate’. Being in that peculiar state you may have been prescribed with any of the following: cod liver oil, Minedex or even Virol.

The meals were cooked by the Head Cook Mrs Chat who lived in Hey Street. Even in those days, as far as the children were concerned, she was the original Master Chef and a very nice lady as well. Anyone who tasted Mrs Chat’s porridge will almost now be able to taste the memory of it, the reputation of her porridge went well beyond the school gate.

The drink of the day was milk which usually meant at least two bottles a day. This was fine on cold winter days because the milk would be chilled but on a hot summers day it tasted awful. ‘There are children in Africa who would die for that milk’. That was the usual way staff at the school encouraged you to drink all your milk by making you feel guilty.

After the war Mrs Chat had to contend with rationing and shortages and still come up with enough wholesome meals for the children. What must have seemed like heaven sent was during the late 40s or may have been early 1950s when a donation of stewed steak was delivered. It was said to have come from either Canada or New Zealand but where ever it came from every child had to write to the country’s government and say thank you.

The order of the day immediately after dinner, it was never called lunch, was a nap on the veranda.

Some may remember the repeated air raid drill practice and for some strange reason these drills continued well after the war.

These were happy days which I am sure many will not have forgotten.