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When the Great War came to an end in 1918. somehow the promise of "a Iand fit for heroes" failed to materialise. Unemployment was high and there was wide-spread poverty.
Here in Prestonpans. where mining was the main industry, men were working only two or three days a week. which did not make for a very high standard of living. So. for most of us born in the nineteen twenties, there were no holidays abroad or designer jeans and trainers! However, childhood should be a carefree time and I do believe it was then. much more than it is today.
School consisted of two buildings which later became known as the "Grey" School and the "Red" School The former has since been demolished and now we have "Grey School Corner", a very apt name for a housing complex, while the Red School is a Youth Club. This was where we were to spend, what our parents insisted were, "The Happiest Days of our Lives", though we did not believe it then. About 1932. Miss Hogan. the elderly (or so we thought) infant headmistress. was to cut the first sod for what was to become. "The White School", but that was much later and it is still in use today.
At weekends we could go to the local Picture House, known affectionately as the "Scratcher" - for obvious reasons. The cock crowing at the beginning of the "Pathe News" nearly took the tin roof off. the sound was so loud! The cheap seats were pIanks at the front and at the back were the "chummy" scats, which could be booked in advance. Forms down the sides on top of the hot pipes were used when there was a "guid picter" on and consequently a big demand for scats. At the Saturday matinees there was a great deal of stamping and whistling, resulting in the offenders being "pit oot" sometimes by the management - the man with the torch. Joking apart, many happy hours were spent in the "Scratcher". Nowadays one could say we were "easy pleased".
On reflection, our wants were simple, no doubt dictated by the household budget. The beach provided a playground and we had the sea for paddling. Two very brave young ladies. Mary Arnott and Nennie Brown, formed "The Prestonpans Swimming Club" and taught us to swim.
The Port Seton Pond was opened in the early nineteen thirties and our joy was complete! The summers were spent there, especially if one were lucky enough to have a bike and half-a-crown for a season ticket. Half a crown was twelve and a half pence in today's money, but a considerable amount then. So the Pond was a very popular place, in spite of the fact that there was no heating and most of the time it was very cold. This did not seem to bother us - we must have been tough in those days! The Shows would come sometimes at the "Trades" holidays, so there was an added magical attraction. Life was pretty good during the summer holidays, but then there was still school for the rest of the year.
Opened in 1924. the Old Preston Lodge School was a beautiful red sandstone building, which sadly was to burn down in 1967. This was where we went for our Secondary education, as did pupils from as far afield as Ormiston and Humbie. Those from Tranent had to walk. so again we were so lucky. Rector Miller was a young, enthusiastic Honours Graduate, who was very proud of his relatively new school which meant that we were very well taught by an excellent staff.
On Fridays, we had the Guides and probably enough money to buy a bag of chips or some sweets in Tom McKinlay's on the way home. We became ambitious and abandoned the "Scratcher" in favour of the Edinburgh cinemas. Before 2pm on Saturdays, admission was half price and with a half fare on the train, a shilling (5p) covered the lot. We thought we were really living, which I suppose we were. watching the elegant Fred Astaire dance across the screen with the glamorous Ginger Rogers. Such bliss!
So life continued peacefully and, as I remember, happily, till, in 1938 came the infamous Munich crisis, which set young minds thinking of war. As senior pupils we spent hours at the Mary Murray (now the Community Centre) assembling gas masks. Much to the relief of the nation, war was averted and peace prevailed, but only for one year. In 1939. a second war started. Suddenly, we were adults.

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