Thursday, 1 February 2018

February 1958: a busy start to the month

The beginning of February 1958 is a busy time for Alice.  First and foremost, she is still preoccupied with finding employment after she finishes her 3-year course in July and is constantly looking out for suitable PE teaching posts for which she can apply.  The Principal of Bedford College of Physical Education, Eileen Alexander (referred to in Alice’s letter as ‘Alex’), receives direct notification of vacancies from schools a few days before the posts are advertised in The Times Educational Supplement.  Alice is excited to see details of a vacancy at Apsley Grammar School in Hemel Hempstead and decides to withdraw her application to St. Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls, London in favour of making an application to Apsley.

Secondly, Alice is about to start a block teaching practice at the Notre Dame High School in Northampton.  She will be out of the College for just over two weeks and has several tasks to complete before she goes.  These include a practical pathology examination, a group dance to perform for which she is the choreographer, delivering a talk on the ‘outward bound’ course she attended in Snowden in December, and participating in a gymnastics demonstration using wall bars in the College gymnasium.

Bedford Physical Training College students on wall bars in the gynasium.  Note the fireplace in the corner! c.1927-1930

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Job Hunting, Bad Knees and the Bolshoi - January 1958

Alice is now back after the Christmas break and is looking to the finish of her teacher training and finding a teaching post; from her letter home it looks like she is in need of further information to put on application forms. 

There are a number of positions coming up and it appear to be middle class schools that the students are applying for and certainly Alice seems to be very disapproving of any school that does not meet her criteria.

Alice talks about the weather as there was a lot of snow in 1958.  The monthly weather report of the meteorological office, Volume 75 Number 1 for January 1958 reports that 23 inches of snow had fallen on 24th & 25th January in East Anglia.

Alice is now playing the organ for Junior Church and seems to be enjoying that. She has been to see the Bolshoi Ballet in Bedford and has then had to walk back to college. She is having problems with her knees which is preventing her taking part in her practical work, after the walk her knees have blown up like footballs and she will be having infra-red treatment on them the following day.

She is looking forward to meeting up with her parents at a match on the 8th February and showing them some photos from her outward bound course in Snowdon last month.  She is a bit concerned about the match as it looks like it will be weather and team permitting as Watford have had a habit of cancelling games. 

9c  Three Pose in Snow

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Leaving Bedford in a hurry - December 1957

It is now mid-December and Alice's commitments mean she barely has time to write a last letter from Bedford before heading off on her activity course which she has been preparing for.

She expresses her relief at completing a Pathology examination paper but has no time to relax as there is packing to be done in readiness for the Christmas holiday break and, more urgently, for the trip to Wales which is tomorrow:

Despite suffering from a heavy cold Alice continues with all her activities right up to the last minute. She has been selected to attend the equivalent of a modern day 'outward bound' course, run by The Central Council of Physical Recreation, an organisation created through the endeavours of the college's own Phyllis Colson.
Although the course is not a requirement for her studies it is one of the many extra-curricular activities that the ladies are encouraged to take part in as part of gaining a well-rounded education. Alice has had a long day getting there but is full of enthusiasm.

Once she has settled in Alice begins to write a small journal-type letter to her parents, filling them in on her new adventures in Snowdonia:

Extract from publication marking the achievements of Phyllis Colson upon her retirement in 1963, and featuring the CCPR Centre in Snowdonia.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Walking boots and parties, November 1957

Alice has been to St Albans on the bus and is pleased when she returns to the college to find it still standing bar a few roof tiles, due to the bad weather.  Alice has bought new walking boots and is oiling them and preparing to walk them in on the lacrosse or hockey pitches.  She is very pleased to have been selected as one of only two students from Bedford Physical Education College to go on a mountaineering course at Snowden, for which she will need the boots.  She has enclosed the receipt, which tells us that she bought the boots from Millets on Bedford High Street.  Following the war, Millets opened stores around the country, growing to 17 stores in 1957 when Alice bought her boots.  She paid 1 pound, 1 shilling and 9 pence for the boots, equivalent to £24.07 today.

Alice also excitedly recounts a 21st birthday party in her letter, where “great fun was had by all”. She says it lasted until 11.15pm and those who were due to be locking up college, forgot to do so until midnight.  This is referring to the House duty which students performed for a week at a time, locking up the house at a set time and making sure all students were in their rooms. This was part of the College Regulations governing students’ behaviour, which was very different to today’s expectations.  Alice mentions that they generally locked up at 10pm in 1957.  A copy of the House Notices from the Bedford Physical Education Archive dated 1961 shows that locking up had been moved to 11pm on weekdays at 9.30pm on Sundays.  It also gives strict guidance on leave and visitors.  However, Alice and her friends did not get into trouble on this occasion for locking up late and she seems to have enjoyed the 21st birthday much more than the many coffee parties at the college.  Alice refers to these as “rather a bore”!

An exciting opportunity and international visitors - October 1957

The disappointment with the food still continues for the ladies and from other letters this month, they appear to be resorting to eating food in their rooms between meals. Alice recounts an amusing incident with left over Staff food one meal time, but also believes the situation will now start to improve.

Alice is delighted to have been chosen to go on a mountaineering course in Snowden and much of her communication is starting to think about the details for this: consulting train maps; visiting Millets in the town centre to find out what boots they have; and planning what other equipment she is likely to need and how she can source this.  It is perhaps in great contrast to today’s society that Alice suggests she and her mother try and adapt an old mackintosh into an “anorak with enormous pockets for the course”; is considering wearing three pairs of socks in order for a cheaper pair of boots to do; and is looking at how she can keep costs down by borrowing a rucksack and oilskins.

As well as reporting on resounding wins against two Oxford Lacrosse teams, Alice also talks about a meeting with the touring U.S Women’s Lacrosse team. The build-up to this game was mentioned in other letters for this month so it would have been an important event for the College. Unfortunately, the college were beaten 3-5 but the clip Alice sends her parents from the local paper, the Bedfordshire Times & Standard, suggests they played well. Alice also makes reference to reporting in The Times and hearing it mentioned on the news, which emphasises the prestige this match would have held.

Bedfordshire Times & Standard, October 1957