Spring Vale Thoughts

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Spring Vale?
First, the name. An Ordnance Survey map from the 1950s and some items in the 1984 Penistone Almanack call it Spring Vale, rather than Springvale. I accept that the latter has become more or less standard now - but the older form has more charm. It was probably a sign-writer's error that brought in the new style.

Penistone Working Men's Club
The first Penistone and District Working Men's Club opened Saturday, 17th January 1925. Around 1950, another building was added to it at right-angles to the original. The new section was a building which had been used in Dunford Bridge as a cinema, possibly for workers on the Woodhead Tunnel or on Winscar Reservoir. It was taken apart plank by plank and rebuilt in Spring Vale. The WMC building was painted green.

WMC, SpringvaleUltimately it became fairly rotten and needed to be demolished, around 1958. One account was that it had not been used for a few years. A new purpose-built WMC building was put up to replace the old one after the demolition. That too was destined to be demolished in 2005. This sad picture from 2004 shows Penistone WMC as a derelict building.

The 'new' building was not very pretty and always looked better on the inside but was comfortable and very popular. In its best times it was a very successful club, with good entertainment, cheap beers, comfortable seating and a big car park. The left side was a large function room/dance hall with a wooden floor and stage. The right side was the warm and comfortable lounge. There were toilets near the entrance and a 'Gents' in the lounge. A long bar reached all the way from one room to the other. I think that it could be opened out into one large room by moving a concertina dividing wall.

Here was the usual pattern:

You can see that the main entertainment was at the weekends but there were other bookings such as the 'Heavenly Bodies' aerobics class, of which I was a member. You may stop laughing any time soon. Paul Kennedy reminds me that there was also a Bingo Night, which might have been on Thursdays and for a time there was a second Disco Night and that might have been Wednesdays.

The WMC also had a big community role that any older Penistonian will remember: the legendary 'Club Trips' to the seaside. These generally used charter trains from Penistone railway station. Former committee member Harry Walton says that at its peak there would have been two trains of up to thirteen coaches on each. You can imagine how many families would fit inside twenty six coaches. I recall an occasion when the train was too big for the platform and had to be drawn forward to fill the end coaches. Penistone was a ghost town on Club Trip days. The nearest modern equivalent is the Royal British Legion's Club Trips, with up to eight full bus coaches.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Working Men's Clubs slipped into decline. Their image was old-fashioned and came across as cloth caps and bingo, as exemplified by the comedian Colin Crompton. His act was a WMC Club Secretary with a faulty microphone. Younger people were not attracted at a time when the membership itself was growing old. To encourage younger people, a pool room was installed in the lounge. Instead of attracting new members, the youths' general rowdiness put off some of the older members who only wanted a quiet drink with friends and family.

Penistone WMC had been popular but was in decline and, given its location, it wasn't helped by a more cautious attitude to drinking and driving. Then, in the 1990s, a new fad came along to put some wind back in the sails. Line Dancing had caught on and the function room started to fill up again. Unfortunately, line dancing and the club's popularity had declined too much and the end was in sight.

With stronger drink-driving legislation and factional in-fighting on the committee, everyone was pulling different ways and the end was in sight. Then the biggest set-back came along from which there was no return. Ground slippage caused structural stresses on the end of the building, needing around £35,000 for builders to put it right. That cleaned out the funds. Various deals were arranged with the brewery to keep things moving but eventually the debt was too much.

My Sunday visits also stopped being a pleasure. The bar service was usually alright but on occasions it went from 'poor' and 'downright rude'. It closed some time towards the end of the 1990s. It remained abandoned and boarded up until it was finally demolished in 2005. Now part of the new junior school is built on the site. See someone's Flikr Photo page.

(My thanks to Harry Walton, Paul Kennedy and others for their reminiscences on Penistone WMC).

