It wasn't unusual to see a mouse come out of the corner of the classroom and lick the milk bottle tops.
I used to attend a school in Willington Quay called Addison Potter, from the age of five years until taking the 11+, when I moved to the ‘big school’ – Stephenson Memorial Girls School, situated next to Howdon Railway Station. It was a great thing to hear an engine coming through the station. All the children used to run and stand on the bridge over the line, to let all the smoke go all over us. When I think about it now, we must have smelled of smoke all day. The old Addison Potter school was pulled down and is now sheltered accommodation for elderly people, called Eldon Court. The Stephenson School has also been pulled down and a new building housing “Sure Start” is now on the site.
When first starting Addison Potter, I had to walk down Howdon Lane past the station, the park and the smelly coke yard to get to school. This I had to do, up and down, four times a day, as I was not allowed to stay for school dinners. Maybe I didn’t miss much! I remember we used to get a bottle of milk in the morning break and we had to sit quietly and drink it. We used to remove the tops and throw them in the basket and it wasn’t unusual to see a mouse come out of the corner and lick the bottle tops, not something you would get these days.
Going back to Howdon Station, I remember there was a ginger haired porter who used to shout “Howdon for Jarrow”, as the train pulled in. This was to let people know that they had to get off the train and walk down the bank, as we called it. This was down past the park and the coke yard. Then they would get on another train, on what was called the Riverside Line and go on to Jarrow.
When I was at the Stephenson School, I remember that there was also a Catholic school at the other end of the station. The children who went there, had to pass our school to get there. There was a lot of rivalry, as we used to shout “catty dogs!” and they used to reply “prody dogs!, we get well educated and you do not!”. I also remember when, every Easter, the Fair used to come to the Burn Closes. It was a great treat to be taken there on a Good Friday. This would be in the afternoon mainly, after the “Marching” in the morning. We really looked forward to this time, as you normally got a pair of black patent leather shoes or red sandals and new white socks. Sometimes you even got a new dress.