Further to the recent posts on the “Gas School”, Mr Richard Evans has sent us more memories of St. John’s V.P. School, which originally appeared in the Rhyl History Club News Sheet, January 1985.
St John’s Voluntary Primary School
(The Gas School)
Personal Memories and a Tribute.
These, my schoolboy memories were jogged by the extracts from the early log book of St John’s school, printed in November’s news sheet.
On my first day as a child, just after V.E. day, the school buildings appeared massive and secure, the day to day maintenance being the responsibility of the Caretaker, whose accommodation was incorporated into the school building. (It faced onto Wellington Terrace)
The memory of its earlier splendor being in stark contrast to its present dilapidated and undistinguished condition. (At the time this was written, the school had been empty for some time and had become vandalised prior to its demolition)
A very sad epitaph to its influence on the hundreds of children who had passed through its doors.
Although a resident of Kinmel Bay, I found myself introduced to St John’s rather than Towyn School**, with a vague memory of red painted ex-London transport buses being seen on Rhyl’s streets. The upper deck I recall was reached by an external spiral staircase.
As a new pupil, in Miss Evans’ intake class, Brian Nevitt was deputised to take me under his wing. For a while thereafter I was a regular visitor to his home, the cottage which stood on Marsh Road at the foot of the pedestrian bridge over the railway, from Westbourne Avenue. (subsequently demolished to make way for the RSPCA Clinic).
Miss Evans’ classroom opened directly onto the cloakroom, which itself was just inside the entrance door. The multi coloured chairs for the pupils (which subsequently as a Standard 3 pupil I got to re-paint) made a colourful and cheerful setting. Every Friday afternoon, a swing was hung from the classroom doorjamb and every pupil was expected to have a mandatory swing. I hated it, it really churned up the butterflies in my stomach. With hindsight however, this private purgatory probably prepared my stomach for a subsequent seagoing career.
After Miss Evans’, pupils moved across to Miss Bedington’s class, where she somehow or other succeeded in teaching two different year groups (Standard 1 & 11) in the same classroom. Initially we had slates for writing on but these quickly gave way to nibbed pens, paper and school made ink.
Next door to Miss Bedington’ room was the Hall, which after morning prayers was partitioned off into two two classrooms. The larger being Miss Batten-Jones’s Class, where again two different year groups (Standard 111 & 1V) were taught in the same room. Miss Batten-Jones had the unenviable task of introducing us printers to the art of REAL WRITING.
Promotion from Standard 1V was to Standard V, the Headmaster’s Class, where we were prepared for the Scholarship (The Eleven Plus) which determined the manner of our Secondary Education.
At this time, Mr Gwilym Thomas had succeeded Mr Frank Port as Headmaster, though I remember a Headmistress being in post briefly between the two. Mr Port also being succeed by Mr Thomas as organist and choirmaster at St John’s. My recollections of Mr Thomas were of a large jolly man who set us reading from the Romany series of books (written by Rev. J Bramwell-Evans who had been educated at Epworth College) whilst extolling the incomparable beauties of the Vale of Clwyd.
Each classroom was heated by an open coal fire, apart from one in the Hall, which boasted a cast iron freestanding coke burning stove, around which were stacked the one third pint bottles of school milk to defrost on cold winter days.
Physical training consisted of various activities performed with bean bags and hooks outside in the brick surfaced school yard, together with an “arm stretching” exercise which required one to hang by the finger tips from the flat concrete roof of the World War 2 Air Raid Shelter and progress along its length by synchronized swing of the body.
Since St Johns’ did not have a canteen, we were marched to the school room of Salem Chapel in Warren Road, where we were joined by the pupils from St Mary’s Roman Catholic school, who had come from their school, which was at the rear of the old Catholic Church, to be fed in an improvised kitchen/canteen. Both being small schools, it was necessary for us to combine our talents to take on the giants of Christ Church, or Trellewelyn School, in the school football league held at the Coronation Gardens. Invariably we were cannon fodder for these larger schools.
Fights in the schoolyard were not uncommon, and I recall being locked in mortal, if indecisive combat with the same pupil every playtime for about three weeks.
When not fighting or spectating, we played Shepherds Tip through the service alleys of River Street, Butterton Road, North & South Avenue and Palace Avenue, virtually the same area as the old Winter Gardens.
Despite it obvious cramped conditions and lack of facilities, St John’s was for me a homely and happy placed, staffed by truly committed teachers.
Probably my fondest memory of the school, before moving on to Abergele Grammar, was the ice cream cornet bought by Mr Gwilym Thomas, for each of the of us eight successful scholarship pupils, a record number of passes for the school up until that time. (1952)
**Kinmel Bay was then in Denbighsire, whilst Rhyl was in Flintshire. Under normal circumstances I, and several other Kinmel Bay children, should have gone to Towyn School. However Towyn School then was in Towyn which would have require a bus change at Kinmel Bay Square, whilst there was a through bus to Rhyl. The two counties Education departments came to this practical arrangement. Thus our parents could put us on the bus at home and the conductor (remember them?) made sure we got off safely at the school bus stop. Some of us went to St John’s and others to Christ Church (Vaughan Street), but I never know how this allotment was decided.
Once the new Towyn School opened on its present Kinmel Bay campus, this arrangement came to an end and affected pupils were transferred to Towyn.