• Testimonies on Olive & Cecil from outside the family

    Testimonies from outside the family

    A Hazelwood Lane school performance in 1966

    A few weeks ago, I had told you that there were people on this FB page who mentioned Auntie Olive in her capacity of Headmistress of Hazelwood Lane Infants school, and I have written to them to let me know exactly what they had to say, so below you'll find their answers! Thanks to them, we are allowed to get an outsider's echo of how she was looked upon when working, what sort of person she was considered to be, her appearance. It isn't much really, but I found these testimonies touching, almost as if I'd seen a little movie where you could suddenly see her come alive. What's quite interesting for me is to discover the rather negative image which, on the whole, comes out of these exchanges! I'll let you judge.

    First, the FB conversations where AO is mentioned: this is a great post from Elizabeth Thomas:

    For the interest of Peter Berry and others who remember Hazlewood Lane School. This is from an email from my Auntie Renee.

    "I really did hate Hazlewood Lane school. It seems in my memory that every morning in assembly a boy had to go up onto the platform and be caned by the headmistress, Miss Hughes. I don’t think it happened every day, or that it was the same boy, but I was only five and it must have impressed me. Also, Miss Hughes would say “good morning, children”, and we had to reply “good morning, Miss Hughes” and she would reply crossly “I am not your shoes – say it again, properly”. Then I had to go away for about a year because of the bombs, and after that I went into the “big” school, where I was a year behind everybody else with the lessons - but that’s another story and I must stop now but will tell you more if you wish, some other time..."

    This extra for Peter Berry:
    I fully agree about the teachers being old – and obviously of the “old school”. I must have started in the “Infants” school – probably 1942 when I would have been five and Miss Hughes was he Headmistress. (She seemed v old then, but I think she continued for quite a while after I was there).

    "Very old", she says! In another post Mitchell Wells mentions how old he thinks Auntie Olive looked:

    I started at Hazelwood in 1965 and I do remember that Mrs Hughes was the headmistress. She looked about 90. Then she was replaced by Mrs Cannon around 1967.

    This person (Lindsay Atkinson) remembers, perhaps wrongly, that Auntie Olive used to give out sweets:

    Miss Hughes used to give little tiny boiled sweets out if there was a birthday in the class.

    Perhaps wrongly, because Elizabeth declares that:

    My Auntie says when she was there Miss Hughes never gave out sweets!

    And then Lindsay admits that:

    Maybe it wasn't Miss Hughes! It was whoever took the first class - reception as it would be called now. She was a nice lady, whoever she was!

    To which John Law adds:

    We had our wedding reception at the Pilgrims Rest. Miss Hughes and her brother both wore tam o' shanters they lived at the end of Derwent, number 7 I think.

    Testimonies on Olive & Cecil from outside the family

    Testimonies from outside the family

    Entering the conversation, I proceeded to post this picture of Auntie Olive (above), and this is what Sylvia said:

    Wow ... great to see this Yves. I have to say she terrified me when she was my Head mistress at Hazelwood!

    In another post she mentions that Auntie Olive retired in 1964: "the Infants Head in 1964 was Miss Hughes. She retired when we went up to the Juniors and was replaced by Miss Cannon."

    So that probably when I remember being taken to Hazelwood Lane school by her, she was probably going there as former Headmistress. In one further comment Sylvia carries on:

    Miss Hughes did indeed continue as as headmistress for many years. I started at Hazelwood Infants in 1964 and she was still there then. She retired just as I went up to the Junior School aged 7. I remember being terrified of her - when I was in what would now be called Year 1 - so around 6, we were doing handwriting and she came into the class and walked round looking at our work. She rapped me across the knuckles with a ruler for not getting my letters the correct size!! I then had to stay in at playtime and lunchtime, writing the same letters over and over again. I will never forget Miss Hughes and not for any positive reasons!

    This draws a reaction from Mitchell Wells:

    I started at Hazelwood in 1965 and I do remember that Mrs Hughes was the headmistress. She looked about 90. Then she was replaced by Mrs Cannon around 1967.


