My son and I were discussing his primary school the other day and how times have changed. I showed him an old photograph I had of a classroom from my junior school, many moons ago, and he couldn’t believe that our teachers used a blackboard. I remember my childhood very well and have fond memories of my time at Junior school in the 1970s. I do work in schools, and when I compare the differences from then and now, it is quite significant the way lessons and school life has changed; often quite dramatically.
With this nostalgic frame of mind, I had a good look on the web the other day endeavouring to find old photographs of what school life was like in the 1970s, and enjoyed looking at the changes. It jogged my memory for all the right reasons, near enough, and I wanted to share these images with you and the memories and stories I have behind them.
Within schools now, they have interactive whiteboards which save teachers a large amount of time by saving their written work, much like a computer does. The blackboard could obviously only be used once, and the precious information chalked up there, would have to be erased to create more room. All children loved to be chosen to have a go on the blackboard and use the rubber. It was a joy to use, but there was always the naughty kid that wrote a swear word on there when no one was looking.
Just 20 years before this, any teacher could throw a blackboard rubber at any child he/she wanted, if they were naughty.
Milk in Bottles
Drinking your school milk was a great thing to do if you actually liked it. Unfortunately, if you didn’t like it, you had to drink it anyway and had no choice. Poor kids! I loved it when the caretaker brought it in on a cold day. If it was a hot day, he used to leave it outside in the sun and it tasted yuk! It gives me ‘Fondish’ memories. They still give milk to children of a certain age in schools today, but not in a glass bottle, for health and safety reasons, but in a plastic bottle for recycling purposes.
The horse box!!! (Was this the correct name? I’ve forgotten)
Does anyone remember using this during PE in the hall? We all stood in a queue and were instructed to climb it, (It was always at it’s highest!) and then told to jump off in a different way to anyone else. I always remember this piece of apparatus to be completely scary and too high for such a small child. Those were the days 🙁
A New Box of Crayola Crayons
Art lessons were great when your teacher reached into her cupboard and got out a new box of crayons for the class to use. It was so exciting. They were never returned in such pristine condition though. Half of them had been trodden into the carpet and the other half were themselves, now in half or snapped into quarters. No wonder they were a treat.
Obsolete (as far as I can tell)
Two kids stretch a large piece of elastic around their ankles and face each other. The kid in the middle then does this sort of jumping pattern over the elastic, turning this way and that. The kid after this comes in and tries to copy the routine. I was quite good at this.
Current (unsure if cooks still use it in schools)
The dreaded semolina pudding that every kid hated! It resembled rice pudding which was far superior, but this stuff looked like weak wallpaper paste with a lukewarm temperature. It was a struggle to get the stuff down, so dinner ladies made the task a little more bearable by swirling in some of this Rosehip syrup. I think school dinners are a little better today so this product is not necessary.
Current (if you look around carefully)
These plants were always lurking in schools somewhere. They were either in a staffroom, on a class windowsill or in the school office. They never looked healthy and were half dead through lack of water. Teachers are too busy to water plants bless them; no sarcasm intended, they really do have too much to do!
Swimming Proficiency Badges
Obsolete (Unless the school is lucky enough to have swimming lessons)
My Junior school had its own swimming pool, and that was very fortunate in the 70s. We didn’t have swimming badges as ornate as the one’s in this picture but had a small strip of ribbon given to us to stitch onto our bathing costume signifying the distance we’d swam. Green for 1 width, Red for 3 and Blue for 9. I was an extremely proud little girl to receive my swimming badges.
Can you remember having a classroom pet? Our class never had one, but others did. They were usually goldfish or guinea pigs. I still think this is a lovely idea for schools to have a pet within the classroom. It teaches children how to care for living things and provides children, that are not allowed a pet at home, to look after one at school. We had some tadpoles in our classroom the other week, but it’s not such a common thing to do now, which is a shame.
The Eraser or Rubber
A rubber that served no purpose whatsoever. The manufacturers insisted it was the only rubber that could erase pen ink with the blue side. This was a lie! Countless children tried to rub out the biro marks to such an extent that they created holes all over their exercise books.
Pink Staining Teeth Tablets
Current (I think)
Once a year, your teacher came in with a box full of little packs of toothpaste, a toothbrush and some of these pink staining teeth tablets. You had to endure a good hours speech from a representative from a dental organisation somewhere in the country, and then you were given these individual packs and instructed to chew on a tablet until the pink stain covered the plaque on your teeth. You were then instructed to go down to the washroom and brush that PINK away to within an inch of its life. It took bloody ages to come off, and all the kids were walking around smiling at each other saying “Is it off yet”? every 5 minutes. I think it was a way for teachers to have an extended fag and coffee break in the staffroom. Oh, the joys 😉
I loved the smell of these little soaps in the washrooms. They were so cute and small and it was a joy to find a new one on the washbasin. I remember going to see the caretaker with a fellow pupil to get some more and he had a shed load of the things in his room. Honestly, I’ve never seen so much soap! I reckon he used to over order the stuff and give it to his friends and family. No wonder schools are making cutbacks!
Desktop Pencil Sharpener
Current (But not as ornate)
Didn’t you just want to wear that pencil down in order to use this magnificent contraption on your teacher’s desk? They were just great to use with the whirring noise as your pencil turned, and then you could watch the pencil shavings fall into the little glass container at the bottom. Your teacher cottoned on quite quickly though once one kid had successfully sharpened their pencil and got away with it because the whole class would bang their pencils on their desks to flatten them so they could have a turn. Those teachers were astute!
