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Recounting Blessings

Chapter 12


1944-1949
Banknock Village – ‘Kitchen Showers’ and the 1948 Concert

Banknock Primary School’s fund-raising efforts to supplement the per capita allocation of finance from Stirling County Council’s Education Committee comprised the usual Sales of Work, Jumble Sales, ‘Kitchen Showers’ and latterly in peace-time, School Concerts. The ‘Kitchen Showers’ were great family occasions that called for, not only an outside semi-professional group of artistes with various talents to come in to provide an evening of entertainment, but also for the parents to each take ‘a table’ and provide a delicious supper for their guests thereafter.

As the school central hall was quite small and thus tended only to be used as the school dinner room, or as an inadequate gymnasium or for morning assembles, or for the class-grouped Christmas parties, larger gatherings of people for other functions dictated the conversion of the two large Infant classrooms into one. Although this was done by temporarily removing the heavy and frosted glass partition between them, it still left the four foot high partition support structure as a barrier between the ‘front and back stalls’. It was not an ideal ‘auditorium’ with an expected slight slope between ‘back-stalls’ and stage to give relatively unobstructed views, but what it did do was to double the number of paying customers. The more daring could of course, on a first-come-first-served basis, sit up in the ‘Gods’, namely the wide window-shelves at the very back! The stage itself was provided by a local contractor who brought in sufficient trestles and large pieces of wooden marquee flooring to stretch across the complete width of one end of the ‘theatre’. A performance over, the men-folk soon transformed both rooms into two ‘restaurants’ by removing the benches and bringing in the requisite number of folding card-tables from the hall outside. In this way about half of the company could stay on for the supper that their more expensive admission tickets had promised!

However, although the 1948 School Concert was planned to be plain and simply a concert, the teachers and helpful parents who fashioned it would certainly not have agreed that it was either a ‘plain’ or ‘simple’ affair in its preparation or in its implementation. To them, and latterly to all who had the privilege of watching ‘the bairns struttin their stuff on the boards’, it was seen as a complex, ambitious and utterly monumental undertaking! And so it was! Indeed, much to the delight of all, the occasion was honoured by the presence of the then Director of Education, Mr William J. Goldie and his Convener of the County Education Committee.

The costumes were all home-made from yards of various cloths, reams of crepe-paper and piles of folded, glued and painted bits of card-board. Rehearsing each class and some individuals for their moments of glory went on diligently for weeks beforehand, and, as the piano accompanist for all musical items, my mother had never, ever had less time for normal housework than then. My father was, as ever, in over-all charge, albeit more crotchety than usual, but organising, directing, producing, stage-managing, fussing, and wheedling all in sundry – but only really ‘losing his cool’ once when the ‘stars’ of ‘I’ve a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza’, constantly failed to live up to his expectations during rehearsal, …. then being ‘all right on the night’ and doing him proud as they ‘brought the house down’ with their antics!

I was, together with most of my class-mates, stuck with taking part in an item comprising some very uninspiring group renditions of poems. But worse still, the necessary after-school elocution lessons beforehand lost me too many day-light hours for my liking away from my normal sporting ploys!

However, apart from the duo and their actions with the bucket - that did not have a hole in it, or any water, until the actual performance – the star turns of the evening were undoubtedly the ballet-dancing girl ‘Gavottistes’ and the ‘wooden’ laddies who had to be just as jerkily mechanical as the word wooden suggests during their marching and about-turning etc. in ‘The Parade of the Toy Soldiers’. (Poppa-pompompom, poppa-pompompom, poppa-pompom-pompom, ratta-tatta-taa etc.)

Although the choreography for the Gavotte was demanding, the girls, of course, not only looked splendid in their white dresses, but also danced ‘divinely’ (as one doting mother opined, but was possibly biased as her Jenny had a leading part!)

The Toy Soldiers were always going to ‘take a trick’, no, not for their great synchronisation (which it wasn’t), no, not for their keeping straight faces (which they couldn’t), and again no, not for their smart uniforms, (which were unforgettably and hilariously spoiled by their incongruous ‘welly boots’ that consistently failed to make enough noise on the boards when they were thumped down as they ‘marked time’ or ‘came to attention’) but yes, without a shadow of a doubt, for their unwitting mistakes that made the audience believe that part of their act involved appearing at times to be ‘an awkward squad’!

A great time was had by all and a lot of money was raised too!


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