The start of a teaching career
and the Second World War

Our family doctor, Dr Stanley Wood, was a good friend to us all, he had cared for our health over many years, from minor ailments to operations. He took an interest in the furniture that I was making. On one of his visits he chatted to me about my future and his concern for my health. He recommended that I should seriously consider another career.

 I was trained in 'arts and crafts' I was a highly qualified designer and cabinet maker. Some of my work had been photographed and written about for the magazine 'Cabinet Maker'. I had taught students at Art School - but work was not easy to find. So when a friend told me that Burnley Education Committee was looking for someone to teach woodwork in one of its schools, I decided to apply for the post.

Austin Tourer 1926 

My first day as a probationary-teacher I arrived wearing a professional looking suit - black jacket, striped trousers and a bowler hat. I pulled up outside the school in my highly polished, black, Austin 1926 model tourer. There was no difficulty in parking, which I did find surprising at the time even though I was fifteen minutes early; the fact was I was the only member of staff who owned a motor car.

 Unfortunately, my new colleagues thought I was just trying to impress them, but my mode of attire was not of my choosing, especially for doing woodwork and as for the car I thought most school teachers had cars, after all, they were much respected citizens and naturally I thought that schoolteachers must have the best of everything. I was to discover that this was not the case!

 I received a further shock at my first midmorning break. I was about to enter the staff-room only to be told that handicraft teachers were not welcomed in the staff-room amongst the academics. Surprisingly I was not annoyed by this situation I infact found it amusing and set about to earn the respect Of my 'academic' colleagues. Such was the strength of my desire to be a successful teacher, I did not want to annoy my fellow teachers on my first day at work and as I saw teaching as my vocation - I was prepared to do whatever was necessary even if it meant more studying. I wanted to educate my pupils in the fullest sense of the word 'educate', I did not see my job as training the boys to become carpenters or joiners or cabinet makers, but to teach them how to live, how to be good citizens and how to appreciate their fellow men.

I gained a full teacher's diploma and as a member of the Institute of Handicraft Teachers, I was advised to take its diploma which was recognised as an equivalent to a BA or BSc. My classroom (workshop) became noted for its industry and the quality of the work produced by the pupils. Not only was the boys' work good, but so was their behaviour. The room itself had an appearance of neatness and orderliness. I spent many hours preparing all charts and other visual aids which were there for the pupils to refer to in their thirst for knowledge.

  

Handicraft Teachers at Townley, Burnley

It did not take long for me to earn the respect of my pupils and the friendship of my colleagues. I was accepted as a full members of the school staff. As a newly appointed teacher I had visits from His Majesty's Inspectors. I welcomed them into my classroom where they seemed to look on me as different from the general woodwork' teacher.

For many years 'woodwork' teachers had been regarded as glorified joiners, but I put paid to this myth. The task was not easy, there was no electricity, the equipment was poor but improvements were on the way. When electricity was installed toward the end of the 1930's it provided the means to introduce new ideas in the classroom, ideas which had been in my mind for sometime. But the second world war was about to force many changes upon everybody.

War Loans

People from all walks of life were being called to serve in the war effort. Young teachers were enlisted and retired teachers were invited to return to the classroom. Work in the Handicraft Departments was threatened with the shortage of materials. I decided to spend more time in teaching technical drawing and the history of crafts and whenever possible to use films to help me.

I introduced a number of projects which kept the practical side of 'Woodwork' very much alive. The first was a 'Toy Project'. Toys were in short supply, so, with the help of my pupils, broken toys were collected and repaired; scrap pieces of wood were found and I helped the boys to make 'Victorian' toys - a donkey up a stick, toppling clowns, pecking hens and 'Rizo the Acrobat'. For the girls, the boys made dolls and puppets. They modelled the heads in plasticine and covered them with papier mache. During the term, in which the Toy Project was run, hundreds of papier mache heads were made, painted and fastened on to the glove bodies which were made out of scrap materials.

 Several years after the 'Toy Project', one of the 'old boys', on leave from the army visited the school. He told the class of his hobby of puppet-making. In his spare time he had given puppet-shows at his Army Camp and he planned to become a regular 'Punch and Judy man' to raise money for charities.

  Battleship Week

Fund raising during the war years was an important activity for almost everyone in the town. For 'Battleship Week' I obtained photographs of battleships and from these the boys prepared drawings, collected the materials they needed and set to work to make miniature battleships. Some were five feet long and became the central feature in shop-window displays.

 

When 'Spitfire Week' came, the workshop became an aircraft hangar, there were Spitfires on every bench top, from as small as a three inch wing span up to five feet. The largest Spitfire was paraded through the streets of the tow. piloted by Albert Pearce a young pupil from Coal Clough Infants' School. A Scout band led the parade and the people lining the streets, dropped their coins into the collecting boxes or threw the. into the open cockpit of the model Spitfire.

After battleships and Spitfires came rifles. When the Local Defence Volunteers was formed in the town, the men had no uniforms, no weapons - no rifles to drill with. It seemed that the has t thing they could use would be broom handles. So I borrowed a Lee Enfield service rifle, took it to school, the boys measured it, drew it and finally made plywood patterns.

Then the boys set to work and made dozens of wooden rifles. Now the men in the LDV drilled with something that looked like the real thing. The boys were a little reluctant to part with the products of their labour so I struck a bargain with them; after they had completed the 'rifle project'- for the Defence Volunteers, they could make rifles for themselves.

 It was always a mystery where all the timber to make these model battleships, Spitfires and rifles - had come from. But, old furniture, floorboards, fencing, and shed doors suddenly Disappeared when Mr Hanna's classes were involved in projects'.

Further enterprise was shown when I turned a Geography lesson, on 'map-study', into producing contour maps for the Home Guard. The boy. collected all the cardboard they could find and traced the contour lines from a 'master' map on to the cardboard. They cut out the shapes and slowly built up a relief map of the area. To give the maps shape some were covered with papier mache and others with plaster of paris .

The whole area of Pendle Hill was modelled and it became a most useful relief map, at HQ on which troop manoeuvres were plotted during 'battle exercises'.