Memories from Both Sides of the Classroom, a Teacher Remembers her Schooldays, 1970s to Present


  • Karen Hadfield, 48, remembers school life from both sides of the playground!

Q: When did you move to Streatham and where have you lived?

I moved to Streatham as a baby, first to a shared house with my mum on Gleneldon Road, then to Mount Ephraim Road and finally to Adare Walk on Leigham Court Road. My mum still lives there. After a time at Art College and in Wales, I returned to Streatham around 1990 or 1991 and lived with my sister in Moorefield’s Court, Aldrington Road in Furzedown. I then moved to Manville Road in Tooting Bec and finally back to Streatham Vale, where I live with my husband and family.

Q: Do you have memories of your life in Streatham?

When I was seven I had a car accident on Knollys Road, and was in St. Giles Hospital for 8 weeks. My parents were separated and my mum worked all day so we had to take ourselves to school. In those days, lots of small children walked together, joining the group as it passed by their road. A boy was chasing me, so I ran into the road and a car hit me. The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital, being taken down a corridor, through the plastic flap doors, assuring my mum I was going to be alright.

Not long after the accident I remember my little sister walking ll the way home from Knollys Road by herself. I think her childminder lived on that road. She was only around 3 or 4. She must have crossed at least two roads!

My memories of Adare Walk include children climbing on the cheery trees and destroying them, but also Fred Tribe the caretaker turning on the lights in the evening and John the milkman who whistled as he ran up and down the stairs.

I went to Sunnyhill School. In summer, walking home from school, we always used to do the flower trail down Culverhouse Gardens, picking flowers from the gardens and scattering the petals on the ground.  We ran away when we were apprehended!  Sometimes we walked down Streatham High road, going in and out of the shops, and sometimes we went along Valley Road, climbing on the walls. When I had my daughter, mum looked after her. She walked early and when she was about one, she always wanted to close all the gates down Gardens. It reminded me of the flower trail.

The Genevieve pub was next to the ABC Cinema. We used to go to the Saturday morning pictures and eat sherbet fountains and bags of puffs – savoury snacks like hollow macaroni.

On the corner of Leigham Court Road and Culverhouse Gardens, there used to be an abortion clinic, and people used to protest outside.

Q: What do you remember about your school days?

Miss Milford was the head teacher of Sunnyhill School. She had lots of dogs – they had curly coats and could have been Airedales. One was called Zebedee. When Miss Milford gave us lifts to sports events, we had to share the car with the dogs!

Miss Robbins had a Red Setter that she used to bring into school. Miss Baskerfield used to give you sweets in assembly on your birthday.

Now there are new buildings and fancy stuff in the playground, but then there used to be a hut which was Mr Crandon’s classroom. Mr Crandon had an old-fashioned care, and he was very scary, with purple lips and a bald head. Mr Kingston was tall, strong and softly-spoken and commanded respect.

We used to play American Jumps under the rain shelter near the toilets. We used to sing a song, “American Jumps, American Jumps, American Jumps for me! Up in the sky, ever so high, One, two three!” On three, people standing on benches would lift the person coming through and then they would jump down to the floor to go through to be lifted themselves.

We also played two-ball against the wall, to the tune of ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’. The variations were two hands; unders; upsies; overs; clapsies, bouncies and one hand. We used to sing, “Two hands Mrs Brown! Two hands Mrs Brown! Two hands , two hands, two hands, two hands , two hands Mrs Brown!”

Marbles was a big game. We used to play it on the drain tops, and it was tactical. The rules varied according to the pattern on the top of the drain. Sometimes people came along and tipped up all the marbles, shouting, “Scramble”! The marbles went all over and you could keep however many you could grab. There were lots of different types of marble, and they all came in two sizes: standard and large. The ordinary ones were clear with a cat’s eye in the centre but there were also cheaters: opaque with ribbons of colour; chinas: one colour opaque; squids: clear with swirly ribbons of colour; ball bearings: metallic; and clear.

Another popular game was British Bulldog.

Q: What was it like as a teenager in Streatham?

There was a youth club in Adare Walk in the late 70s, early 80s. I remember going to the Cat’s Whiskers which became The Studio and then Caesars.

Q: Did you ever work in Streatham?

