It was September 1954 when my life took a big change. My childhood had been a happy one, but my family received a severe blow when my father died in 1951. He had his own haulage business in Brighouse and as children we had been well looked after. My mother tried to keep the business going, but at that time haulage was a man's world which she found very hard. It was decided that my brother and myself should go as boarders to Crossleys in Halifax where we would be fed and educated for £10 per term. Nowadays many people do not realise that the orphanage continued after the war.
When I started there were 13 boys and 13 girls housed in the two houses at the bottom of the Moor. Standeven was the boys' house and Crossley house for the girls. This house is now the Gleddings School. The grounds were adjoining, which was convenient for the boys as they had to come across the gardens for all their food, served in the dining room at Crossley house. The boys came to us. I should add that I only remember one occasion when we visited the boys, and that was for an official boarders' photograph taken outside. I never went inside Standeven whilst I was at school.
The regime at that time was strict and to a rather lost eleven year old, seemed harsh and uncaring. Rules were rules, and there seemed a lot of them. Broken rules meant instant punishment, the worst of which was 1 hour off our home visits which we were allowed once every three weeks for the day. It worked out as one home visit each half term. Punishments were cleaning the shoes in the boot cupboard of which there were many; polishing floors at 6am before school on hands and knees; being sent to evensong at St Judes across the moor, after having done the usual Sunday trip for Eucharist in the morning. We were also stopped from listening to the radio, usually for very minor offences, but as one of our only sources of pleasure at the weekend, it gave great displeasure as it was usually caused by one or two offenders only, but we all had to suffer.
Routine was considered very important. Our daily routine was when the rules started. We were always awoken by the loud clanging of the bell outside the bedroom door at 7am, woe betide you if you took more than a minute to get out of bed, such was the "Pavlov" dog reaction that I once awoke everyone in the middle of the night by washing myself at the sink as I dreamed the bell had rung. We dressed for school and left beds turned down neatly, we went downstairs, prepared books for school and t hen had inspection at 7.40am exactly. Inspection was army style, clean shoes, all buttons intact and hair neatly clipped back from the forehead, because any stray hair might have caused you to have spots! Or more likely may you look more attractive.
At 8am breakfast was served. We all stood to attention whilst Miss Hutchinson, who was head of Crossley House, swept past us and led us into the dining room. Hutch sat at our table frequently, because disputes with Mr Rothwell made sitting at the top table uncomfortable for her at mealtimes. Her presence in such close proximity to us meant that we could only make polite conversation. We were not allowed to ask for anything and only obtained a slice of bread by communicating with a kick and a nod to another at the table.
Most of the meals were consumed in silence and the boys ate at such a speed that it was rare when a meal lasted longer than a quarter of an hour. I should say that, although we ate with the boys, they sat at the opposite side of the dining room and communication was only by chance if you happened to meet at the teapots kept on a small side table. It was surprising how much information was exchanged whilst picking up a teapot! The meals, I have to say, on the whole were very good and although other things could be compared with Oliver Twist, lack of food was not one of them.
After breakfast, hospital corners were duly made up on our beds and with some relief we left for school, the girls walking to school up Kensington Road and the boys walking up the side of the moor. Such was the need to keep us separate from the boys, we girls were never allowed to go to school dances even when an offer was made from some parents to chaperone us. I remember a bonfire night when the boy had a bonfire on Broomfield and we had to watch from the windows. All the girl boarders became very good at sport since we discovered that this was one way we were allowed to lead a normal life. We also got lots of practise evenings and weekends on the lawn at Crossley House.
After school, we were all in as many school clubs as possible delaying our return to 'prison' as long as possible. By 5.15pm we had to be back, changed our of school uniform into Crossley House uniform with school shoes cleaned and polished and put in the boot room. Our dress could only be described as quaint; I am sure the dresses were pre war and had been kept for our use. Hutch referred to our own clothes as 'rags' when we arrived and we were duly given our 'hand me downs' to wear. Our school uniform was different to the other pupils at school so you could always pick out the boarders. We wore thick boys' knee length socks as juniors and they we were allowed to wear 'Nora Batty' stockings as seniors. I don't know which were the worst. Our clothes always seemed to have been designed to fit someone two sizes bigger when we were given them. The regulation pyjamas were definitely made for large boys and not small girls.
After tea, we had quiet time in the quiet room, to do our homework. It usually lasted 2 hours. We were then allowed a little time to play table tennis, whilst the evening rituals of bathing took place. This was the other area where we were well cared for. Baths were frequent and a source of much fun, many a jape occurred at bath time as we were generally unsupervised. Two of the baths were in cubicles and we could chat and lob soap and other things over the top. Much amusement was caused by floating ginger biscuits in someone's bath and Linda Douglas acquired the nickname 'pluggit' from an incident of plug hiding. The evening always concluded with prayers. These were always conducted round the piano with a rota of piano players choosing the hymns in conjunction with someone doing a reading or a prayer.
Much amusement was caused by Linda Clark doing the shortest hymn and prayer on record and causing Hutch to be 'not amused'. No doubt she cleaned a lot of shoes for that one. Supper followed - a glass of milk and a dog paste sandwich. For some reason, we were never allowed to say 'no' to any food which was put in front of us. We had to leave a clean plate.
If you didn't eat everything you were summoned to the medical cupboard and closed with some nasty medicine or left sitting in front of the door until every last scrap had gone.
Bedtime in dormitories had its moments; we always had to wrap our knickers and socks inside our vest. This was referred to as our pile. We had to do this in case there was a fire in the middle of the night. The mind boggles now at the thought of running down the stairs at fire practice saying 'have you you're your piles?' What we would have done with the said garments in a real fire, I'm not quite sure.
At lights out we were not supposed to talk, but as juniors, lights out was at 9pm which was a little early for sleep. There were many whispered happenings, the best of which were stories told round the dorm with everyone having to contribute then pass it on to the next person after a sentence or two. Hutch descended upon us with much wrath frequently. A memorable time was when we had made an apple pie bed for Frances Anderson. She jumped into bed rather too quickly as Hutch appeared at the door and two feet loudly ripped the sheet. Another bout of cleaning floors to follow!
Being a boarder was not easy, but there were many times which were memorable and I could go on at length for much longer. Fortunately, times changed. The welfare state provided much better for its orphans and boarders and Crossley House passed into the history books. I was one of the last boarders. I left school in summer 1961 and both Standeven and Crossley House closed then. The antiquated way of life died with thme and I had few regret at their passing.
DOT DENTON (nee Kendall)
1954 - 1961