From Robert Hedges who visited the Island for his health and has never looked back! Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1959, as a seven year old severely asthmatic boy living in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, it was suggested to my parents that it would be beneficial for me, if I was sent to what was then called, an 'open air school'. I remember my Mum not wanting me to go but my Dad persuaded her that it would be the best thing for me.
When the day came that I was due to go away, my parents were only allowed to accompany me as far as Portsmouth. We were to be met at the station by a member of the school's staff. If my memory serves me correctly there were about four other boys. I can still visualize my Mum and Dad waving and waving as the paddle ferry pulled away from the quayside. My mum had tried to make out as if I was going on some great adventure, but I still cried and cried as they disappeared from view.
I remember getting on a train at Ryde and after what seemed like ages, we arrived at Ventnor. Each boy had his own little case to carry and I remember walking down a fairly steep hill to what was to be my new home - St Catherine's, Grove Road, Ventnor.
It seems quite severe looking back but my parents were not allowed to visit until I had been there for one month (this was the required time that the 'home' thought was needed for new boys to settle in). To a seven year old, that month seemed like a year.
St Catherine's was a school run by nuns, but most of our supervision was carried out by 'nurses' as we called them. On reflection, they were more like 'child minders'. The nuns used to patrol the dormitories at night and at first I found it quite scary as these black clad figures glided about at night.
Almost from day one my health improved dramatically and from being on numerous different tablets every day I ended up being drug free. From being a very frail little boy I quickly put on weight and became quite robust.
School was different, we had Wednesday afternoons off but had to go Saturday mornings instead. On the Wednesday afternoons we always had a trip out if it wasn't raining (which I can't believe it does very often in Ventnor. Ed.). Our main choices were 1: Castle Cove, 2: Top Park, 3: Devils Chimney & 4: The Downs. Castle Cove was every boy's favourite and we never got tired of going there.
I remember the whole school going to see 'Tammy' at the 'Rex' and, not so nice - visiting the dentist (in town somewhere).
When my six months were up I cried buckets as I didn't want to leave. The place was idyllic, from our dormitory windows we had such a panoramic view of the sea and the various big ships that used to sail by.
My memories of Ventnor have never left me and I have been back on numerous occasions. I envy the people that live there, and would love to get over more often.