“Bye mum!” we all called out, as we clambered out the door. “Cheerio” called mum. We made our way to the train station and boarded the train that would take us to school. We reached our destination, piled off the train and out of the station. It was a normal school day and we hurried along, not wanting to be late. It was the familiar walk through the Pentonville Prison grounds, past the brewery and into the school. We made our way to the cloakroom and hung our coats up before entering the assembly hall.
The morning assembly was absolutely packed. The whole school attended, daily, including all the teachers and staff. The headmaster got up to address the school, as he always did. He came up to the microphone. “I want the Leach’s to stay behind after assembly” he said, and continued with his announcements. My heart jumped as I heard our name. What ever could it be about.
By this time there was probably three or four of us girls in that school. We dutifully stayed behind, not knowing what awaited us, and feeling quite nervous. The headmaster came across with an even more tight lipped expression than was usual. “I have received a complaint from the stationmaster” he said. “Somebody has been writing vulgar things, and swearwords all over the toilet walls, at the train station, and as you use that station, I have decided it must be you.” Without even allowing us to speak, he promptly walked to his office and came back brandishing a long bamboo cane. We prepared ourselves for what was about to come. “Hold out your hands” He lifted the cane high and brought it down swiftly and forcibly on our outstretched hands. ‘Thwack’, ‘thwack’, ‘thwack’…….. Two swipes each! With our hands throbbing and stinging, we walked to our respective classes to start the days lessons. Holding a pen was not easy.
My mum and dad were good honest people who taught us all good manners and made sure we knew right from wrong. They were not drinkers and they never used bad language, which obviously meant we didn’t either. Dad was hard working and mum was a stay at home mum, who spent time with her children. All in all, we were a decent family, with decent values.
Horror of horrors! Mum and dad had seven children! I hear you saying “The Waltons” Well it was a bit like the Waltons without sugar.
In those days, if you had lots of children it was assumed that they were trouble makers, thieves, would have behaved like thugs and generally be a bad lot. So that was our label with the teachers at school. Unlike schools today, in the 1950?s teachers didn’t get to know their pupils, therefore we, of course, were a bad lot and guilty of all the wrong doing by others. We got used to it.