The 2005 School Reunion
The old Spring Vale school opened in 1909 and, up to about 1959, had provided both primary and secondary education. Pupils spent their entire schooldays there. After that, it became a primary school only and pupils would continue their secondary education at Penistone Grammar School. A Grand Reunion of alumni from before 1980 was held at the school on Saturday 22nd October 2005, not long before it closed for demolition.

Spring Vale SchoolSpring Vale School

The event was a great success with good attendance. Old school pals met after many years and the hall was buzzing with a fine atmosphere of conversation and laughter. A buffet with wine and hot drinks helped it along nicely and there was a good raffle organised by Gladys the ex-lollipop lady. All visitors wore name tags and, as usual, more people knew me than I knew in return. I have always had a particular problem of recognising people whom I should know. Names and addresses went into a visitors book so that they might be invited to the opening of a new school.

During 2006 to 2007, the new school was built on the old site and some land from the Working Men's Club next door. The new school was officially opened Monday 10th September 2007 but another important date was not far away. Spring Vale School's 100th Anniversary was celebrated on Friday 8th May 2009 in the new school and it was well supported by local people.

The hall appeared to be huge when I was a child but at the 2005 reunion it seemed to be so small. The chairs were small too. I don't know what happened to the old wooden clock in the hall but it was an important feature in the old days. I saw that the hall's parquet floor was the same as ever. In the side room, we were sipping wine at the old tables that I remembered. They formed an octagon when pushed together.

Modernity had visited Mr. Andrews' old classroom shown below, with its long tables and data projector. In my final year, the pupil's desk and chair was a single piece of furniture with a lifting lid and inkwell. We used dip-in fountain pens in our last year for the best writing and an ink monitor would fill the inkwells. We also used jotter pads made of poor paper which tore easily using the pencils provided. The colour scheme of classrooms was much darker in the old days. The old tulip-shaped lamps were now fluorescent lights but the windows were the same as ever, with a long wooden pole and S-shaped hook to open the top panes.

CakeIn the HallIn the HallIn the Hall

As infants, we did 'Music and Movement' classes, exercising to music on a radio which was a big square wooden box. Trying to 'Become a Tree', for example. We always had a morning assembly with a prayer and a hymn or two and we had never heard of strange or alien religions in those days. We all knew something about Jesus and many of us went to Sunday School in our younger years. We were brought up with fairness and told to 'Do as you would be done by' as a rule to live by. Something to do with 'The Water Babies', I think, but good advice none the less. If we did wrong, we knew that it was wrong and that it would have consequences. Action and Reaction. Of course we always had excuses but were too young to know how transparent they were to a grown-up.

I always liked harvest festivals. We sang 'We plough the fields and scatter....' and would bring some fruit or a can of food from home. A great pile of the contributions would accrue. Christmas was a time of great excitement and anticipation, especially for the younger ones. We were told that Father Christmas was coming and some kids 'saw' him arrive. I never did. It was a huge thrill but I don't remember if I received any presents. Our Christmas puddings always had sixpences baked in, with dire warnings not to choke on them. They were supposed to be silver thre'penny bits but those had become rare and collectable.

Names that come to mind in my class are David Bailey, Trevor Hill, Kev MacShane, Steven Fisher, Maurice Walsh, Stuart 'Titch' Tailor, Stephen Hattersley, Richard Penning and Stuart Mears. Remembering the girls' names is harder because they went always their own way and played together. Susan Brocklehirst taught me how to tie the shoelaces of my 'pumps' for PE and I'll bet that we were only five or six years old. Isn't it amazing to learn a life-long skill from someone so young. God bless you, Susan. I also remember Susan Zandrowicz and Carol Howard in the later years.

