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Laindon in the 1950s and 1960s - Part 4
by Brian Baylis

School days at Markhams Chase Primary School

     Going back to my schooldays, when it came to my first day at school, I too went to Markhams Chase primary - now Janet Duke - and was put in Miss Mayhew’s class. Janet Duke was the Headmistress and a fine lady she was too, looking back. I am not sure how long we had been in school when I asked if I could go to the toilet, which in those days, the infant toilets were outside in the playground at the St. Nicholas Church end of the school. After going, I tried to walk out of the school, but was caught before I could get to the gate and by another lady whose name escapes me.

     In class we were being taught to read and write by Miss Mayhew, but I was already doing joined-up writing, as we know it, having been taught by Marlene. I was told to print everything, like the rest of the class. I said Marlene had taught me to write, but was told I still have to print it. I got a bit upset at that idea because I just wanted to get on and leave school because I didn’t like being there.

     I can’t remember when it happened, but one morning while walking along the road from Bluehouse Farm towards Markhams Chase, we saw a horse literally charging along Green Lane towards the school, with the milk-cart behind it and the Milkman chasing it. I know for a fact, I was scared it was going to turn up towards us. I know for a fact Mum loved to look at horses from a distance, but she could never go near one. I don’t know what happened to it, because by the time we got to the corner where Lawrence’s little shop stood, the horse was nowhere to be seen. The time’s we went in Lawrence’s for sweets after school and came out with ‘Flying Saucers’, ‘Fruit Salads’, ‘Black Jacks’ or bubble-gum. The one bubble-gum I remember had football team cards in and I said the last one I needed to complete the set, would be the team I support. That team was Manchester United.

     At school and as time went on, I was moved up to higher classes in the infants until I went into the 1st Year juniors and Mrs. Finch’s class, then I went into Mr. Stanley’s, then Mr. Douglas’s, and finally Miss Last’s class. While in Mr. Stanley’s class, I remember sitting next to a particular mate and to save embarrassment to him I will keep his name to myself. One day, I needed to wipe my nose and so pulled my handkerchief out of my right hand pocket and wiped my nose. Upon trying to put the handkerchief back in my pocket, my desk-mate then swiped it and there we were struggling with it under the desk. Unfortunately, Mr. Stanley saw this and called us both out to the front of the class and instructed us to show the rest of the class, what we were doing. We stood there and held hands. Needless to say, the rest of the class, all laughed at us. I can now see the funny side of things. I have seen this same pupil since leaving school altogether, but he could not recall this incident.

     I am not sure when it started, but my parents joined the Parent Teachers Association and during our ‘Sports Day’ one Saturday, my parents were to run one of several stalls to raise some funds for the school. Six tins were stacked up, 3-2-1 and some old stockings made into balls to throw and try knocking them all off the shelf to win a prize, and 3 balls for 6d. I can’t remember what the prizes were either, but I know it was harder than anyone thinks to knock these cans off the shelf, because they were kept to the front of one of the narrow benches from the gym.

     I remember Marlene was still at Markhams Chase School when, I was standing at the outside door of the Junior end and I had an argument with another lad and threw one of my p.e. plimsolls, at him. As you can gather, he ducked and it went through one of the glass panels breaking it. I ran off, and then, when I returned, I denied it was me that broke the glass. I was taken to Miss Duke’s office where, I was reprimanded and then Mum and Dad were told I think by way of a letter. To pay for the window to be replaced, I had my pocket money stopped for about 6 weeks.

     I had only been in Mr. Stanley’s class a short while, when I fainted in assembly. I was then taken home and from then on, I was to suffer from regular ‘Blackouts’ until I attained the age of 15. It wasn’t until I was about 24 years of age, married to my first wife and went to see my then GP on a matter, that I learnt I had in actual fact, been classed as epileptic. I had been having what is known as Petit-Mal.

     From what I recall, Mr. Douglas came from the Isle of Man to teach at Markhams Chase. One day, I had been called out of class and upon returning, I went to pass in front of Mr. Douglas as he stood at the front of his desk and across from the aisle I needed to go down to get back to my desk. As I did not say ‘Excuse me Sir?’ he put his arm out and blocked me, telling me to go round behind him and then back to my desk, but I still had to walk in front of him. That was the day I learnt to have manners for my teachers, the same as I had been taught to have for other people and by Mum and Dad. I can’t remember much else about him, apart from the fact he left the following year to my knowledge.

     Our normal route to Markhams Chase School was to the bottom of Tyler Avenue, over the stile and through Bluehouse Farm and out into Markhams Chase itself and beside Lawrence’s shop. If the farmer wanted to be funny/awkward, call it what you like, he would let his pigs into the field and exactly where we had to climb over the stile at the bottom of Tyler Avenue, so that we had to go over another to the right to get into Buckingham Road and on down Almada Avenue, then left into Green Lane and on to Markhams Chase. At the very end where Almada Avenue and Green Lane met - another unmade pair of roads - there was a little shop called Barbers. When Basildon was being built and the Laindon Link started to go through to Basildon, this shop closed down. A matter of weeks after it closed, Barry, Martin (next-door neighbour) and I broke in and took some wafer biscuits as used in Ice-Cream wafers. I can also remember trying to use the phone in the shop, to phone my Nan in Dagenham, because it was still connected. We were questioned as to where we had got so many of the wafer biscuits from and when we told Mum, she just told us off because we had told the truth.

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Page added: January 2005
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