The title of this story refers to Wyvern School in Aylesbury Street, Wolverton, which celebrated its centenary in 1996. It could equally refer to the person who was interviewed in 1985 as part of a Living Archive project. The interviewee was female, born in 1906 and lived in Aylesbury Street. She attended the school for the first time shortly thereafter. A synopsis of the interview is reproduced below.
Ethel Dowdy was born in New Bradwell and moved to Wolverton when still a small child. She remembers the headmistress of the infant school was a Miss Ainge and other teachers recalled were Miss Mary Vickers, Miss Full, Miss Gee and Miss Fry. All worked downstairs with the infants (editor – the upper floor was occupied by the girl’s junior school). There was a rocking horse in the classroom with two baskets on either side, so three children could have a ride at the same time. They had tables not desks and wherever you went, you took your chair with you.There were only 4 weeks summer holiday and exams were taken every year in “sums and composition”. The children played in the playground until 9.00 AM and only those with a sick note could go into the school before that time.
Every day there was a school assembly in the hall and Miss Ainge opened each day with The Lords Prayer and a prayer of her own. A hymn was also sung. Roman Catholics were not obliged to go. They waited quietly in their classrooms and often read their scriptures. Scripture lessons were held every day for half an hour and “we learnt our hymn books and our Bible”.
Ethel explained that all the young children had a small frame filled with sand in which they wrote. They did not have paper or slates to write on at that stage. The children “wrote” the letters of the alphabet in the sand and progressed from there to whole words such as “cat”, “rat” and “mouse”. Eventually, the children used paper and pencil and finally “you were given an ink pen. Each desk had a little ink well and a lift up lid and you kept your books in there”.
Ethel explains that she didn”t have many “what you would call friends” as everyone played together. She was too busy looking after her brothers and sisters. “There wasn’t so much playing about in them days” Her sister had scarlet fever and Ethel had to stay off school for eight weeks as anyone in contact with the virus was in quarantine and not allowed to play with other children or play outside. She goes on to say it was the same with mumps and measles, both of which Ethel had.