When I was about 17 I had an evening paper round, delivering the Guardian in Stockfield Road and Hitherfield Road. The route had a very steep hill and I always getting my fingers trapped in letter boxes or nipped by dogs! I kept trying to find ways to speed up the delivery process; folding all the papers first or holding two papers in one hand; but they never worked and it was always horrible!

I also taught at Woodmansterne School. When I left, the atmosphere had become difficult and we were under lots of pressure, but almost up until then it was brilliant. My fondest memory is my first class. The parents were so supportive. My first assembly was based on the story ‘Handa’s Surprise’, with special music and movement to denote each animal. Another memory is when the teachers did Teacher Idol. The staff at that time were amazing – quite a special gang. When I was in the nursery, Anne Morgan and another teacher came in to do storytelling and brought props to help the children act out the stories. I remember they did ‘Cat on the Mat’ and My Dad Bakes’. After they’d gone, they left all the props for the children to play with. The children were still totally caught up in the stories and carried on acting them out. It was wonderful to see.

Other happy times were when we built an igloo in the snow and when the city farm came. When Liz the music teacher retired, we all sang a medley of songs for her, including Elton John’s “Your Song”, her favourite.

Q: Do you remember any particular events in Streatham?

In 1977 there was a Silver Jubilee party at the Adare Centre. Mum bough special Jubilee material from Pratt’s and made me and my sister a dress each. Mine was red and my sister’s was blue. We had special Jubilee socks too, and red, white and blue ribbons in our hair. Sunnyhill School gave each pupil a mug, but ours didn’t last!

Q: Do you have memories of shopping in Streatham?

On the left at the top of Leigham Court Road there was Busby’s that sold trendy clothes. My brother used to go there. Then there was Fred’s the butchers, which he ran with his son Derek. They also had a little fruit and veg place near where the toilets are. I’ve known the Dorchester Cafe all my life. Miriam used to have bright red hair, and her husband Carl used to be huge – he’s lost a lot of weight. Their daughter had all the latest stuff.

In Woolworth’s there were mountains of sweets. I took a sweet because I’d seen someone else do it, but an old biddy spotted me and sad, “You’d better put that back!” Too late – iit was already in my mouth!

Pratt’s was the most wonderful place. I remember my mum buying Jonelle soap powder and detergent there. You could by electrical stuff and mum used to spend ages looking at catalogues and dress patterns. A lady called Susie worked on the pattern counter. Twins worked in the haberdashery and material department, and there was another lady with immaculate make-up who had only one leg and used crutches. There was an entrance on Prentis Road, near the toys and carpets. When my little sister was born, Mum bought all her baby clothes at Pratt’s and all our school uniforms. It wasn’t compulsory, but Mum liked us to wear it. For a treat, Mum would buy us clothes from the Country Casuals shop in Pratt’s. I remember she bought me two pleated skirts.

It wasn’t like now, we used to do our shopping all over Streatham, at lots of little shops. Down Shrubbery Road, there was a little oriental shop, where we bought our rice.

Westbury’s was run by two brothers. The elder was called Big Ron. They’re still around today. There was a chemist, a mini-mart, and a fashion boutique. We used to buy canned drinks at the mini-mart as they were 1/2p cheaper than other places. One day, I was with my mum and sister and my mum was looking at handbags. She got talking to Ron, but then said her goodbyes and started to leave the shop. I saw Ron looking at Mum funny because she still had the handbag on her arm. It was a really awkward moment – even though Mum had known Ron a long time, he still thought she was trying to steal the bag!

Q: Do you have any stories about famous residents of Streatham?

Shaw Taylor lived in The High and he used to talk to my brother about football. I used to see Floella Benjamin on the High Road, and Roy Hudd lived near Mount Ephraim Road.

Q: And what about now?

The High Road is a lot grubbier now and very fragmented. When my youngest sister was born, I was 13 and I went down the High Road with the big Silver Cross pram with the shopping underneath and I always saw lots of people I knew. Now no-one really knows their neighbours.

Then everyone was scared that if they did wrong, people would go and tell their mum! My brother took something from Woolworth’s for a dare, and the assistant saw him and said that if he didn’t put it back and tell his mum what he’d done, she would call the police! My brother was so scared; he went straight to tell our mum, who was furious!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s