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Contains the reminiscences of a former pupil about life at Sidmouth Street School in 1912. Also contains short recitals of essays and stories about the ship RMS Titanic, by school children in the 1980s. Film and Sound Archive access copy available onsite in the Audio-Visual Room Timing: Action on film (00:01) Mrs Underhill begins by explaining that she came to the school in 1912 when she was 11 years old. Children went into the junior school at the age of 7 and then went up into the seniors’ at about 9. The two schools were separate and the senior school was all girls. The uniform was green, similar to the colour the children currently wear, but there were no summer dresses. They wore a pleated gym slip with a white blouse. The skirt had to be so many inches off the floor when they knelt down and the length was checked and measured. The school bought the material and her mother made the uniform (02:00) A teacher explains that there used to be two separate schools on the site, the girls’ school was separated from the boys’ by a high wall and there was no mixing. The schools were built so you couldn’t get from one to the other. The boys used the Tavistock Street entrance (02:56) The infants’ and juniors’ were in the same building with the infants’ downstairs and the juniors’ upstairs. Every class in the senior school had a plot of land where they grew vegetables. The plots were at in a garden at the top of Newland Avenue near the Lutheran Church. The children worked in the garden one day a week, digging and planting, which she really enjoyed. Once a week they went to the cooking area. There was also a home making class, held in the first house passed the shops on Newland Avenue. It was kept for the girls to clean and teach them how to keep a home (05:50) After being asked which lesson she didn’t like, Mrs Underhill replies mental arithmetic; she wasn’t very good at it. The class had to stand up during the lesson and when a child answered a question correctly they could sit down. Her favourite lessons were composition, writing stories and art. She remembers that in art there was a machine with a roller which printed a design many times and the children then painted them (05:50) A teacher asks about maths lessons. Mrs Underhill explains that they did both mental and ordinary arithmetic, but in the same lesson. The lesson started with mental arithmetic and continued with written arithmetic. They had a maths lesson every day, lasting about half an hour. The teacher comments that today, lessons last about an hour and a half, so although they don’t do maths every day, they probably spend the same amount of time on it (06:25) Twice a week all the classes met together in the hall and had an assembly. Every Friday night they would sing ‘Now the day is over’. When asked what time they started school, Mrs Underhill replies that they started at 9am and finished at 4pm. Lunch lasted one and a half hours, but everyone went home, they didn’t have school dinners (07:10) The head teacher wore a dress down to her ankles, you could hardly see her feet, she looked very smart. A child asks Mrs Underhill if the headmistress used a stick, she says no. Another pupil asks if they got demerits and she explains that they had an achievement book and a misconduct book. The names were read out at assembly on Friday night. Three misconducts got a slapping. Children that worked well or did something special were given ‘stripes’. This was a piece of green and yellow braid about four inches long and it was stitched onto their tunic (08:20) A teacher asks if they had desks similar to the ones the children are using. The answer is no, their desks had iron sides and the seat was fixed to the desk and lifted up, like a bench. Their lessons included arithmetic, history, art, geography and singing. They entered musical festivals and did very well. PE was taken by Miss Linton, who wore a modern tunic. They did long jump and high jump in the hall. On Sports Day they had running races and the slow bicycle race, where the child that got there last without falling off was the winner. One of the teachers says that he believes the races stopped because a cyclist in Germany managed to stand still on a bike for 7 hours. He goes on to suggest it might be a good idea to try a slow bicycle race again and asks the children if they would like one at the end of the year. They are enthusiastic about the idea (10:55) This prompts Mrs Underhill to say that not many children had bicycles in her time. They used to borrow them to enter the race and children that had them were very lucky. A child asks if Mrs Underhill had a bicycle and she answers no. She learnt how to ride on the bike of an insurance girl that had a weekly round on her road. The girl left the bike outside while she finished collecting on the street, so Mrs Underhill would borrow it. She didn’t have a bicycle until she started