Felinfoel County Primary School

Standard 3E. Felinfoel County Primary School. 1962.  Master Mr John Williams.

Back row L>R Noel Rees. John Armstrong. Vincent Bush. Robert Bartlett. Phillip Williams. Barry Brooks.
Middle row L>R Gareth Roberts. Douglas Jones. Stephen Evans. Robert James. Robert Kenyon. Haydn Beynon. Desmond Butler.
Front row L>R Maria Edmunds. Gwynneth… Karen Davies. Ceridwen Price. Melita Hopkins. Gaynor Lemon. Elizabeth Norris. Susan ….
Master: Mr John Williams.

We all came here aged seven. No longer fuzzy with astonishment at being alive.
Ysgol Y Babanod, our infant school was, in fact, space-age new. Looking back, it was like something out of Tomorrow’s World.  It was a shining example of 50’s modern architecture, and still is, though we didn’t know that then, and most still don’t. It had a massive parquet hall, where the beautiful Miss Parkinson, our headmistress, would play the piano with the sunbeams from the wall-high windows lighting her hair. She made all the boys fall in love with her..

Felinfoel CP was a step back in history for us.  Our desks must have been 60 years old and had been sat on by some of our parents and even grandparents. Unlike the Modernist tubular steel and plywood creations at Ysgol y Babanod, they were gnarled, oaken and ink-stained, and held together with curved black cast-iron. They looked like they were made by the same company which forged the black open-hearth stoves some of us still had at home. Or the bridges that spanned the railways to the collieries. There was something grim and grown-up about them, compared with the innocent post-war optimism of our gleaming infant worksurfaces.
Built on the side of a hill, as most village schools seemed to be, our  school was made of a stone and red brick and brown tiles wood and more cast iron.
There was a bakelite radio. But nothing else electrical other than the lights, and the kettle in one or two of the classrooms for the teachers’ tea. The 

We soon discovered that the entire week used to revolve around singing. There was at least one hymn to begin and end the day. And on Wednesdays there was the radio singalong session, instilling for life old favourites like ‘John Peel’, ‘Widdicombe Fair’, ‘Men of Harlech’ and ‘Hearts of Oak’.
On Thursday, there was the ‘rehearsal’ for the Friday ‘assembly’ in the formidable Miss Walters’ class. This was a serious trial. For an hour and a half, the entire school would stand in rows, youngest at the front, oldest at the back, and repeat the forthcoming Friday’s programme until Miss (Fatty) Walters, or the ghoulish Mr Morgan was satisfied. Children would be beaten for being late on the beat, humiliated for having no tone, and screamed at for singing too loud – which I never thought fair even at 9 years old. In the winter, people standing too near the coal fire would faint, or throw up.
The year had two musical highlights. The eisteddfod on St David’s Day in the packed Festri Hall of Adulam, and the Christmas Carol Concert in the full glory of the chapel itself, where the boys all wore white shirts and red ties.
At the eisteddfod, the girls would promenade in full Welsh dress and daffodils, while the boys saw the whole thing as  a biggest leek competition. During the parade of little earnest songs, poems and dances, which we paid no attention to at all, the air filled with the stench of chewed leek, until by the end, the windows would have to be opened, and heads smacked.

The Christmas concert was the real chance to show off, being in front of the entire village (or so it felt) in the big chapel. Our ‘choir’ sat in the gallery, and ran through the early part of the programme obediently enough. But near the climax, after the ‘silent nights’ and other soppinesses came something more rousing, I forget what, and instantly the budding juvenile delinquents (in our red ties) slipped into full rugby crowd voice, and one teacher at least held her head in her hands. But I couldn’t help noticing that more than one of the grownups looking up at us was smiling broadly.

Additions from fellow alumni.

“I remember being at the whip end of the chain and my head hitting the wall under to Freddy Tripp’s shop, that could be why I can’t recall the name of the game.
I remember the crates of frozen milk with ice-cream like growths under silver caps, standing by the big Cast Iron burner in Mr Rees’s classroom, and unfortunately can still taste the milk we had to drink after it defrosted, yeuch!
I remember taking the dares to climb over the wall into the Girls’ Playground and running around while the girls screamed for Wales.
I remember Tyson caning me and you (?) with his hazel switch. We had tried to be clever and snatched our hands away the first time. I remember that “Oh So Brief” feeling of relief that he had missed our palm up hands on the down stroke, far too quickly followed by the agony of the blow on the back of my fingers on the upstroke, I’m sure he’d be arrested now!
I remember the contests in the Boys’ toilets to see which one of us could send a piss stream from one end of the toilet to the other, by holding the end to allow a build up of pressure. I remember the girls looking over the wall from their playground to see which boy won.
I remember Kathy Groves from the year below us and carrying her books home from school far too regularly, (I also remember snatching a kiss from her and running away in embarrassment!)
I remember the ambidextrous Mr Evans in the Welsh Class writing on the blackboard with two hands.”
Gareth Roberts (pictured above)

“I had Mr Evans after Fatty Walters. He had a hearing aid and glasses I seem to remember. I’m not sure whether it was one or two years with old Fatty. I remember she has spittle drooling out of the corners of her mouth and when agitated (i.e. often) it used to run down even more and she had to dab it off with a hanky. She also used to sweat a lot and had a smell that a dog would be proud of.”
Gary Jones (contemporary in the Welsh Class)

It is interesting that Gary is vague about his period under Miss Walters. My memory is that she taught the first two classes in the same room at the same time. Another echo of the Victorian Dame School in the late C20th. There must have been 40 children in the room, ranging wildly in age and ability.

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