When the Southsea caretaker popped in to stoke the classroom fire

If it had not been for the educational grounding drummed into Alan Slade at Wimborne Road Junior School, he might never have ended up at Buckingham Palace.

Wednesday, 14th June 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th June 2017, 12:40 pm
Wimborne Road Junior School, Southsea, 1916. It was the September of that year, half way through the First World War, that it opened. It was initially two separate schools, one for girls, another for boys. Today its a mixed junior school.

He is just one of the many thousands of children to have gone through the gates of the Southsea school in the past 100 years.

And next month the school will mark its centenary with a party for past pupils, families and teachers.

Alan, who went to Wimborne between 1948 and 1952, has fond memories of that time.

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Alan Slade, back row, second from the left, with members of the Wimborne trophy-winning side.

He says: ‘Our classes were large, up to 40 pupils per class. Academic strength was encouraged as was sporting ability.

‘In the classroom we sat in order of achievement; the top performing boy sitting at the front and those less successful at the back, no doubt intended to motivate us all.’

Alan’s reports reflect how well he did academically. He continues ‘Desks were all front-facing with the essential ink well in the desk for our ink pens. Classrooms were kitted out with traditional blackboards and each had a fireplace to heat the room in winter. The caretaker would pop in throughout the day to keep it stoked.

‘I was appointed the headmaster’s monitor which tended to focus on running errands for the head of the boy’s school to the girl’s school, upstairs! I would hear three rings of the bell and off I would have to go regardless of what I was doing.’

And heres Alan , back row, second from the right, with another Wimborne sports team.

Alan adds: ‘Breaks were a chance to mix with friends in the schoolyard where we tended to play football, marbles or trade collectable cigarette cards which were all the rage then.’

Reflecting on the environment and area, Alan says: ‘We lived in Mafeking Road and later in Canterbury Road. School dinners were not provided at that time so we would head home and have a proper hot dinner.

‘We could see part of the infant school had been bombed. As children we didn’t pay too much attentio. It was part of the scenery in those days. We were very aware of the post-war era in other ways; rationing was still in place and many families had lost loved ones. My father, in the regular navy, had a posting to the Far East Fleet Home Port in Ceylon [now Sri Lanka] for two years, this being before the days of today’s telecommunications and computers. Apart from letters there was no contact during the long periods of absence.’

Wimborne Road Boys’ School nurtured Alan’s love of sport, particularly football. ‘I was selected to play in the school’s top team and played in the league against local schools including Milton and Langstone.

Eve May McClernon's winning invitation

‘The school day traditionally started with a game of football led by the school football team against the rest of the school, turning into a vigorous tumble before the start of school each day.’

For Alan, football was a strong passion outside school too, attending Pompey matches at Fratton Park every other Saturday. ‘My mother would give me two shillings (10p) and with that I had enough to buy a bag of fish and chips from Wringe’s in Haslemere Road and then go on to Fratton Park. Pompey were doing really well.’

After finishing at Wimborne, Alan studied at a local technical college after which he took the dockyard exam and having passed, entered the yard as a joiner apprentice.

He completed the five-year course and was taken on as a ship’s joiner. There followed a successful 40-year career in this profession.

Alan Slade, back row, second from the left, with members of the Wimborne trophy-winning side.

He worked on a large number of ships but none more splendid or satisfying than the many years he spent looking after Her Majesty’s Royal Yacht Britannia, his work on this was rewarded with an afternoon at a Buckingham Palace garden party in July 1991.

In more recent times Alan has enjoyed the opportunity to become reacquainted with the school through his own grandchildren who have attended the school, keeping up the family tradition.

As part of Wimborne Junior School’s centenary celebrations, Remember When was asked to judge a school competition .

Children were asked to produce an invtiation to the centenary day – and here’s the winner.

Congratulations Eve May McClernon!

Her invitation makes clever use of the school’s Reach for the Stars motto and managed to include all the relevant information about the celebrations next month.

And heres Alan , back row, second from the right, with another Wimborne sports team.

On July 21, from 6pm-9pm there’s a party for former pupils, families and teachers. Tickets are £5 per person and include entry, live band, and a hog roast, barbecue or vegetarian option. You can buy them from the school office between 3pm and 4pm, Monday to Friday.

There will also be an open afternoon from 1.30pm-3pm on July 18 with a guided tour of the school and an exhibition from the school archive.

Pre-booking is essential. More information is available by e-mailing [email protected]

n If you went to Wimborne Junior School and have pictures of your time there, please e-mail them to me at the address above and I’ll forward them to the school in time for their events.

Eve May McClernon's winning invitation