Teachers that I recall were Miss Hague, Miss MacKenzie, Miss King, Miss Makin (later to be Miss Rowley), Miss Howe and headmaster 'Archie' Andrews, who had only a tenuous grip on his false teeth. The headmaster's study was always too hot in both senses. Mr Andrews' favourite punishment was the slipper for the worst offences and he would keep you waiting to build up tension and anxiety. Most of the punishment was in the waiting and isolation. Miss Howe was fairly strict but we all loved Miss 'Molly' MacKenzie, who was very pleasant and could knock out a reasonable tune on the piano. She went to local cricket matches and lived at Viewlands. Mrs. Bullivant watched over us in the playground and I wonder if she was also the dinner lady who made me eat my meat. It was always full of gristle and was hard to cut. That might have been my original inspiration for vegetarianism, as I'm sure that I did not get it from Adolf Hitler or Socrates.

A ClassroomA Harvest Festival in the 1950sAspinall and  Briggs

Miss Hague ('Nurse Haigh') was very old and delightful. She had grey hair in a tight bob and lived somewhere at Hawley's end of Green Road. She looked after the first year and we all loved her. It was a special thing to be entrusted to pass her walking sticks to her from behind the water pipes. We had aprons for art sessions and mine had a smoker's pipe embroidered on it. I wore my favourite Dan Dare braces in those days to hold up my short trousers. An Englishman's braces are on his breeks, not his teeth. We had a small collection of books to prepare us for libraries and my first book was 'The Vegetable Donkey', which I borrowed twice. I was confused by the procedure so I stuck to the familiar. On the front wall of Miss Hague's classroom was a very nice picture of a wooded hillside scene with a steam train puffing across. It might have been in Scotland. I loved looking at it and would stand very close to it (nobody knew that I was short-sighted). I wonder if my old classmates remember it.

We were much more able to be children in those days and a lot of what we did was playful. We loved the brightly-coloured powder paints and drawing. As a very young child, I remember doing arithmetic using cards with numbers on them and we could learn to tell the time using little clock faces, where the teacher could move the hands. Of course there were some punishments for doing wrong and they might hurt but mostly it was hurt feelings. We learnt right from wrong, not to be selfish and that we could not always have our own way. Some of it stuck and nobody swore. The worst word imaginable might be "Bloody". The teachers made us do as we were told because they knew best and we didn't resent them for it.

We had proper winters then, with deep snow and icy conditions and nearly every kid walked it to school. People looked out for each other more in those days. Nobody had a car and 'stranger danger' had not yet been invented. A few kids came on the Tracky bus but at times the snow was too deep and the bus might be cancelled. We would try to break icy puddles with our scuffed shoes but lads our age did not really notice the cold, not even in those short trousers. We were too busy running around. I liked to be a milk monitor with third-of-a-pint milk bottles stacked up in crates by the door to the infants' playground. In winter, the milk would freeze and grow out of the bottles, pushing up the foil lid. Being mischievous urchins, me and Trevor Hill used to put the dregs from milk bottles into another one to fill it up. Then to our great amusement, someone would drink it.

As a little kid, I recall a very hot summer when the playground tarmac became sticky and pliable like the toffee in a Black Jack. Two grooves appeared in the playground tarmac at that time from a rocking horse or similar. I am fairly sure that those grooves persisted for fifty years or so until the new school was built. The wall at the bottom of the playground was 'a train' and it was a great occasion to be elected to be the driver. There was some sort of ill-defined hierarchy at work. On windy days, a line of us would open out our coats, join hands and let the wind take us running down the playground. There was a good place on the playground perimeter wall to climb up but the playground assistant or a teacher would always be watching out for that sort of thing.

Games of leapfrog, football, tag, marbles or British Bulldog were common. British Bulldog had something to do with taking turns to break through a line of kids. The fastest runners were the most successful as they had more momentum. Nobody wanted to be the goalie at football. The boys' urinal wall was the usual goal but some boys knew ways to anonymously baptise the goalie. The girls had the old favourites of jacks, hopscotch and various rhyming chants whilst skipping. They could skip in long lines along the rope. Chalked hopscotch boxes were quite common on pavements around the housing estates. Ah, nostalgia is not what it used to be.

Please also see this Spring Vale tour page.

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