Back to FLORENCE GRIFFIN again. She looks about 12 in this school picture, which would put it about 1932/3. Florence is in the centre at the back, in front of the drainpipe.
The school was ST JOSEPH’S IN HIGHGATE. She’d been sent there in response to a promise made to her (deceased) father but she hated the place. At that time the girls were taught by nuns and whilst, in later life, she acknowledged some of them tried to help her, she mostly found them strict and unkind. Because the family lived in the Kentish/Camden Town area she had to travel up a very steep hill to the school and was always late (a habit she retained all of her life!) and getting the cane. When her younger sister, Mary, joined her, things became worse because Mary had short legs and trying to drag her up the road made Florence even later. This problem was eventually solved when Mary was transferred to ISLIP STREET SCHOOL. Florence however stayed at St Joseph’s until she was fourteen.
Most of Florence’s memories of the place were negative. Apart from the cane for being late, she also recalled the day reading suddenly ‘clicked’ and she read perfectly when asked to do so, only to be accused of cheating and memorising the passage. And also the exclusion from the annual sea-side trip. This consisted of a trip, by coach, to the sea once year. However the rule was the girls had to wear their full uniform for the day; because Florence’s mother was too poor to buy the entire uniform she was excluded from the trip – as the nuns were aware of her situation she always regarded this as an example of their un-Christian behaviour.
The family’s poverty meant that Florence was entitled to a free school dinner, which she had to go to nearby school to eat (I don’t think St Joseph’s offered cooked meals at that time). On the way back she would sometimes call in at the house of a friend, VIOLET STORY (STOREY?). Violet’s mother cooked a full dinner at lunch time (as most did at that time) and would give Florence a serving of steamed pudding which was received with much gratitude as during those childhood years she was often hungry.
Violet is also in this picture. We believe she is the dark-haired girl standing behind the kneeling girl who is fourth from the right. Although she doesn’t look it in this picture, according to Florence, Violet was a very pretty girl with violet eyes to match her name.
After school Florence used to look after a small boy (who she described as ‘horrid’) until his mother returned from work. It was her job to make him marmite sandwiches for his tea. For this she received six pence a week. Five pence of that went to her mother and the other penny she could keep. It was often used for sweets. A sweet-shop on her way to school had a half-penny dip system. Paper was rolled tightly into spills and put in a jar. For a half-penny you pulled one out and got whatever sweets were written on it. Sometimes it was blank so you lost your money; at other times you’d get two ounces and occasionally you hit gold and got a whole pound of sweets for your money. When Florence hit the jackpot she was caught eating one in school and the entire bag was confiscated – another black mark against the nuns as far as she was concerned.