What a great day! I travelled to York to met up with a dear friend from our North Yorkshire days. She is warm, wise and humorous, a saint with style and sparkle, and I owe her a lot. We met at The Bar Convent (look it up if you ever want somewhere to stay in York, or just to eat.) We talked of this and that, and I asked her about her experiences working in child care in the 1950s and 60s.
In those days, when she was training with Dr Barnardo's, they were trying to break free from the huge institutions of the past. Children lived in a 'children's village' with a small group of children living in each house in the care of housemothers. Not the babies, though - they were all together in a baby unit, with rows of cots and prams. A shift started at six or seven, and you could be on duty until ten if the laundry wasn't finished.
She told me of one place where she worked which had two dormitories full of boys. This was a large house with a lot of children in it, and in the days of open hearth fires the matron was very keen on fire drills, which often took place during the night. The boys loved it, because it was the only time they got to use the fire escape. It was out of bounds at all other times. As soon as the alarm rang they would jump out of bed, open the fire door, run down the fire escape and assemble in the yard.
Unusually one day,there way a fire drill in the afternoon when the boys were all out in the yard to play. At once they swarmed back into the house and up to the dormitories, opened the fire door, ran down the fire escape and assembled in the yard.