Memories of Carpentry Classes in the 1930s
Here, Dennis Pepper talks about the carpentry classes at Melbourn School, which were attended by Meldreth pupils each week. Click on the “play” button on the right to hear Dennis speaking.
When we were about eleven we used to cycle over to Melbourn school to have carpentry lessons on Monday mornings I think it was. It was a good idea. The girls used to have cookery classes and needlework classes and us boys used to have gardening, vegetable growing and the carpentry ones at Melbourn were good fun. When we first went there I think it was Mr Ogden who took us to start off with and then we got a new chap from Cambridge – a Mr Cash who used to come on a motor bike. He went up in our estimation when he came on a motor bike. He said “When you come next week tell me what you would like to make.” A lot of boys were making little book shelves and things like that and pot stands and letter racks. I asked my father what I should make and he said “Well, we haven’t got a wheelbarrow boy, the old one’s broke, so you’d better tell him you want a wheelbarrow.” Well that took the teacher back a bit. He said “I’m only really a cabinet maker not a carpenter.”, but nevertheless he got some drawings from somewhere with measurements; we didn’t get them quite right as the handles were a bit too wide, you sort of walked along like this. It was a jolly good wheelbarrow and it lasted about twenty years. I got Hubert Hale in the Blacksmith’s shop to make me a wheel and I managed to make it, with quite a bit of help from Mr Cash of course, and I proudly wheeled it home when it was finished at the end of term and everybody (well it seemed like everybody to me) came out to have a look at my wheelbarrow when they heard the rumble of the wheel on the road. It was painted blue on the outside and red on the inside and it was a useful old barrow. I think I was the only one who ever made a wheelbarrow.
Below is another of Dennis’ memories; this time about the day they moved the clock forwards and fooled the teacher! Click the “play” button on the second audio clip above to hear Dennis speak.
Our carpentry teacher, Mr Cash was a nice chap. He was very late and we used to get there sometimes before him but one morning we got there and I think probably one of the other masters from the school let us in and told us to behave ourselves and get on with whatever we were doing. Time went on and went on and Mr Cash still didn’t turn up and we were getting a bit fed up so we decided to put the clock on. So in turn I think several of us went along. Someone put it on five minutes then somebody else went along and gave it another five minute tweak and I don’t know exactly but I think when poor Mr Cash did turn up, it had been pouring with rain actually and I think he’d got his sparking plug wet or something and so he’d had to walk a long way pushing his motorbike until he’d got to a garage and they’d dried it off and got it going for him and by the time he arrived after we had been playing around with the clock a few times, it was about ten minutes to twelve, about time to go home. He looked a bit surprised; he was a bit taken aback as it was only about 11 o’clock I believe. “Right boys” he said “You’d better pack up and go back”. I think we went back home at lunchtime then. He’d only just got there and I think he more or less got on his bike, turned round and went straight back again.
We didn’t know what to do with all this spare time. We didn’t dare go home and we didn’t want anyone to see us so we had to hide behind a hedge or somewhere when anyone new went past. Of course there was trouble as it was obvious that it was going to be found out and we all got hauled over the coals the next morning and felt very sorry for ourselves for a couple of days, or perhaps not as long as that!