work. The bikes were old fashioned ‘sit up and beg’ bicycles. The teacher describes how the handle bars came round so the cyclist had to sit in an upright position (11:49) A teacher comments that when the school was built, it was a demonstration school. People visited it because it was one of the most modern schools in Hull with a good catchment area. Mrs Underhill confirms it was a very pleasant area and the houses were well to do. No children went to school in bare feet, but her husband lived near Hessle Road where lots of the children went to school with no shoes. She remembers an epidemic of chicken pox and a flu epidemic where hundreds of children were ill, practically every other person got it. A teacher remembers a flu epidemic in 1960. He also talks about a polio epidemic, when parents refused to send their children to school because they were concerned that children would catch polio (13:50) A child asks if there were any school trips and is told no. A teacher asks what Mrs Underhill remembers about the beginning of the war. She says that if the all clear siren went off after 12 noon they didn’t have to go to school the following day until after lunch, but if it went off before 12 they had to go into school in the morning. Today at the end of the streets there are allotments but at that time there used to be fields. Families would take blankets into the fields during raids and wait until the ‘All clear’ sounded. She went once when an aunt persuaded her mother to go, but they never went again. They stayed at home where her mother used to put her and her brother under the table, which was in the middle of the room covered by a long chenille cloth. Her mother would give them candles and books and they would sit and read until they heard the ‘All clear’. They then went back to bed. She is asked if she was frightened, but replies her mother was so calm that she can’t ever remember being scared (17:05) A child asks if Mrs Underhill is on the school photo they have. She says she was not at school that day, but she knows most of the children that are on it. A woman in the photo was thought to be a teacher, but Mrs Underhill explains that she was the mother of one of the girls. The teachers were very strict and children were more frightened of them than they are today. When school started at 9am, the bell in the school tower was rung; it could be heard across the whole area (18:00) Mrs Underhill is asked if anyone climbed over the wall between the two schools. She says that the children were too frightened of their teachers to try it. She is then asked if they got the cane. She replies not in the girls’ school. Girls were punished by having their arms slapped by a teacher. The boys were caned. Their headmaster was called Mr Gunn, a small man but very strict. She can’t remember many of the teachers’ names, but she does remember Miss Linton. There were no men teachers in the girls’ school and no women teachers in the boys’. Teachers were given nicknames; Miss Linton was called Lizzie (19:37) The boys played football in the yard. There didn’t have school dinners, everyone went home. A teacher explains that school dinners weren’t introduced until the Second World War. There were no kitchens, but they did have cloakrooms. A child asks what age they left school and is told fourteen which surprises them. Pupils left school to find a job, but work was harder. Factories started work at 8am. Mrs Underhill worked in a shop, so she didn’t have to start until 9am. In those days they had scholarships to the senior school, like the 11 plus, but parents had to pay for a child so had to save. The girls played netball and rounders in the school yard. Playtime lasted for a quarter of an hour. They also went to the swimming baths and played hockey. When asked if they played ball games Mrs Underhill says they played bouncing a ball against the wall. The classrooms had blackboards that ran right across the wall (23:25) She is asked if they practiced plays. They performed a Midsummer Night’s Dream dressed in costume. They also had open days where parents came round to see the children’s work. There was no homework. They used fountain pens to write and got into trouble if it blotted. She can’t remember a Christmas party in the junior school but remembers one in the infant school. Every child got a gift from the Christmas tree. There were no bells at the end of lessons. She was too small to be in the netball team. She was rarely in trouble and only had her arm slapped once. The pupils in school then, did not think Riddleston Street School was as good as Sidmouth Street. She liked all her teachers, but they looked very old to the children. When you look back you realise they were not as old as you thought (26:50) The toilets had no roofs. They had a shed, like a large bus shelter that they could go in at playtime if it was wet. Mrs Underhill didn’t have to travel far to school as she lived in Manber