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Doreen Challinor

Sadly now passed away, these recollections of someone who came to the village in 1942, vividly recall life as a school cook. Homemade food for the school children sounds much more appetising than that presented nowadays!

Mrs. Doreen Challinor

Contributed by Ron Lucas

At 32 years old Doreen Challinor began her 33 years working in the kitchen of Norton in Hales Primary School where she prepared the school meals for generations of children. Even now, in her 87th year, her memory is as sharp as ever as she recalls those she worked with some 55 years ago. Mrs Lovatt (mother of John Lovatt), Miss Mahaleth Hamlet (“Mala” who was also the school cleaner), Mrs Mary Broadhurst, and Mrs Joan Horton “who took over the school cleaning before coming to work with me; we were together for 17 years with never a cross word and she is still a good friend to me and comes to see me most weeks”.

“Maddocks brought fruit and vegetables; Gollins brought groceries and Reg. Martin, the butcher in The Square at Woore provided the meat, his assistant Harold Mountford delivering it and taking back the next order”. “I had to order everything, I did the menu sheets which I had to send to the Shirehall, Shrewsbury and all cooks had to go there for meetings – very boring!” Doreen added. “I still keep in touch with three cooks but sadly all the rest have passed on”. Doreen’s face lights up as she recalls those bygone days. “When I first worked there the dinner time meal was served by an assistant and me in the classroom, the children queued up at a long table, then while they ate their first course we took bowls, etc., back to the kitchen and we brought out the puddings. The children put their dirty plates on one end of the table and took a clean dish for their pudding. In all the years I worked there I always made my sponge cakes, pies, scones, etc., by hand and there were never any ‘leftovers’. Of course I made custard and other flavour sauces to go with the puddings; one favourite was pink custard which was just cornflour with a few drops of cochineal and raspberry essence added to it.

“All vegetables had to be peeled by hand, and even in later years when a potato cleaner was bought everything had to be gone over again to be sure they were OK. I had to mix dried milk to make the sauces. As the kitchen improved”, recalls Doreen, “the classroom door was turned into a ‘stable door’ the bottom part being fastened up securely and a large serving counter being built inside the kitchen, so at dinner time the ‘stable door’ was opened and the children came up to get their food”.

“Reg Martin’s meat and sausages could never be faulted” said Doreen, “they were always tender and of excellent quality; the children loved it and everything that went with it. There was never any junk food served while I worked there and I loved my job but it was very hard work both mentally and physically”.

Later on Doreen explained that to give more room in the kitchen a section of the Junior’s Cloakroom was taken and shelves erected for saucepans, etc., and a duckboard placed on the floor to stand the sacks of potatoes on. Next to the serving hatch was placed a large double crockery warmer which was a real asset. As time went on the food was put into separate containers, mashed potatoes in one and roast in another, vegetables, meat and the gravy and mints sauce in jugs which were put into trays for the children to take to eat at their desks. The same thing happened with their puddings. Doreen said there was always a mass of washing up to do and everything was sterilized ready for next day. “In the early days of my work I had to scrub the wooden floors each day before I went home. I did have a sponge kneeler but it was hard on my knees and you can imagine how I felt when a new floor was laid that only wanted mopping!” Doreen used to cycle to work each day “Oh and there were always teacloths and seersucker table cloths to wash daily as well” she said.

Doreen was born in Newcastle under Lyme in October 1920, the daughter of Frances Henry Cartwright and Florrie Cartwright. She went to school in Newcastle but left at 14 to work at Spode Copeland Pottery as a decorator. She met her future husband John Challinor and they were married in 1941 at St Mary’s Church, Knutton. John and Doreen moved to their cottage in the parish on 22 June 1942 paying the princely rent of five shillings a week. Doreen has two children Brian and Carol, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Her husband died in August 1989, aged 69 but she is still in the cottage they renovated together 65 years later.

Doreen is a noted diarist having written a daily diary most of her life, a writer of poetry and one who is an avid reader of thrillers and horror stories. She also loves horror movies which she now watches on DVDs. It was a privilege to interview Doreen, to talk with her about her early life and to receive her philosophy of living as we parted “I try to think positively and I have no desire to dwell on illness. I have tried to lead a good life and be kind – what you sow, so do you reap”.

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