|Abstract||I started at West Mersea Council School around Easter 1937. I was living in Barfield Road at the time and I was a very reluctant starter. In the end my Dad loaded me into the seat on the back of his bike on the pretence of going to East Mersea to visit Auntie Nellie, but instead of going past the school he swung in through the school gates and I was dragged screaming into the classroom. I can see the faces now of the children pearing through the window from the playground at the squawking new pupil. I was told I bit headmaster Thomason's finger but I don't remember doing so. We started at the age of five in those days. No pre-school. We were in the room closest to the school house which was divided with a low curtain , Babies one side and infants the other. The playground was divided into two by a high wooden fence with boys one side, girls and infants the other. The school at that time all faced onto Barfield Road. there was a wall behind the playground and behind that where we now have the main school was open field.
After the first two years the war started. the male teachers Mr Burt, Mr Reason Mr Davies and Mr Hucklesby joined the forces and were replaced by young lady teachers Miss Calver. Miss Chantler and Miss Adnams. The evacuees arrived from East London with their teachers and we shared our school with them. They had mornings and we had afternoons, or vice versa, so there were several changes. School dinners started about that time. they were cooked in the little room room behind the British Legion Club Room and eaten in the adjoining room. By 1943 the canteen was also sending dinners to Langenhoe School. The evacuees didn't stay long and gradually trickled away home but we did have to leave our lessons and go across the road to the air raid shelters every time the siren sounded.
Other local schools had closed and the children came to West Mersea - East Mersea children when the school closed in April 1939; Peldon seniors and juniors in stages until the school closed in December 1942.
The senior boys had woodwork lessons in the large tin building and the girls had cookery lessons in the same building. We all had gardening lessons in our senior years. The boys had gardens near Upland Road where we now have Oyster Close and the girls did the flower gardens near the school. We also kept pigs which were fattened and slaughtered so we could have an occasional joint of pork to supplement our rations. Chickens were reared and kept, bees, and near Barfield Road there was a large aviary with budgerigars.
I left in April 1946 and went to work for Clifford White. I was 14, too young to be an apprentice and they took me on as a labourer. 14 was the leaving age then, but it was changing to 15 and needed new classrooms for the extra year. However, it was already the plan that Juniors and Seniors would be split, West Mersea would no longer be a 'through school' from 5 to 15, and the Seniors would go to Colchester. It took a while - the last Seniors did not leave until July 1960.
The girls of my class with gardening master Mr Wilkinson.
L to R Elizabeth 'Betty' Spall (Gasson), June Pittock, Jean Hiskey, Rosemary (Ann) Fenn (Spurgeon), Mollie Gladwell (Cousins) Ethel Frost (Miller), Mr Wilkinson, Peggy Fothergill, Dorothy Brown, Eileen Hedger, Daphne Green (Harvey
Mr Wilkinson was at the school for 20 years and retired in December 1951.
Article published in Mersea Life July 2021.