St Johns School by Richard Borrie, age 43 and 3/4.
Memories of St. John's school Lemsford in the 1960s.
My first memory of St. John's School in Lemsford was being dragged up the hill from the village by my Mother. Naturally, at the age of 4, I did not want to go, so I screamed all the way. I don't know how long this went on for, but by the time the Beatles had reached number one several years later with Penny Lane I must have had got used to it, because I can remember singing it on the way up the hill.
Mrs Temple taught all the infants in the small room.
Life at St. John’s was simple. Mrs Temple taught all the infants in the small room, and Mr Temple taught the big children in the big classroom - although by the time I got to the big classroom I think he had retired. There was little intrusion from the world beyond the village, what little we knew was picked up from the Janet and John reading books.
One of the tricks was to soak the conker in vinegar
I can only remember three seasons at St. John’s. It was either Harvest Festival, Christmas, or summer. At harvest festival we went to the nearby church, which was full of ornaments made of corn. At about this time we also spent lots of time in the playground doing conker-fights, since conker trees were plentiful in the local Brocket park. I was not very good at this. One of the tricks was to soak the conker in vinegar, thereby hardening the shell. Another was to use electrical flex instead of string to hold the conker - this would break the opponent's string and when his conker fell on the ground you could stamp on it.
Mrs Temple on the piano out of the corner of my eye
At Christmas we lit candles and had a party at the end of term. We spent weeks making decorations for the “big room”, including getting holly from the nearby hedgerows, and we played lots of party games. I can clearly remember winning musical chairs, or at least coming second. I had discovered the trick of sitting down before the music stopped by the simple expedient of watching Mrs Temple on the piano out of the corner of my eye. You could tell she was about to stop because she would pause, and then plunge her hands on to the keyboard.
Summer consisted of lessons sitting out under the cherry tree
Summer consisted of lessons sitting out under the cherry tree in the area between the school and the church. This must have been idyllic (a word I could not have understood or spelt at that age).Strangely, I cannot remember learning anything at all in my time at St. John’s, although I must clearly have learned to read and write then, and what more start in life could one need. I have a vague memory of a teacher (not Mrs Temple I think) holding up words on small cards, whilst we all sat around in a big semi-circle. Whoever knew the word would shout it out. This was great fun, until in what seemed like an instant, I had learned to read and knew all the words. This was because a friend of my parents had given me a book called “Blind Dog Tom”, which I read from cover to cover, thereby suddenly taking me beyond the simple territory of Janet and John, which was all that was available in the little classroom.
Summer at St. John’s officially started when the white lines were painted on the playing field for the races
Summer at St. John’s officially started when the white lines were painted on the playing field for the races. At the time it seemed such a long way from the start in the lower field, round the old fruit trees, and then up the hill to the long straight and the finish. Until very recently I was certain the track was at least a mile in length, but my father showed me an old photograph of me in the flat race, and it cannot have been more than 50 metres from start to finish. There was also an excellent aluminium climbing frame, positioned to one side of the playground. If you fell off it hurt, and plenty of blood was spilt on it because there was no soft-play or child-friendly surfaces in those days, just hard concrete. But we didn’t mind.
8 years old I left St. John’s never to return
Life moved on and at the age of about 8 I left St. John’s never to return.In later years I came across several semi-autobiographical novels which described their author’s school days in small rural village schools – Lark Rise to Candleford, Le Grand Meaulnes, and Claudine a l’Ecole. Although mostly written half a century earlier, the similarities with St. John’s in semi-rural 1960s Hertfordshire were still detectable: the village life, the simple classrooms with children of all ages lumped together, the excitement of the different seasons, the happy incomprehensibility of it all. It was not the last word in educational establishments, but it was a good start in life.
I can remember some of the names of my classmates, but not the faces anymore. Guy Scott, Peter Coles, Julie Robb, Mark Lander, John Horsley, Carl Sutterby (we called him “Sutterbox”) and Tom and Matt Baker.
On the 4th May 1872, the first entry in the Head Teacher’s Log Book
On the 4th May 1872, the first entry in the Head Teacher’s Log Book was made by Mrs Mary Seaman, the first Head Teacher. On that day, seventy-seven children, ranging in age from three to thirteen, were enrolled. They were divided into two classes - one being taken by Mrs Seaman and the other by her husband Walter, her assistant. They were all taught in one room, the room now used as the dining room in the oldest part of the school. The school was approved by the Government on the 16th May 1872. To View '100 years of St John's School' Click here