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

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Fresher’s Week in 1957

It’s September 1957 and Alice has returned to Bedford College of Physical Education for the start of her third and final year.  As a Senior Student she has some responsibility for welcoming freshers and for acting as ‘grandmother’ to two new students, one of whom has arrived from Nigeria on a Commonwealth Teacher Training Bursary Scheme and is finding the British climate very cold.

All meals for students and staff were provided by the College and Alice expresses some disapproval with arrangements in the new dining room and kitchen which has been built on the site of the old gymnasium: a formal ‘high table’ (for the most senior tutors or important guests) has been introduced and Alice finds the food coming out of the kitchen is cold and there is not enough to eat.  No doubt these problems were short-lived as the College rushed to finish the building prior to the start of the term and domestic staff settled into new ways of working.  The new dining room made it possible for the whole College to dine together instead of being split over three separate dining rooms in Nos. 3, 21 and 37 Lansdowne Road.

Alice makes reference to clinic starting in the autumn term and that she has two schoolgirls as ‘patients’.  It was part of the curriculum for students to learn and practice school remedial exercises to alleviate or correct a range of conditions including asthma and poor posture. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Demonstrations and the long wait for exam results, 30 June 1957

This month Alice spends a lot of time writing to her parents despite being very busy with taking exams and preparing for and performing in multiple demonstrations. Alice is in good spirits as she is excited for the annual College Camp in July and subsequently returning home. In this letter, Alice has written only to her mother who is camping in Wiltshire and was unable to come to her gymnastics demonstration.
Alice talks of the gymnastics demonstration attended by her father and aunt saying she has left instructions for her father to explain the programme to her mother once she returns home. During the demonstrations (she participated in two) the temperature is reportedly over 80°F; gymnastics at that temperature must have been unbearable for them!

Pictured below is the Gymnastics programme from the Archive. It shows that shape and pattern are the pre-eminent factors for this year as with the three thematic approaches of body shape, rope work, and pushing and pulling with asymmetry and symmetry.

The swimming demonstration took place on 29 June and Alice believes the performance was one of the most successful in recent years. However, she admits a slight faux par on her part - during a pairs diving sequence she misjudged her footing and went crashing into the water – “with a rather large splash”. Although accidental she was fearful of what the staff may think but looking up she was pleased to see they had found the funny side of the mishap.

Demonstrations aside, Alice must wait for her Biology and English exam results, commenting that the Biology exam was extremely hard and so believes she will not get a distinction.
Alice closes her letter wondering what she could do for work over the summer, hoping to attend a friend’s birthday party on the way to camp, and asks her mother to send on a few camp essentials.

BPEA OSA 5/6 Programmme for Demonstration Day 1957