East Finchley Methodist Church

Memories of Sunday School Before 1939
by Peter Crockford in 1996

We came to East Finchley in 1927 and I started in the Primary Department around 1930, I don't remember much about the Primary activities except that we had sand trays, which I was never allowed to play with. My mother told me that I once came home from Sunday School and said 'I've got a pricking in my pocket'. She was rather alarmed, but relieved to find that the pricking was a text written in block capitals by a teacher and which each child was required to prick through the letters with a pin so that the message could be read when held up to the light. I don't know what kids did with the sand trays except get sand on to the floor. I suppose the Primary Department included up to 30-4O scholars. Of course there had to be one naughty child, named George (not George Ardleyl). The Primary leader was usually Gladys Webb and we always had the same pianist, Miss Baxter. The Primary used the old Guild Room (no longer part of the church).

For the first few weeks I was collected by a lady helper and then I walked the short distance to her house on my own. I remember taking my young brother to her house, so I must have been escorted to and from Sunday School for 2 to 3 years. One Sunday a dog was run over outside the church and was dragged bleeding and dying to a kerb drain - a most distressing occurrence to a small child. For Sunday School anniversaries, the Primary sat on raised, flower-decked seats (or planks on top of chairs) where the raised area is now in the worship centre. On one occasion I played the triangle, but lost the post by banging it too loudly, I think. Other children played tambourines and possibly drums and/or small whistles. We were provided with blue cornflowers as button holes for anniversaries.

On going up into the Junior Department in the next room, the Church Parlour (now the Fellowship Room), things got a bit more lively, where we were divided up into boys and girls with a space in between. We had a youngish male leader, Harry Barker, and one other male teacher, Mr Cramphorn, and several lady teachers of whom I only remember Miss (Doreen?) Boon, I recall only one address, about a man who fought in World War 1 and called his steel helmet 'a soup plate' rather than the more usual 'tin hat', but the addresses were interesting.

For several Sundays before Church Anniversaries and Sunday School Anniversaries we all trooped into the Main Hall (no longer part of the church) for choir practice, presided over by Mr Barker senior (Intermediate leader?) and Mr Glasspool, who was known as "Toosday" because that is how he pronounced 'Tuesday'.

About this time (aged 8 or 9) I joined the EFM Cub Pack, the 16th Finchley, and from this time I cannot remember with any certainty which of my boy acquaintances were in the Cubs or Sunday School or in both. I have a feeling that most of the Cubs did not attend Sunday School. My first Cubmistress was Mrs Potter, then Phyllis Harris and then Alec Nevols. I stayed in the Cubs till 10 or 11 and reached the august rank of Sixer (team leader). Unfortunately I had to leave the Cubs on account of increasing school homework taking one hour or more per night. Hence I never went to a Cub/Scout camp away from home. Cubs were expected to attend the monthly church parade at EFM, often organised by Mr Arthur Jackson (Scoutmaster?).

Other Cubs included the Toms brothers (Eric and Roger), Stanley 'Daisy' Clutterbuck, Bob Maynard, Herbert Handscomb (Lesley Handscomb's uncle), Roy Wakefield, Arthur Ransome. Very old EFM people have told me that all the Griffiths family helped with running Cubs, Scouts, Guides and Brownies, but this family was before my time. They lived in a large old weather-boarded house on the High Road called 'Netherwood'

Probably by 1935 I was in the Intermediate Department in the Main Hall, where lesson time was held inside alcoves divided by folding wooden doors and curtained off in the front. The only male teacher I remember was Mr Japes, who must have been 50 to 60 years old. Lessons had become a bit more adult (with some discussion?) but Grace Whickman, then Grace Down, occasionally read to us a non-biblical adventure story as a serial. Boys and girls were still segregated, perhaps up to 50 children, possibly 70. Intermediate ages ranged from 11 to 13 or so.

I think I started in the Senior Department in one of the small rooms upstairs (in the part of the building now sold) in late 1938. The general tone was much more adult, with frequent discussion in class and among the whole department together. I don't remember the Senior Department leader, but it may have been Mr Jebson, the father of one of my brother's school friends. I think Alex Nevols was a Senior teacher and also Dick Keen, This department was much smaller than the Intermediate - perhaps 20 teenagers, still separated into boys and girls. I remember only four of my Senior contemp­oraries - Norman Burgess (a year older than me), Arthur Gregory, Kingsley Wray (who was at school with me), both of whom died tragically in their fifties, and Bob Maynard, who lived in Chapel Street*. I remember none of the Senior girls, but I think one was named Rosemary Armstrong, and Mary Cox may have been another.

*Chapel Street ran parallel to Kitchener Road (where Chapel Court and Norfolk Close have been built). The Roman Catholic lay at its southeast corner. The street and the church were destroyed by a landmine during World War II.

 

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