Tommy Hood

(Originally published in The Gamlingay Gazette June 2007)

Hatley Church of England School

The children of the village attended the one class school until they reached the age of eleven.
On my first day at school I was taken by Sid Cole, our village postman on the front carrier of his bicycle. Sid Cole was Fred Cole’s father.
My name appeared in the punishment book and as the children were very well behaved, the same punishment book was still in use, with my name in it, when I became a manager 30 years later!

1934
Eleven-year-olds moved to Gamlingay Board School which in my case was just a few miles from our house. The CCC provided us with a solid-tyred bicycle but after about one term the authority offered to pay half towards a pneumatic tyred bicycle. Four or five Hatley children took up the offer and I believe Dad’s share was £9 10 shillings.
I left my bicycle at Mr Jarvis’s premises (the undertaker) next to his wheel house and returned to his workshop to eat my sandwiches at lunchtime: we were not allowed to stay on the school premises during the lunch break. There always seemed to be a coffin in the process of being made but it did not concern me in any way and was much better than being outside in the rain. The Jarvis family were a most friendly family and would bring me out a cup of soup to help the sandwiches go down.

1934-37
The Headmaster was Mr John Dalley (13 to 14 yr olds), Miss Harman (11 and 12s), Mr Daniels (9 to 10s), Miss Armond and Mrs Arnold (5 to 6s and 7 to 8s). I am not sure which of the last two teachers took which class. Every morning two boys were detailed to attend the Headmaster’s house to pump water to a tank that supplied both his house and the school.
Mr Dalley’s hobby was beekeeping. If there were any swarms in the vicinity, two boys were detailed to bring them in. An empty hive was always available.
Each boy in the top class had his own market-garden plot. We would normally spend half a day each week digging, planting and hoeing, ready for Mr Empson to judge the winner later in the season.
Woodwork also entailed half a day a week, taught by Mr Cash who came out by train from Cambridge. The girls did cooking half a day and both these activities were taught in a building between the boys and girls playgrounds.

Friday afternoon was devoted to sport, mostly football and cricket. We played sides from Biggleswade, Potton, Sandy, and Eaton Socon, being transported by a hired bus.

Two annual events I remember well
The May-day parade, with the May Queen being voted for by girls and boys of the top class: the next two in popularity were her attendants. The queen on her throne and an attendant at each side rode on a flat trailer drawn by a horse driven by Eric Sharp. The rest of the school followed behind.
The annual play was performed using the main classroom with a stage at one end. I believe it was put on for three evenings to accommodate all the parents.

Picking up potatoes
During the war years, farmers were instructed to grow potatoes (5% of their total arable acreage, I believe). As was mentioned in a previous Gazette, the children of Gamlingay were given an extended holiday to pick up the potatoes. The potato spinner would spin out one row of potatoes and the children would pick up their allocated length. As Holbeins Farm soil was heavy clay, what an awful job if the soil was wet! Mud on both feet and mud on the potatoes. I’m sure there are ex-pupils still in Gamlingay who remember it well.

More news of the apple orchards.
A few years before the Second World War, a Mr Whitehead launched a scheme selling shares. Each share equaling one tree for his new venture Co-Po (Cox’s Orange Pippin Orchard) and advertised on Radio Luxembourg. The dividend was the product from one tree. Very quickly Cockayne Hatley was surrounded by apple trees. Unknown to the shareholders he started selling more shares than trees so to help his finances he wrote to the shareholders saying he had to grow potatoes between the trees. This was supposed to be a Ministry of Agriculture order, so he was asking for money for the seed, fertilizer and labour to do the necessary work. A year or two later the company went bankrupt. He was prosecuted and sent to prison. The Ministry had never sent instructions for him to grow potatoes and he had no intention of doing so.