Freda Pierce (née Fellows)

Rhos Street School Memories 1937 - 1943

In 1932 I was born in Croydon, Surrey, but my mother died when I was three weeks old. My father was a foreman iron worker in a nearby metal factory. My mother's sister and my Nain were living in Rhos Street, Ruthin, and I came to live with them. My mother was from Ruthin and the family roots go back a long way in the local area, and both my aunt and my mother were Rhos Street School pupils. It is possible that my grandmother also attended the school. Our family name was Fellows.

Rhos Street School - the picture to the left is from 1904-5 and my aunt, Margaret Jane Owen, aged 13, who brought me up, is second from right on the front row. To the right, the year is 1907-8 and my mother, Mary Elizabeth Fellows, aged 10 or 11, is on the right hand end of the front row.

I started at the school in 1937. I don't remember being frightened at all, mainly because our house, No. 44 Rhos Street, was next to the school, separated from it by a lane which led to the Workhouse. For some reason I didn't go to the Reception Class, though I remember the teacher, Miss Annie James, daughter of Rev. T.J.James of Tabernacle Chapel. Our class was one step up from 'the babies'. 

Our teacher was Miss Edwards. She travelled daily from Denbigh on the Crosville bus and carried a little brown leather case. Come to think of it, Miss Edward's clothes all seemed to be the same colour as her case. Most of the time I spent in Miss Edward's class seemed to be a continuous mixture of reciting 'easy' tables and keeping fit by swinging our arms about – then lying on prickly coconut maps when we are exhausted.

But we also had stories and singing, and rolling and stretching clay on boards to make 'sausages'  or 'snakes' or 'snowmen'. We had chalk and boards to form our letters on, copied from Miss Edwards' blackboard.

We had naughty boys sitting behind us pinching us and tugging our hair for distraction. I remember the cast-iron stove in the centre of the classroom – it failed dismally in its role of providing heat in winter but it did manage to melt the ice in the milk bottles. (⅓ pint – remember?). Going to the loo? It was outside of course, so a quick dash there and back in winter, the pace a bit slower at other times.

A big day of trepidation was the day the dentist came to inspect our teeth, or the nurse to inspect our hair. The pupil who had to have a tooth extracted was a hero!

We also had an annual special treat – June Derry day. June's father kept a milk bar on St. Peter's Square and when it was June's birthday he would come to school and provide ice-cream for the whole class. Does anyone else remember that? I know June played a prominent part in Ruthin life later on. (Indeed, June was a member of the Town Council for some years – Ed.)

Then it was Mrs. Morris' class, and moving on felt menacing and unsafe. I didn't like the feeling of insecurity, as if I was leaving something behind. We were moving to the 'Big School' and we were infants no longer. There the teachers seemed severe and remote, there were BIG boys in BIG classes and a HEADMASTER! Mr J.E.Edwards – 'Daddy' Edwards.

My first teacher in Standard 1 was Miss Roberts. Her family kept a China Shop in Well Street, so she was 'Miss Roberts, Pots.' A strict disciplinarian but we learned a lot from her. The morning ritual of chanting the tables has stood then test of time, though I still have trouble with the 11x table. I remember us sitting on the tops of the desks and following her pointer on the blackboard. 

I can't recall the name of the teacher of the next class after Miss Roberts, but we moved on to 'writing properly' with real pen and ink. A messy process, with blots and smudges everywhere. A V.I.P job was to be ink monitor. We did 'hard sums' which I think I failed miserably. We also had Poetry, which I loved, and painting and spelling – but no music or singing. 

There seemed to be more boys than girls in this class. One of the girls I disliked intensely – you know, the one with fair ringlets and posh pink dresses who was a 'teacher's favourite'. My best friend had holes in her cardigan and once 'peed' on the floor! Where are they now?

The next class up was a cavernous room divided into two. The elder pupils were the top of the class and their teacher was the Headmaster, 'Dadi' Edwards. He liked to swish the cane and shout a lot. One section of the room had maps on the wall. A world globe on the front desk. From the very beginning I was unhappy and unsettled in this class. We had hard sums to be done in messy ink. I liked Geography and History, but loathed sewing. I couldn't learn to thread a needle, for which I was publicly shamed. Because I'm left handed,  I never could sew because it was always taught as right-handed, and everything was the wrong way round. 

Once more it was time to move on – this time we had a male teacher, Mr. Raymond Edwards. He was excellent, also good-looking with dark wavy hair and a lovely speaking voice. But, sorry, I was still no good at sums. Mr. Edwards later became Head of a College of Music and Drama and had a successful career.

In 1943 we left Ruthin to live elsewhere in the Vale of Clwyd. Sadly, it was not easy to leave Rhos Street School behind.

Freda Pierce (née Fellows.) June 2018 , aged 86.

 

Mrs Pierce also left this message:

So, Rhos Street School, you've got this amazing new school with glorious views surrounding you. Everyone enjoyed their time there. You, young ones, make good friends. Respect your teachers. They come from a long line of dedicated people and you'll always remember them with affection. Wherever you go in the future you'll always carry part of Rhos Street school with you. I know, I do.