Sticks and stones…..
Children in todays schools have so many ways of learning compared with my generation. Most children have access to a computer or a smart phone, where they can search for the answer to any problem with just the tips of their fingers.
In Stepgates, we had a more organic way of learning, we learned everything by repeating it over and over again, such as the ‘times tables’. Although I never liked school, I have to say that this old-fashioned way of teaching must have worked. I still remember all my tables. As for decimals, square roots or— heaven forfend—algebra, we left school at fourteen, so we never had to bother with anything like that.
Repeating something as a group was an easy way of learning, sometimes it was with a song., or with an old nursery rhyme. Once you learned them you never forgot them. But unknown to us some of these rhymes had some pretty gruesome origins. Ring-a-ring-roses was all about the ‘Black Death’ but we used to sing it with such gusto. Ignorance really can be bliss.
Another popular rhyme that would be sung in the playground whenever any name calling was going on would be, ‘Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but names will never hurt me’. This was not always true though. Children soon learned that they can really hurt another child without touching them, simply by using a word or misusing some one’s name. This happened a lot when Italy joined the Germans to fight against the Allies. My Italian mates with their strange sounding names were called all sorts of things. But we soon got tired of this and the name calling went back to teasing some one with big teeth of even just having to wear glasses.
The same thing happened to a wealthy man who lived up St Anne’s Hill, he had a very German name, Schlesinger. He was often booed when he was seen driving his big American car through Chertsey. Some of the jeering was for his name and some was for the fact that he could get petrol to run such a big car. It turned out that he was as English as anyone and had served in the British armed forces in the first world war.
Luckily my family were known as The Waglins, a very English sort of name, which my mother was quite happy for us to be known as. God knows what we would have been called if anyone knew that our real surname was Luz Weguelin, an old German name pronounced, ‘Lutz Vegelin!