The distress of poverty for the children at Floodgate Street School needed a constant response from charities and institutions. There were several clothing schemes, including a Birmingham Daily Mail sponsorship. Christmas time often encouraged charity as well. The Noel Society distributed presents to the children as well organising “games and singing” in the place of normal lessons. [S68/1/1 18.12.03]
With children often arriving at school unfed something also needed to be done about breakfast. One Birmingham Daily Mail journalist conducted a surprise visit in 1909 to one breakfast mealtime at Floodgate Street School, and reported in vivid detail what they saw:
“As each child hands the ticket to the teacher it is given two thick slices of bread, between which is a layer of jam and margarine. Then when the cup of cocoa, drawn in a bucket from a churn and placed into tin mugs – much worn by constant use – is distributed the recipients consume this food in whatever manner seems best to them. The Smaller toddlers seat themselves upon the form by the wall, and munch contentedly between sips. The more robust and
active swallow the liquid at a gulp and rush out, refreshed and yelling, into the playground to rejoin others who have shared in the repast. I was struck by the air of cleanliness and order which pervaded the room where the breakfasts were doled out…
… every crumb is preserved with great care. Many of the children have to make the food they receive in the morning last them through the day, and to that end they put one of the slices by to make a show of having something to eat at lunch-time.” [B’ham Daily mail 20.1.09]
Floodgate Street school logbook records that a donation of food from G. Hookham fed 165 children for breakfast [S68/2/1 22.1.1901]. This is presumably the electric company businessman of Chamberlain & Hookham, an early 20th Century Birmingham business.
Birmingham’s lesser-known chocolate maker Christian Kunzle (1879-1954) was born in Switzerland, and used to send children recovering from TB to his home for sick people in Davos to recuperate in the clean air. The factory used to be situated on Fiveways at the end of Broad Street. Floodgate Street logbook also recorded the generosity of a Mr Kunzle who sent the school “a huge parcel of chocolate” in 1933. [S68/3/1 1.6.1933] The children were each given a bag of chocolate when they left for the summer holidays.
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