Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The last term begins: Summer 1958

It is now the beginning of May, 1958 and Alice sounds as though she is in good spirits following the Easter break and has returned to college safe, well and prepared to be run off her feet. She tells her family of her relief that she completed her thesis during the holiday as she is already swamped with essays and performance assignments.

The summer timetable is just as full as usual: classes begin at 08:45 each morning (including Saturday) and in the week they continue until 17:45 - with a few strategic breaks. In addition to the usual schedule there are a host of extra activities and visits coming up which Alice is looking forward to. Amongst those coming to visit the college is tennis celebrity Dan Maskell who is going to be running a coaching session for the students. In the annual Students' Association Report, produced at the end of the year, this event is described as  'The highlight of the tennis season'.

As the term draws to a close the students are preparing a number of 'Dems' (Demonstrations for family and visitors) and Alice hopes that Roy can be accommodated by the Bicycle Shop man providing Bed & Breakfast so that he can stay and make the most of seeing the range of creative arts and sport that the college students are involved in, from swimming to dance and gymnastics. The annual College photograph has also been taken in preparation for the end of the academic year.

Alice also gives an update on her health which suggests she may have been poorly during the holidays as she still has 'lumps behind [her] ears' and is waiting for spots to now appear; she realises that it could be worse though as four others from her year have not yet returned due to suffering German Measles (there was no vaccine for this until the 1960s).

The weather has been warm and sunny, but Alice still has much work to do and is making the most of her free time on Saturday to start writing another essay. 

Dan Maskell's visit was a hilight for all the tennis enthusiasts

3rd Year timetable: Summer 1958

The bicycle shop: essential supplies for the staff and students

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Coming to the end: getting a job, final exams, and a glimpse of student life in halls

Alice is only a few months away from finishing her Certificate of Teaching, however she has been very busy and pressured with work and her ongoing course demands.

In a letter to her mother dated 30th March 1958, Alice mentions how she was given a complimentary ticket to go with another student to watch the St. Albans Grammar School Dance Demonstration on Friday 28th, a programme featuring mainly National Dances It was a really excellent experience for her, although it was a long day as she had a school visit at Wellingborough High School in the morning, followed by an inter-year games tournament in the afternoon and late leave at night.

Then, the very next day, Saturday 29th March, she watched The Lark written by the French playwright Jean Anouilh and performed by the Bedford College of Physical Education Dramatic Society, which took place in the college gymnasium. Alice tells her mother what an excellent play it was and how superbly it was acted. She speaks with respect and admiration about her fellow student Eileen who played Joan of Arc in the play and how the whole thing was exceptionally good because of her.

With Alice writing this letter to her mother in the evening, mentioning that she will be on duty tonight, we get the opportunity to find out about student life living in halls, or Houses as they were called then. Students had a rota for their house duties. One student was on duty each week from Friday until Thursday throughout the term. The student had to lock up at 11pm during the week and at 9:30pm on Sundays. Then she had to check that all students were in their rooms. If a student was not in the house, the student had to report it to the lecturer on duty. Finally, she had to make sure that public rooms were tidy and lights were off.

The rules do not stop there. If a student wanted to leave the College grounds in the evening, then she had to sign the leave house book. There were two of these, one for evening leave and another one for after 11pm or weekends. When a student had leave during half term or weekends then she had to provide information such as name, address and telephone number of her hostess to the member of staff in her house.

Returning to the letter, Alice explained to her mother that mock final exams were to take place at the beginning of April, only a few days away, although nobody had started revising yet, and she reckoned it would not be until the morning before the afternoon of the exam. 
This letter to her mother gets really exciting when we find out that Alice’s efforts in looking for a job during the last two months have paid off. Alice has found a job as a PE teacher at Heriots Wood Grammar School for Girls, now known as Bentley Wood High School, in Harrow, north-west London.

Alice closes the letter to her mother on a positive note, mentioning how mild the temperature has been lately after a very snowy February and a cold March.

St. Albans Grammar School for Girls Festival of Dance Programme, March 1958

Programme for 'The Lark', March 1958

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