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Memories of St Margaret's - Sunday School circa 1939
As two young girls of those times, Evelyn Sheaf and I, Wendy Houlston, had no access to Sunday School. Children went to Barton for day school and, as I had only moved to Luton in May 1939, my mother chose to teach me at home rather than let me go on the bus to Barton. However, a new prefabricated sort of building was erected in Icknield Way to open in September 1939 to house children from five to fourteen. When the time came for it to open, war had been declared (World War Two) and legislation ruled that no school could open until air-raid shelters had been built. Eventually a great bulky brick built shelter d>
was built in front of the school, which was much more robust than the school and overshadowed it.
By then, a school from London had been evacuated into the Warden Hill area, accompanied by Miss Volant, one of their teachers, with her mother. They were also destined to attend the new school of only two classrooms. However, with the number of children in the area, who had been appointed to attend the school, there were too many children in total. To ease the immediate situation, the local children went to school one week and the London children went alternate weeks. Then it was an interchange of mornings and afternoons, whilst another wooden classroom was added to the original school.
Miss Volant was a lovely teacher, greatly liked by all the children. She immediately tried to form a Sunday School for those who were interested. It was she who started the first Sunday School in Warden Hill, to which we girls went. On special occasions, such as Good Friday, we would walk in a group to Church, and back again. As the Church had not long been restored and reopened, it was very stark, with rush mats down the centre aisle, hanging pendants of three lights each in the north and south aisles, with no lights centrally. There were no comfy cushions on the seats and the blue hassocks could have been second hand from a Church which was better endowed. (In those days you definitely knelt to say your prayers.) If there were any flowers, they were in two brass vases towards the back of the altar. There was no organ, only an old harmonium. At that time, there was no porch leading into the Church. Blackout curtains were made on a frame to fit the windows for the duration of the war, although we never went when it was dark or deep winter. A person who helped at the Sunday School was Miss Bailey, who was the local Health Visitor and lived in Great Bramingham Lane. Her mode of transport was a bicycle with a huge basket on the front. She always wore a brown uniform.
The Londoners did not stay for the duration of the war. Some returned as soon as possible, others opting to stay in the parish, especially those with large families of children, where the mothers and then fathers had come to be accommodated in the area.
When Miss Volant went back to London, the Sunday School had to close. The curate, John Hancock (who lodged on New Bedford Road (Barton Road), also travelled by bike, and later on a motorized one, with cassock flying behind him) was unable to take it because he was taking the service at Church. (Morning Service and Holy Communion once a month.)
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