The mid 1930s were a time of optimism and looking to the future, because the area was recovering from the effects of the severe depression at the beginning of the decade. Local industries were getting back on their feet and the numbers of unemployed in the area were falling. A bright future seemed certain and the local council took the decision to build a new primary school.

Dorsett Road School appears to have been out of favour by the late1930s because its pupils were slowly transferred to other schools. As part of this scheme a new school with the latest facilities was required and so the council acquired part of the site of the old Russian Colliery, which had closed by 1881. The remaining part of the site had been purchased by Pat Collins who ran local funfairs.

Pat Collins' fair on the "Wake Field" in the mid 1960s.

Around this time he purchased a lot of derelict land in the Black Country, levelled it where required, and applied a covering of gravel to make a suitable surface for a fairground. This particular piece of land had good access and so was ideal for his purpose. It became known as the “Wake Field” and was the third of Pat’s sites in Darlaston.

He previously had a site at The Green, and one where the old tram sheds stood.

Before work could begin on the new school there would have been part of a large pit mound to clear, shafts and underground workings to fill, and a lot of consolidation work to be done. Pinfold Street School opened its doors for the first time on 1st September, 1936 providing accommodation for 350 junior and infant children. At the beginning only six classrooms were in use, and in the early years the school playground was divided into two halves by steel railings, the rear half for the junior boys, and the front part for the infants and junior girls.

The teaching staff were as follows:

Hilda Dangerfield – temporary head teacher
Miss Eleanor Foster
Mr. Frederick Hudson
Miss Isabel Thornton
Miss Enid Fairhall
Mrs. Dorothy Bailey

An impression of how the school might have looked in the early years.

On the first day 208 children were admitted, 175 of whom, came from Dorsett Road School. They were welcomed in the hall by Councillor F.W. Wesson on behalf of the school management team, and Dr. A.B. Lavelle, the Rector of Darlaston.

The staff were joined in December by Miss Joan Nicholls, who had initially been given a temporary appointment to carry out Miss Fairhall’s duties while she went on a number of visits to other schools in England. On her return, Miss Fairhall joined a party of teachers on an educational tour of Italy, which ended her service at Pinfold Street. As a result Joan Nicholls remained at the school for many years. The school closed for Christmas on December 23rd with its first Christmas party.

A further 19 children were admitted when the school reopened on January 11th. During the early part of the year many children were absent with coughs and colds and a severe snowstorm in March resulted in a very poor attendance of only 150.

The school held its first Coronation celebrations on 11th May for King George 6th when Darlaston councillors W.W. Stanbury, E. Ward, F. Biddlestone, and G. Smith distributed souvenir medals to the children. The celebrations continued on May 24th when the children attended a Coronation service at the football ground, followed by tea at the school. The school’s first sports day took place on the afternoon of July 1st, and the first year ended on July 29th with the start of the summer holiday.

A view of the school from Moxley Road in 1963.

At the beginning of the new year on September 1st, a further 38 children were admitted, and Mrs. Elizabeth Buck joined the teaching staff. In January the seventh classroom was ready for use and the number of children had risen to 299, rising again after Easter to 321.

Numbers increased again in September, 1938 when the final group of children were transferred from Dorsett Road School and an extra classroom opened in the junior department. Two new members of staff started on September 1st. The first, Miss Alice Parkinson had been transferred from Dorsett Road School, and the second, Miss Josephine Haigh, had come from Neachells Lane Junior School in Wednesfield, and would stay for many years to become a legend in her own time.

The new intake included 18 five year olds and 38 children from Dorsett Road School, bringing the total number to 376. This necessitated the use of the emergency room as a temporary classroom. At the end of the month, Hilda Dangerfield, the temporary head teacher was appointed as head teacher at Elm Street School in Willenhall, and in November Mr. John Thacker joined the staff as their new headmaster. He had previously worked at West Street Methodist Junior School, in Leek and would soon become a well-respected figure at the school.

The Picturedrome Cinema.

The children were actively encouraged to save their money, and in October the juniors went to the Picturedrome cinema in Crescent Road to see films about National Savings. The National Savings Movement relied upon volunteers who were organised into Local Savings Committees and supported by national committees and civil servants. Saving stamps, certificates, and bonds were sold to the public and were available at post offices, savings banks, and building societies.

Local volunteers were recognized for their dedication by the issuing of long service awards, and savings groups were formed in factories, shops, clubs and schools. The savings were collected by an appointed collector who not only collected the savings but also issued certificates. In the 1940s local savings weeks became regular events and posters were produced for advertising. Mr. Thacker would organise the school’s contribution to the scheme.

Miss Haigh travelled daily from Wolverhampton, sometimes with temporary teacher, Joan Nicholls. On November 14th they were passengers on a bus which was involved in a serious collision. Luckily they were both unhurt. The school suffered its first damage on November 23rd, during a severe storm, which removed lead from the veranda.

By the beginning of 1939 the total number of children had risen to 386, with an average attendance of 329. All of the children were periodically examined by a visiting school nurse and dentist. They attended school clinics where their hair was examined to see if it was free from dirt and nits (head lice), which would be a recurring problem. They also received polio injections and dental treatment.

On May 24th the school celebrated Empire Day, which for many years became an annual event. The children would dress-up in costumes representing various countries and carry appropriate flags. They would learn suitable songs and present an Empire pageant to parents and friends.

The school's Empire Day celebration in 1939. Courtesy of Sue Harper, Gill Broomhall and Maureen Page.

The school closed for its summer break on August 3rd. In the afternoon a large number of parents came along to inspect the children’s work and watch dramatic performances on the school stage.

The decade had been dominated by the growing threat of fascism in Europe, and war with Germany would soon be declared. When the children returned to the school after their summer holiday, things would be very different.

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The War Years