It is towards the end of August in the year of the Coronation. I have got my coronation mug though I did not get to the party in the communal playground as we were 'overlooked' by the officials responsible for the invitations. Joan, Sid & Vic next door went but their dad worked for the council. But that was earlier in the year and long forgotten.
Today my mother takes me to meet Miss Parr, the infant teacher at the local elementary school. We are to be looked over. I was five a couple of weeks ago and thus ready to start my education.
Miss Parr turns out to be aurburn-haired and rather taller than my mother and very interested in what I could do. She smiled a lot but I was uncertain whether this was just friendliness or a mild scepticism over my mother's claims for her eldest son's ability. "Are you sure that he can really tell the time, Mrs Denham?" and, to me, "Let's see if you can". So we did and I could. "What else does he know?", enquired Miss Parr. "Well, he knows the counties of England", said mum. "Which counties?", asked Miss Parr. "All of them", said my mother proudly. So I did my party piece and remembered 48 out of the 49 and was embraced as the newest recruit to Child's Hill School.
Miss Parr proved to be very kind, soon became Mrs Austin, and made my entry to school life very pleasant. These were pre Janet & John days and I recall no reading book series. From Miss Parr I progressed to Miss Lyon and became exposed to a harsher world of discipline! At six years old some of the infants were beginning to flex their muscles so to speak. Miss Lyon had the answer. Transgress and the offender was called to the front of the class and laid across the desk, face down. The short-trousered boys had the short trouser legs shortened even more by Miss Lyon rolling them up and then one sharp slap on the exposed upper leg did the trick. The girls were less often in trouble but the remedy was the same. dress tucked into the bottom of the knickers and the sharp slap. It was easy to be good, I found, and avoid the pain and embarassment of the slapping.
Thus to Mrs Halligan who I remember as sharp but very fair before, just as I reached eight years old, I joined the junior school and another world.
That was of course many years ago but I do not think a great deal changes in the world of school children. Then as now there were some who pushed to see how far they could go and others that accepted the rules. I think that the punishment handed out generally worked and enabled teachers to get on with the job of teaching. The key it seems to me is that it has to be seen to be fair and when meted out indiscriminately loses its effect and when given unfairly cause great resentment. But what do I know? I can't even remember all the counties now!