    So now here are the messages I received from the people mentioned above: Here's a first message from Gill Lavelle:

    "Hello Yves! Yes I do remember your great Aunt. Miss Hughes, as we knew her, was a small person but formidable! Of course this was the view of a small child. She often, if not always, wore a black beret and a mac. She actually lived in the road I was brought up on - Derwent Road in Palmers Green. That's about it really! I remember her really well - I suppose she was the first real figure of authority I came up against! Good luck with your investigations. Gill

    Hi again. Just remembered that I was fascinated by the statue of the Virgin Mary which I think was in her upstairs window. Not something I saw in my social circle at the time! All best. Gill"

    In her message to me, Sylvia repeats part of what she said in her previous posts:

    "Hi Yves, Now got a bit more time to tell you what I remember about Miss Hughes. I started at Hazelwood Infants in 1964 when I was 5 and moved up to the Junior School at the time Miss Hughes retired. I don't remember any details of her physical appearance, although she does look familiar from your photo, other than the impression of someone very old with grey hair (I'm sure she wasn't really that old!). My first meeting with her was before I started when my Mum took me for a meeting in her room. I remember asking what the tall high chair was in the corner of the room and Miss Hughes explained that it used to be used for teachers to sit on to watch their classes. My over riding memory of Miss Hughes, unfortunately, is not a good one. One day, Miss Hughes took my class for a lesson on handwriting. We were writing "We", many times to get the sizes right. She told me my letters were not on the lines enough and to do some more. When she came back again, she was still not pleased with my work and hit me across the knuckles with her ruler. She then told me I had to stay in for morning and afternoon play and practice writing the word out again and again and to bring them to her at the end. I try to put this in the context of the times but still feel her treatment of me to be extremely harsh. I was 5 years old and always well behaved at school. I can't honestly say I remember anything else at all - I guess I managed to keep out the way!"  

    Now here's a contribution from Stanton, who in his FB post, had said: "Also went to both infants and juniors around those same dates 1953-1958, I think both head mistresses were Miss, rather than Mrs! If I remember. Miss Hughes was a funny little woman, used to wear a beret, but Miss Bellfontain was a very upright, rather well spoken lady":

    Hi Yves, incredible that your great-aunt was my first headmistress! I was only five years old when I started at Hazelwood infants’ school, and that's a long time ago now. I have read some of the other comments regarding Miss Hughes, and I can't recall her as being in any way frightening, quite the opposite really. She always seemed calm, quietly in control, and the school had a good reputation. It was always a happy atmosphere that existed then. I do remember her organising for all the school to go to the Gaumont cinema in Palmers Green to see a documentary film of the queen’s coronation, and all of us children received a commemorative mug and a souvenir book. I hope you receive some more comprehensive feedback from other former pupils. All the very best."

    Well I must say I was somewhat relieved to read this description, it made for a nice change to all the preceding negative opinions!

    A very interesting message came from John, who's mentioned above, and who turned out to be from Tony Murphy's family: he remembers Grandpa as well!

    "Hi Yves. My memories of the Hughes age very much those of a child's perspective. My parents and my mother’s sister held them in high esteem and they were often spoken of in my childhood home, mostly in the context of their academic achievements, my Auntie Patricia Murphy, saw them more than my mum Eileen Law (nee Murphy) mainly because being a single lady my aunt had more time but also because your Grandparents encouraged her to retrain as a teacher when her own parents died, she had spent her younger adult life looking after them in their own home at 6 Amberly Rd. She did train as a teacher and went on to teach in a primary school in Enfield. For my part your Grandparents gave me the impression that they were liberal minded thinking people that were interested in a wide range of eclectic pursuits including music. Auntie Pat played the organs at St Monica's and so did your Grandfather and on one occasion when I was about 10 he showed me how the pedals and keys of the organ worked. I seem to remember that they had great language skills and that they had a connection with France but that may have been because they wore those typically French hats ! Later after I married Frances, we discovered that we had both known them, Frances through school at Hazelwood and me via St Monica's and my own Grandparents. I also knew Mr and Mrs Olivia (?) who lived within a couple of doors away in Derwent. I remember their address because I was sometimes asked to deliver items to them by Auntie Pat, papers and letters etc. They were always very pleasant and enquiring to me me as a lad and spoke to me as an equal which to me was unusual and endeared me to them. I am sorry that I cannot recall much more by way of specifics but my overall feeling is that they commanded respect in the local community quite naturally because of their easy going manner and a certain style that they projected. Thanks for the photo it brings back fond memories of youth!!"

    So, what do you think? Rather cool, no? But even if this last testimony seems to shed a more positive light on our grand-father and great-aunt, I have to be honest and say that, especially for Auntie Olive, the picture of her job as Headmistress doesn't shine a lot: perhaps this is because education in those days was more severe, and also because a lot has gone into pedagogical improvement for the younger ones. Anyway, thanks to all writers and contributors for their memories!

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