now came the time for me to go to school proper, and going to school then was
very different to going to school now in 1907. There was only one National
School for the whole parish, which stood nearly on the same foundations as the
Bromley South Railway Station. I lived in Plaistow so I had a run of 1˝ mile
every morning and of course, I had to carry my dinner with me, and it was a
common thing to see about a score of boys galloping through the Market Square as
Bromley Church Clock was striking nine, because we all knew what was in store
for us if we were late, and we could surely depend upon getting it, unless Jack
Smith had broken up the master's long cane the day before.
“Our school master's name was
Thomas Campling… but, although he was so little, he could lay it on. He always
kept his long cane and a good birch in his large desk, except when some daring
boy was under orders to receive fifty strokes.
"Our assistant master was a man
named Taylor who came every morning from the workhouse which stood in the London
Road. He had, I remember one wooden leg, and always wrote with his
left hand. He was a kind old chap and I believe that most of us boys were very
fond of him.
“Our classes were formed by placing
the long forms on which we sat, on three sides of a square, with the teacher and
his chair at the other end. Now our master, being so little, he really could
not look over to see all the classes, so he used to mount up on the forms and
walk round and round with his long, sixpenny cane, whacking or poking any boy
who was not paying proper attention to his lesson. He used to pop the cane in
his desk when any lady or gentleman came into the school. He also kept a long
birch in that mysterious desk and he used to use it very heavy sometimes.
“The modus operandi was - the
culprit who was to receive twenty strokes was brought up to this large desk.
Four strong boys were chosen to hold the culprit, two boys held him by his hands
over the top of the desk, two others held him by his legs under the desk to
prevent him kicking. After our little man had removed that portion of the
culprit's clothing which would prevent him from laying it on properly, our
little man was very active. When the first stroke came on, the boy began to
jump and kick and some of the boys could kick too.
“Mr. Thomas Campling was also clerk
to our local bank, there being no Post Office Saving bank in Bromley at that
time. What a day we boys had on bank days. It was a very, very, noisy uproar.
I used to sit near the door being an upper class boy. The noise was something
dreadful as we were left on those days in charge of an elder boy named Stephen
Milsted who I remember was a great coward, and the boys did not care one wit for
him. Sometimes, when the noise was at its highest, I would reach out and rattle
the latch of the school door. Then there would be silence in a moment thinking
the master was coming.”