Street, number 8, opposite a shop. Most of the girls wore a uniform, but the boys didn’t have one. The teacher asks what children did after school and is told they played ball in the street, ‘Last across the road’. They looked in sweet shop windows which were all lit up. When she lived in the area Goddard Street used to be a dead end, it was green fields all the way up to school and Clough Road. Her father had an allotment off Strawberry Walk; none of the estates had been built then, so you could get through to Newland Park. There was a cinema on Newland Avenue and a number of others, The Rialto, The Strand and The National. The Rialto was turned into a bowling alley and then burnt down. They would go to the cinema on Saturday afternoon. It cost 1d in the front and then there was a board about as high as a desk and it would cost 2d on the other side. When the lights went down people would scramble over the board and into the 2d’s (34:15) The school just consisted of classrooms. Large baskets were used for storage. She can’t remember moving around for many lessons, only needlework and arithmetic. Other lessons were held in your own classroom. Assembly took place on Friday in the morning and evening. When pupils arrived at 9am, they registered and then lessons would start at 9:10 and finish at 12:00 with a 15 minute break. The afternoon started at 1:30 and finished at 4:00. There was no form time, the children worked hard. On Monday morning they had penny bank when the teacher collected the coppers being saved. When the amount reached £1 it was transferred to the bank (35:50) They didn’t have to buy school books. They also used Beverley Road library to borrow books. All the books were bound in the same green linen with the name on the spine. There were no coloured jackets, so children had to read a bit to see what the story was about as they couldn’t tell from the outside. In reply to a question about air raid shelters, the children were told that there were no shelters in the First World War (38:00) There were no showers or changing rooms. The girls just took their tunics off and did gym in their knickers. Mrs Underhill can’t remember where the staff room was, but the headmistress had her desk in the hall and stayed there most of the day. The girls had to bring a small item of laundry every week to learn how to wash clothes. There were no washing machines. Some lessons were held every day, but gym and singing were only once a week. There were no language lessons. School provided all the books. They played hopscotch and jacks. People did not have as much money as today. Mrs Underhill thinks she could have passed the scholarship but her mother couldn’t afford to pay for her books and uniform. Her three brothers and sister all passed for the secondary school (00:01) The first essay is read by two children. It describes how the Titanic left the dock covered in flags and streamers and to the cheers of the people on the dock side. Its destination was New York and in nine days it had reached Greenland. The ship was moving slowly because of the ice bergs. Everyone had enjoyed drinking eating and dancing and they went to bed feeling safe as they believed the ship couldn’t sink. They hit an ice berg during the night and the Captain asked all passengers to come on deck. Some stayed in their cabins and went back to sleep. It was bitterly cold on deck and some people were panicking as the ship was sinking. Passengers were helped with their life jackets. The Captain ordered women and children first. A lot of people drowned and many of the women did not see their husbands again. People in the lifeboats saw the ship sink (01:54) The second essay begins by explaining that in 1912 the Titanic set sail from Southampton docks. It was designed with two thicknesses of steel and was the length of two football pitches. It had a lounge, playrooms and a dance band. There were 2,224 passengers and 25 life boats. On the ninth day of the trip it hit an ice berg and there were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers. 1500 people drowned (03:05) The third essay begins on Friday 10th April 1912 when the Titanic set sail from Southampton docks for New York. It was built with two thicknesses of steel and was the length of two football pitches. Its speed was 20 knots, it had 2,224 passengers and crew and 20 lifeboats. On April 19th 1912 the Captain ordered all the passengers on deck, saying there was a little damage. The wireless operator was sending the signal CDQ from the wireless hut. Many miles away the lights of the Carpathian could be seen but it turned away and disappeared. The captain ordered all the watertight doors to be closed as water was pouring in. The Titanic was sinking slowly. The Captain gave orders for the women and children to go first, some women lost their husbands. Public access copy available on Preservica: (Search 'SL144/56')


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