The buses and trains were always busy.
When I was 11 years old I passed my eleven plus and found myself travelling to Fenham every day, from Wallsend, to go to school. There were several ways of making this journey: green bus to town and then 32, 36, or 12 to Fenham or, by train from Wallsend station to either Newcastle Central or Manors and then onto the bus. We would meet up with friends along the way, until, by the time you got onto the 32 or the 36 it was full of girls in green uniforms with yellow tasselled skull caps. It took about an hour to get there and the buses and trains were always busy.
One of the first lessons we learnt at school was to always give up our seat to an adult. We almost always did but occasionally people would ring the school and complain about someone who hadn’t and we’d all get a ticking off. The next lesson was to always wear your hat until you got home. It was amazing the number of people who would ring the school to say that one of ‘their girls’ had been seen without their hats. The problem was that they weren’t very easy to keep on, and boys from Dame Allan’s thought the tassels were fair game and were always trying to pull them off.
We had fads about which way we travelled to school and back, and knew every train and bus time, to see which was the quickest way home. (It didn’t seem so important to rush to school). One of my favourite ways to go home was on the Riverside railway line which left Newcastle Central at either 4.25 or 4.40 pm. This line followed the river, passed all the shipyards and right behind my house. The benefit was that Carville station was closer to home than Wallsend station. There was something about that line, an aura of mystery. You could feel it as soon as the train pulled out of Manors and moved onto its own route, away from the mainline. The places it went past were fascinating and the people that got on and off were straight from the yards. I often wondered what they had been doing all day. Of course, as you got to go past Swans you could see right into the yards and see the ships under construction.
On one memorable occasion, I travelled home this way after an afternoon domestic science lesson, when we’d been making chocolate blancmange (an essential for future homemakers). Unfortunately, mine hadn’t set properly and, in the rush to get on the train, had started to leak out of its container into my cookery basket. During the journey, and without me realising, the chocolate goo spread out of the basket and onto my lap, leaving my yellow summer dress covered in the revolting stuff. It was a good job I got off at Carville, with a shorter walk home and not so many people to pass, as it was not a pretty sight.