Rubber Swimming Caps
Obsolete (Thank Goodness)
The worst part of swimming for any girl was having to wear one of these disgusting things if you had long hair. They were unnecessary, uncomfortable, old-fashioned and tight. In fact, when you took them off, after your swim, they stuck to your head and pulled your hair really hard. Ouch!
Golden Gum Glue
Does anyone remember this glue in a bottle? We used this a lot in the classroom, but the design was terrible. After use, the glue was left to clog up the red top and the next time you used it, it took you 10 minutes to unclog it again using scissors. No health and safety issues were bothered about in that time period, you just had to get on with it, even if it meant slicing your hand off! The best use of the glue was smearing onto your hands and letting it dry so you could peel it off.
18 Foot High Climbing Frames
These were definitely a health and safety hazard. They were great fun, but extremely dangerous, mainly because they were built onto a concrete surface and to fall would have been life threatening. Some of the playground equipment in the 70s was quite risky.
Chocolate Sponge with Chocolate Custard
Current (But not the same)
The highlight of the school dinner week was to have this pudding on a Friday. It was glorious and I loved it. I still remember is with fondness and asked my mum to make it many times, she couldn’t obviously. Dinner Ladies have secret ingredients.
Wide Range Readers
The English Comprehension workbook for all children in Junior schools in the 1970s. I do remember this book quite well, and you were given a different colour according to your level. It had the format of reading a text then answering questions about it.
Peter and Jane Ladybird Books
They were a series of books that were used for children to learn to read from Reception. They began with 1a and you worked towards 12c. Once you arrived at the 12c winning post you were then classed as a proficient reader and were given free choice of reading material. I always remember these books because they had wonderful and colourful illustrations. A regular character within the books was Pat the dog. As a class, we visited ‘Ladybird’ books in Loughborough on a school trip. It was great.
This was an interesting concept for such young children. We were visited by a bank or post office one day and each received our own savings books where we could put some money aside each week. Obviously, not all the children could do this because times were harder for parents, but I remember having one and saved 20p a week. I thought my friend was rich because she saved 50p a week. I still don’t have any idea what happened to that money!
Wooden boxed TV
Wasn’t it exciting when your teacher left the room and wheeled in the TV to watch a programme? There were no video recorders then (Now I feel really old), so the lessons had to be scheduled around the programme that was coming on the TV at a certain time of day. ‘How we used to live’ was a popular one.
The phonics programme for children. He was an orange spongy little fella covered in letters with a strange voice. The TV show was quite good though and was used to help children to learn to read in their English lessons.
Current (In selected schools)
Learning to play the recorder was a requirement in Junior schools at this time. All children were given a recorder to use and there were lessons every week. I work as a supply at primary schools, which means that I visit different ones on a weekly basis. I have only been to one in the past year that still has recorder lessons, and this was only within one classroom because the teacher was musically inclined. Music lessons are not taught very much in primary schools nowadays and I think it’s very sad. Music enables children to be creative, work together and have fun. Additionally, I think it’s valuable to learn to read music, just in case a child wishes to pursue this career later in life.
Boring Field Trips
The excitement of the school trip. Packed lunch and drink ready, waterproof clothes and a little bit of loose change for the gift shop. When you got there you realised quite quickly you would be walking around a boring field for 3 hours in search of a historic rocky outcrop, where you would all sit down to eat your packed lunch and then it would always start pissing it down! Then to make it even more awful, you were given a bloody worksheet to fill in. Trips are meant to be fun, not for school work! This picture is of ‘Bosworth Battlefield’ in England. The most boring trip in the world.
I had a massive bag of glass marbles, all pretty colours with the treasured pure white opaque ones. I cannot for the life of me remember how we played this game, but you sat on the playground floor with a friend facing each other over the drains ( the slatted ones; a bit like a miniature cattle grid!), playing marbles over it. It sounds disgusting I know. You then got out a marble each and played over the drain and tried to win your opponent’s marbles. I won loads, but then one sad sorry day, I was running across the playground swinging the heavy large bag around and around in the air, the bag split and all my marbles scattered across the playground. Some kid shouted ‘Scramble’, everyone literally scrambled, and I lost the bloody lot!
We had a once a week sewing lesson where you were given this great piece of fabric with holes in it and a plastic needle. You then made a pretty pattern for your mum. This was a lovely restful lesson and I remember it well.
The Overhead Projector
This was always used in assemblies so the teacher could put a hymn sheet on the glass surface that was then projected onto the wall. It was such a privilege to be in charge of the overhead projector.
Wooden Desk with an Inkwell
When I think about it, these items of furniture were even old then, mainly because they still had the old inkwell on the top. They were absolutely covered in graffiti, with words such as ‘J loves K’, or the odd swear word here and there. If you were brave enough and reached underneath there were masses of old dry chewing gum. Yuk!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my trip down memory lane, and it’s hopefully jogged your memory and made you smile. Have I missed anything? Please let me know in the comments because I love a bit of nostalgia. And not forgetting my American readers and others from around the world! Would you like to share your school memories?
I really look forward to your comments x
PS…Mums could never cut a straight fringe! (See main school photograph). Poor kid 🙁