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Frank Gates – Tales of Herne

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A FASCINATING glimpse of life in the village of Herne in the early and mid-20th century is told on an audio recording of lifelong resident Frank Gates.

The recording was made before Frank’s death in 1989 when he was interviewed for a project at Herne Junior School.

Mr Gates was born in the village in 1902 and lived there until his death. The recording was made in around 1984.

Asked about changes in the village he had seen, the former builder said: “There is no village today. It all used to be open spaces. Where you have buses coming up the road it used to be horses and carts.”

On the subject of school days Mr Gates remembered the old school and its teachers.

He said: “The headmaster was Mr Worth and Mrs Worth was the head teacher. There was Minnie Curtis in the infants with Mrs Worth. You had standards one, two and three in infants and then went to class one with Miss Doe, numbers three and four with Miss ash, then Mr Worth took classes five, six and seven in the end room.

“The curate came to the school twice a week and gave scripture lessons, every Tuesday and Friday morning.”

He also recounted the tale of the school’s outside toilets.

Mr Gates said: “When I went to school the toilets were at the bottom of the playground, which the new school is now built on. There used to be the old buckets and a man, Mr Stone, he used to clean the school windows and clean the toilets. He had an allotment just behind where the green is, where the swings and the slide are. Mr Stone emptied the buckets on his allotment garden, right outside the school! After that it was put on the sewers and we had flush toilets and I said we were living in fortune!”

Mr Gates is also asked where he used to play as a child.

He said: “In the cherry orchards. Major Prescott-Westcar lived in Strode Park and they belonged to him. The children were allowed to play there.”

Games included rounders and a cricket-like match where there was a hole at each end of the ‘pitch’. A ‘ball’ was bowled and hit with a stick before the batter made runs. The runner was out if the opposition got the stick in the hole first.

Mr Gates, who was born in 36 School Lane and lived there until 1928 when he moved up the road into a house he built, was also asked about Christmas.

He said: “The children from the school always went to Strode Park at Christmas and all had to stand there and sing carols. We all had a bag of sweets, an orange and a new penny.

“Christmas is not like it is now. We had a netted stocking with things in like nuts and an orange. You would get new clothes which was a nice present.”

See next week’s Way We Were for even more of Frank’s memories of life in Herne

*With thanks to Carol Dilnot, the interviewer on the tape, and daughter Doreen White and Lin White for permission to use the recording.

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