Memories of Glyn, 1959-61

I started at Glyn in September 1959, a week before my 9th birthday. I wasn’t the youngest, there were at least three other girls in the “baby dormitory” who were younger than me.

The baby dormitory consisted of seven beds, seven tops (chest of drawers with mirror) and seven chairs, which were placed in front of the tops. We were allowed a few ornaments (Lady and The Tramp, in my case) and photos, and we each had a coloured plastic beaker for our toothbrush and toothpaste. It was in the baby dormitory that I learnt how to make hospital corners and an apple pie bed, and how Signal toothpaste (new to the market) made an acceptable food substitute. I also spent a lot of time trampolining on my bed and probably broke quite a lot of bedsprings.

I loved Glyn, although the early days were not easy. I remember crying under the bed covers so no one could hear me, clutching my teddy and my mother’s embroidered handkerchief, which was sprayed with her favourite Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass perfume.

But the homesickness did not last long and, looking back, the sun always shone when I was at Glyn. We dried our hair and cleaned our shoes outside in the garden, with those spectacular mountain views. Dressed in dungarees, we raced down to the bottom field by the stables, the moment lessons were over. We built dens with whatever bits of wood, slate or metal we could find. We dammed up streams and traded in mud pies, which we decorated with rhododendron flowers and daisies. Best of all, we dared each other to jump from the top of the crumbling wall of a derelict building we called “The Ballroom” into the nettles below!

There were also the fire drills. We loved the fire drills because they involved using a piece of equipment called the Davey. This involved putting a sling round your waist, scrambling out of a second floor dormitory window and dropping to the ground, being careful not to graze your knees on the wall. On reflection, this was all part of a strict regime to toughen us up. There was a walk to Church on Sundays of over a mile each way and there were the swimming lessons, which took place in a small concrete pool fed by a freezing cold mountain stream. I even won a prize for learning to swim in that pool.

Another fire-related memory that I have of Glyn was an attempt by a new girl, who we did think was a bit odd, to set fire to the building. She managed to remove a plank in the floor of one of the bathrooms and lit a small fire. Fortunately, it was detected early and crisis was averted. We never saw the girl again.

A much more common misdemeanour was talking after lights out and the punishment for that was being sent to sit in an empty classroom in the middle of the night, with the owls hooting and the wind howling through the trees. That was quite scary.

Strangely, I don’t remember much about the lessons at Glyn, except that some of them were BBC radio broadcasts, which we followed in workbooks. I do remember that where we sat in class depended on how well we did in the weekly test, with the people who did best sitting on the back row. I don’t think that would be acceptable today.

We also learnt gardening and we each had a plot in a walled garden near the swimming pool. However, a much more popular pastime was the game of jacks, which we played incessantly, sitting on the wooden floors with our dresses tucked into our navy knickers, picking up splinters in our fingers.

The food, cooked by Miss Picton, was great too, although I seem to remember a lot of spam fritters, which I didn’t like!

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