Transcript of a talk by Hazel Willetts at Cradley Day, 5 October 2002
Hazel Willetts : ... and of course then there was one or two teachers who were strict, but they were fair, and we've never forgotten them.
In this classroom once, the desks went across here, and I suppose I was at fault this time. We'd been asked to bring some frog spawn to school, you know, it hatched into the tadpoles.
So we went down to the spring, which is still there, over the fields, and I got my frog spawn, in a jam-jar, some string round, carried it to school.
But as I was walking down, all the children together, I used to get a bit of frog spawn out and flick it at the boys and girls!.
And of course when we got into here, gave our frog spawn to Mr Westwood, and he was an ex-army soldier, funnily enough, and you knew it, as well. And he had the complaint from one or two of the boys and girls that Hazel Willetts had flicked frog spawn at them when they were on their way to school.
"Oh she did, did she!"
The desk was about there, just up past we're you're sitting, Janet.
And he called me out in the front of the classroom: "I'll learn you to do that", and I had to lie across the desk. And I wonder what'd happen to me if it happened now, you didn't wear trousers then, you wore a skirt, well a dress.
And up my dress went, and he got his - we used to call them pumps, but like a trainer, and he bought it up and I had six on me backside, with everybody looking at me, but in those days it was something that was done. And I've often wondered, I wonder what punishments they'd have now, a teacher, lifting a girl's dress up, all her knickers on show and everything else.
Then again, that's all I think, and perhaps I deserved it - I shouldn't have flicked the frog spawn.
And Mr Shakespeare, as you said, he was a very nice person, and Miss Entwhistle, we all used to (she never knew, but we did it) - can't whistle very well, we all used to say Mrs Ent ... (whistles).
And ... some happy memories here. I saw it down the hall, you've got when they had the maypole. I can remember Joan Perks being the May Queen, and she's worked with me since at Cadbury's. I see her about now, Joan, and she looked beautiful that day.
And my one wish was to look like Joan. You know, she'd got this crown of flowers on and sat in there in the maypole, we all danced around and it was absolutely beautiful.
And those things, we don't see happen now very often do we. And I think those are the memories that we take with us as we go through life.
And I always say, I haven't a lot to do with children, if you have anything to do with children at all, whether you're a mum, a dad, whether you're a teacher, a Sunday school teacher, an aunt, an uncle, whatever, nan, grandad, whatever you are, and you have anything to do with children at all you have to be careful what you say, and what you do, because it's amazing, in here, those memories they stay with you forever, and whether they're happy or sad, you never ever forget them.
Janet, as teachers you don't I think always realise the influence you have on the children, because they never forget, whether they're happy times or sad times, and it sort of stays with you, all your life.
But all of us, we can read, we can write. We're, most of us, quite literate, I suppose, so the teachers, and in this school, they must have done a very good job with us - we haven't turned out too bad, have we.
But I don't think there's many other memories I'm going to mention now.
But as I said, I didn't get off to a very good start, and some of the teachers here, Mr Waldron, all remember him ... those spats, he used to wear spats, didn't he - remember Mister Waldron - Worton, Mister Worton, Sammy Worton. He used to be in the classroom over there and he always wore his spats ... and who else was there, Norman?
(Norman) Miss Jones.
... and Miss Jones, she was a corker as well, she was very strict.
But other than that, I mean, we had some good times here and as you say, the war came, and we had to practise how to put our gas masks on, and it was, one, two and then three, wasn't it, over your head, you know, and all those things come flooding back, when you come into a school, all those memories.
But I think this school, it's been a nice school.
And that's many happy memories. I've got one or two not so happy, but on the other hand that followed me even up to Homer Hill. And I went to the Church school, because of family circumstances, so I've been to every school except Netherend.
Losing our Mum, I was ten, Barry was two and a half. They wouldn't have him at the council school till he was five. So Dad had to have a word with Mister Raybould at the Church, he was headmaster, and he kindly had us down there till Barry was five, he came back up here then, and I went to school with Miss Case, became Mrs Willetts. She had him off me, and it was breaking his heart because he'd never left me.
But he came and he had a good time here, he's here today.
And so that's just some of memories, and I hope Janet that you'll carry on in the new school, and I'm glad they're keeping some of the, specially the sign down there, the girls' school ... will it be incorporated in the building?
(Janet Ingram) No, it'll be somewhere in the top, in our Centenary gardens.
Oh I was going to say, it would be nice in the garden, wouldn't it.
So thank you for the kindness you've shown to all the children over the years and I hear the children say, they always come back with happy memories of Colley Lane.
So thats just a few words about some of my memories, and it was worse when I was at Homer Hill, but it wasn't too bad down here. I enjoyed most of my schooling. And the drill as well. Its changed so much, as you've mentioned, computers, I mean school, it's a different ball game all together isn't it. And I perhaps envy the children, the time they have at school now, they love to come, but most of us, I think, we were wary of school, and wary of the teachers.
So, some things have changed for the better, and I think that's the teachers, and how the schools are run.
So go and see everything else. And I hope most of you have very happy memories, and have a good look, because it won't be here much longer, and then I'm sure we shall all regret not seeing, when we come down this lane, the old Colley Lane school.
Cradley Links thanks Hazel Willetts for her generous
permission to reproduce her talk on this web site.
Cradley Links is very sorry indeed to have to report that Hazel Willetts died in June 2003.
Nigel Brown wrote of Hazel :
"For those who don't know her, she was a fierce, friendly and funny woman, born and lived all her life in Cradley, passionately devoted to Cradley and Superintendent of Two Gates Ragged School. She took over this position from her late father, Cliff Willetts, who may be even better known to some of you."