aerial view school
Aerial view of Teynham Primary School, Barrow Green, circa 1962

Memories of Steve Williams…. Skool Daze

steve williamsSteve Williams contacted us in 2014 with interesting highlights of his life growing up in Teynham which he would like to share with our readers. Many of you will remember his parents Phyllis and Glynn Williams through the work they did in the community particularly with regard to Teynham Village Hall. Sadly they are no longer with us so it was good to hear from Steve, who now lives in Ontario, Canada.

I wasn’t born in Teynham but in 1959 as a five year-old I was imported into the newly-built “Anne of Cleves” estate from Canada. Our house at 9 Amber Close was built by Taylor Woodrow and “finished” by D.W. Betts and Son (who moved into 10 Amber Close.)

We lived in my grandparent’s (Frank and Edith Whitsun) bungalow at 65 Bradfield Avenue whilst the rest of the estate was being built. As I remember it Roundel Close was built first. My Uncle, Auntie (Emlyn and Joyce Miles) and cousins (Wendy, Tony and Dawn) lived there at No. 1; they then lived in Rivers Road and then Amber Close. The houses along the front of the estate were the next to be completed. My Uncle Stephan moved into 51 Bradfield Avenue, once it was eventually built.

My parents had already put the deposit on the house and were eager to move in but there were delays in the work being finished and as you can imagine this caused a great deal of tension in a bungalow that was probably only designed for two or three but having to cope with six! By the way, I understand that Frank’s original garage is still standing – not bad for 50+ years old!

School Days
I remember being frogmarched around to Teynham Primary School and sitting outside the headmaster’s office whilst my mother explained why I should be educated there.
The headmaster in question was Mr Robert Clarke - a totally lovely guy. His wife was the school secretary – not really a natural when it came to dealing with children as I seem to recall. I remember sitting on that stone bench outside of the Headmaster’s office (in the playground) until my fate was decided.... YES!!! I was accepted... even though I had a Canadian accent!

Miss Carpenter was my first teacher. God bless her... she was the greatest as I am sure many other old Teynham Primary School pupils will testify. She treated me (and us) as her own children... such a wonderful lady. Looking back through the Teynham census records I think they actually built the school around her, she was a teacher at the school for many, many decades!teynham school

Graduation from the infants to the seniors was an easy path to mark. You moved from the West wing of the building into the newly built East building. After that you could climb those hallowed stairs (the green fire-escape) up to the fourth form. The fifth formers actually got to walk up the indoor stairs next to the Headmaster’s office and up to the coat lobby before entering the most hallowed place of places..... Mrs Newman’s classroom.

Other teachers I remember? Miss Cheesman, Mr Parker, Miss Skelton, Mr Castle (yes him of the Castle Books fame) Mr Pollard and finally Mrs Newman.

Mr Pollard
Polly as we children nicknamed him and Mrs Newman (no one dared give her a nickname) were the ones who really shaped my life and I spare not a single keystroke in telling you what a good teacher can do to turn your life around...

I went into the fourth form as a cute, overconfident young lad. Mr Pollard, very quickly, stripped me of any delusions that I could just cruise through life by merely being funny and charming.... “A noisy noise annoys an oyster – still tongues now children” was one of his best loved phrases. I was cute. I was charming but he had a slipper and was not afraid to use it. You have to remember this was long, long before human rights’ legislation..... Having said that, I never actually saw him use it against anything other than his own left hand....

Mr Pollard was a rather dour (but fair) no-nonsense football-loving Northener who also had a passion for Scottish folk/country dancing - which he made us all do in his P.E. Lessons. He taught me the value of “right” thinking, instead of just coasting through life (which would have been very easy in such a small village) ‘Polly’ also taught me how serious life was. The bomb shelters were always a reminder of this. Stacked with old school desks and benches they were a dank dark reminder of what had happened only a couple of decades before.

He was still teaching at the new school in the early 80’s when I last visited it... he recognised me immediately even though it had been over 20 years since I last saw him. From the time I spent in his classroom I realised his teaching style had not changed over the intervening years (apart from the presence of the dreaded slipper.) He even used his infamous catch phrase “A noisy noise annoys an oyster” when the class background hub-hub began to rise too loud.... nobody understood why I was giggling away to myself!

Mrs Newman
She was a dragon (with a heart of gold) to be totally feared... and yet in the white heat of her sarcasm she forged some of the greatest minds that Teynham has ever produced.. not mine I hasten to add but there were others... David Wigg, the Daily Express journalist and Mr Baker, the artist who painted scenery for the BBC on programmes like ‘Z Cars’ and ‘Doctor Who’ – to name a couple. She was also one of the kindest people I have ever known.... A Betty White of her day whilst Betty was still a teenager.

She must have been an incredibly good teacher because she (and Mr Pollard) helped me pass my 11 Plus exam and go to Borden Grammar School (much to my mother’s absolute amazement!)

Steve Williams (2014)