Wallowing in nostalgia

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IT was two hours of pure nostalgia at the final get together at the old Cliffe Hill School in Stoney Lane, Lightcliffe.

I decided to walk there taking the same route to the school from our home in Holtby Grove as I did 56 years ago as one of that year’s new intake.

Walking through the cul-de-sac brought back memories of those families who we shared the street with. There was Mr and Mrs Caulfield, whose son Gerald went on to have a career in the Navy; Mr and Mrs Gill and daughters Jennifer and Wendy; Mr and Mrs Goddard and four girls. At the end of the street lived Mr and Mrs Neild who had two sons, Robert and Barry, who emigrated to Australia.

From Holtby Grove I walked across Bentley Avenue, passing what were the homes of Mr and Mrs Redman and their two sons Brian and Peter. Then there was Mr and Mrs Beevers and their two sons Peter and Roger and Mr and Mrs Tart and son Roger.

Walking through Shirley Grove the names and memories of those families of over 50 years ago came flooding back. The Bird family, Mallinsons, Howarths, Rooks, Booths and many more.

From Fairless Avenue it was through the snicket into Stoney Lane passing between the police houses. Back in 1952 Stoney Lane was literally a stoney lane with a small gulley of water running down the middle. But with the anticipation that Princess Margaret was coming to officially open the school the road was quickly prepared and given a fine coating of tarmac. However, best laid plans never seem to go just right. With the announcement of more pressing engagements in London she was unable to attend.

Looking across the road at the old school it was now decision time. In those far off days you were only allowed to walk up one of the two drives leading up to the school. If you chose the wrong one you could guarantee Mrs McBurney the head teacher would spot you from the staff room window - and then you were for it.

Just as we did all those years ago - now all of us aged 60-plus, everyone formed an orderly queue outside. Mrs Goddard’s four girls were already there, sisters Pamela and Hilary Horsman who as children lived in Fairless Avenue. Geraldine Harvey as she was in our childhood days joined the queue at the back with Jennifer and Marilyn Dale. Many of us were meeting for the first time in over 50 years.

Once the bell went we could go in, cups of tea, cakes and biscuits were in abundance.

The two hours soon passed. Chatting to old school mates and former teachers, could have taken up much more time.

As I took one last walk through the school, classroom three loomed ahead.

That was the spelling test classroom! In turn we had to go out to the front and write on the blackboard a given word. I can still remember it now. “‘Christopher, spell the word ‘of’.

Marching out to the front full of confidence, it suddenly hit me. I had one of those blank moments.

I can’t really say I was saved by the bell, more a call of nature and by the time I was back the lesson was all over.

I left the school that day feeling the same as I did when I left Cliffe Hill back in 1961 to go to St Martin’s.

Although the old school will soon be demolished and gone for ever, the memories will live on.

The featured photograph dates back to 1961 and harvest festival time. All the House Captains, the Head Boy and Head Girl pose with the Mayoress Mrs Williams and Deputy Mayoress Mrs Prest.

The boys and girls include: Elizabeth Marsh, Rolf Peebles, Howard Wilson, Peter Rook, unknown, unknown; Ann Collins; unknown, Richard Armitage and Jean Marsh.