A: I went to school when I was four, or even younger. Probably I was in the nursery class, you know. I was about three, I think, and I went to a Catholic school. It was [inaudible 0:00:14] but at that time was called St Gerald’s. And, which is now called Christ the King. Anyway, I went to that school when I was about three. And I can remember it ever so plain because Miss McCormack, who was our teacher, used to take us out on the lawn. We used to have like little gardens around the school like, and read us stories in the summer when the sun was out. And I can remember that ever so plain.
Q: What sort of stories did she read?
A: I couldn’t tell you, not now. Because I was only about three. But I can remember, we used to sit on the stools and listen to her. We used to sort of take these stools out with us. And by all accounts, how I came to go to school was I kind of left home. One day I opened the gate, I followed my two sisters, who went to the same school, followed them up and went into Miss McCormack’s class and sat down. She obviously knew me, or knew my mum and that like and my sisters. And said, “Oh, you’ve started school, have you?” And I must have said yes. So I started. And when my mum, who was frantic, ran all over the estate looking for me and made her way to [inaudible 0:01:27] Broadway, to the school, and discovered me in there, the teacher said, “Oh, that’s quite alright, Mrs Roberts, let her stay.” I don’t know if you can do that today, but that’s how I started school.
Q: Well, not many children go to school voluntarily, first of all, do they.
A: No, no, but I think I thought – maybe I would have felt as though my sisters was going and I should go with them, like. And then we were evacuated then, during the war like, you know, to Cornwall. But we were evacuated – we always say we were evacuated, but we was evacuated with my mother. And so we all went to Cornwall, me and my two sisters and my mum. And we had a little cottage in a little place called Breage, just outside of Helston and Porthleven, all round that area. And I think we was down there about two, two and a half years, something like that. And then when I – and of course I went to school down there and when I was about four, I suppose, then. And I can remember, in the playground the aeroplanes used to dive down low and we could see the pilots. And we’d wave to them and cheer to them, you know, as they were going over. And, but that was – the evacuees used to do that. But the Cornish kids used to stare at us because they couldn’t understand it, because they didn’t know anything about war or bombing or nothing, like, you know. And then when we came back from Cornwall I went to school [inaudible 0:02:57] School. The reason being, I didn’t continue with the Catholic school. Because my two sisters were getting older then. And they would have been going to secondary school soon. And the only secondary school for Catholics then would have been right back into the city. Like off the centre or – well, in the – well, yes, round about the centre, St Mary’s on the Quay. I think that would have been the nearest school, Catholic school for them to go to. And as my mother thought that that was a bit stupid, to pay bus fare, you know [laughs] all the way to the centre, when round the corner was a perfectly good Council school. So when we came back, because she let them to go to the Council school because they was older, she thought, well, I might as well go there as well. But I still went to church, to mass. And like we used to be on a – a Tuesday morning. And in the Council school was very liberal like that. I mean, they allowed you to go to mass over at the Catholic school, there were no questions asked.
Q: Were they happy days, your school days?
A: I think, when I was in the infants’ school, I think they was very happy. We used to have a lady there, a teacher, and she used to have a set of drums [laughs]. She used to do a roll call on the drums in the morning when you went in, for us all to sort of sit down. And we’d all sit down. You’re ever so trusting when you’re little, aren’t you. “Look up [inaudible 0:04:26].” She’d say, “Hark, I can hear the good fairy has arrived.” [Laughs]. And she kept us going with the good fairy who waved her magic wand and made us all good for the day. Of course we all had to be good then because the fairy had waved a wand over us [laughs].
Q: And did it always work, were you always good all day?
A: Yes, in that class, yeah, we all thought she was wonderful. And, if somebody was naughty, she’d get a roll on the drums. And elf, the wicked elf was [inaudible 0:04:55] you know like he’d have been about in the classroom. And little Jonnie, whoever he was, he’d made naughty. So she’d go and roll on the drums and bring the good fairy out to make him good again [laughs]. So, but of course it was days of rationing and everything like that. And, of course, it was like wonderland to us. We used to think she was wonderful. But, so I was happy then. But, I think when I went into the junior school and then up to the senior school [inaudible 0:05:25] things went from bad to worse, I didn’t get on very well at all.
Q: Why, what happened?
A: Um, I suppose it was learning problems. And I know once, there was – years ago, see, if you was – if they put you had learning problems, like you’d call it today – we’d usually go – they’d say you was backwards or simple or dumb or something like that, you know – you’d go to a special school. And so one time, I think it was thought that I should go to a special school. And so my father, mother, who refused to accept this, you know, it was utterly ridiculous, as someone who’d had four – I’ll teach her – so, of course I was about seven or eight, and I can remember he sat at the big table, and he said, “Now I want – if you multiply, divide, subtract and all that…” I don’t know whatever he’s on about. I couldn’t understand him at all. Because, of course, I was only used to adding up, taking away, sharing, like, you know. And so he was talking a foreign language, so he gave up. And he just said to me – which was a very good thing, really – he said [inaudible 0:06:34] and he said, “No, I can’t teach her.” He said, “I can’t. I ain’t got the patience.” He said. So he looked at me, and he said, “You’re not stupid, you’re not dumb.” He said, “You’ve got two perfectly good eyes. Use them and look around you. You’ve got good hearing, there’s nothing wrong, you can hear. Listen. You’ve got a tongue in your head. When you don’t know something, ask. But, most important of all, you’ve got an excellent brain. And when you’re asked a question and they give you the answer, think about it and ask yourself, do I agree with that? If you do, fair enough. And if you don’t, stick to it.”
Q: Have you always lived by that?
A: Yeah [laughs]. Because I used to think to myself – it was, I suppose, first school – well, he told me, “Your father’s important in your life.” You know, and especially a little girl, you know. But [inaudible 0:07:34] and of course he was like a God. He was like the boss of the house. You know, what he said when – he ruled our house, you know, like, and we all had to do what father said. So, when our dad told me I was not dumb and I had a good brain, then I believed him because he was the boss.
Q: Was that the way it was with families, you know, in the ‘40s, that, you know, the father was still the very dominant figure?
A: Yes, yeah. Unless of course – unless you was lucky enough to marry a little short chap and you could boss about [laughs]. But, I mean, if you was a bit particular on heights and physique, yeah.
Q: What sort of man was your father, then?
A: Well, he was a docker. He worked at Avonmouth Docks and – but he was a well educated man. He went to [inaudible 0:08:23] school. And I think he had medals and that for good attendance and punctuality and, you know, he was a good scholar. And my mother was a good scholar too. She was – she went to St Nicholas’s school, Roman Catholic school. And I think she also went to St Mary’s on the Quay, also a Catholic school. And she was a good scholar. In fact she used to – you know, like in the Evening Post they used to sort of give you a little thing to write about the most embarrassing thing that happened to you or the best holiday you ever had or something like that. And she used to go in for these competitions and she used to win several times as well. So she was – and she was a very good letter writer. Years ago, of course, they didn’t have phones or things of that sort – so when we came back from Cornwall she kept in touch with the people at Cornwall like by letter writing. And also, we’d go down to visit them, have holidays in Cornwall. So we was quite lucky. One boy in our road told me, “It’s alright for you, Pat Roberts, your mum and dad’s rich.” [Laughs]. But that’s because we had a piano [laughs].