Dr Williams' Laments to School Uniform.
The adventure began with a lengthy list of items required, some of them marked with the warning that certain items were to be purchased from Daniel Neal’s of London.
My Mother and I went up to London by train to visit the store, all very grand with very busy staff. Here I was to meet my first Foot X-ray, what an experience to see ones skeleton.
As you will all remember the uniform was very specific, and expensive.
My Mother, in her wisdom, decided that I should also have the Daniel Neil regulation school shoes. Such hideosities, for a young lady interested in fashion, they were a nightmare. Sturdy, brown leather indoor and outdoor shoes.
First day at DWS was an endless set of rules and regulations to remember, walk don’t run, walk on the left hand side, endless rules. All of this not helped by my hideous 'Mary Janes', with their shiny leather soles. They were potentially lethal, all those shiny floors, the worst were the stairs with that curious waxy covering, I slipped down the last few steps to the main corridor, it wasn’t good.
Further shoe trials were to follow; rather than games that afternoon we were sent on a walk up to Pen. Coming down the steps of the bridge was bad but much worse was to follow.
Do you remember the concrete steps and the steep corner? I do. My memories of trying and failing to ascend this steep incline will never leave me. Humiliation mixed with fear, there was a fellow victim of these darned shoes so I wasn’t alone. Due to the lack of traction of the footwear we were late, and the wrath of Miss Campbell was the resulting consequence.
I continued to wear the dangerous footwear with the addition of rubber soles, I still hated them with a passion and the following summer I dyed a pair of pointy toed, low bar shoes.
They just about scraped past inspection. Much better!
PS Lawrence Neal, son of the founder, was especially keen to help children grow healthy feet.
He died aged 101 in Aberystwyth 1895-1996.
They were all the rage! Long John Knickers were all the rage, much to the fury of the staff.
I well remember my wonderful Red and Orange knickers with just a sliver of lace on the edge. Of course, hidden from view so the underwear subversion continued until one day whilst ascending the stair to the dining room, the booming voice of redoubtable Sally-Anne stopped me in my tracks. “Christine, come here at once”
Outside the staff room door I was made to raise my skirt in order that she might verify what she thought she had seen. Yes, bright red nylon long johns, actually if I remember rightly her face wasn’t far from that shade at the time. She was livid! I was sent off to remove them and report back. ( Have no fear, I was still sporting my knicker ‘linings’.)
That wasn’t the end of the matter, I continued to sport my lurid underwear, along with half the school by then. All was well until a gym lesson. (Gym lesson? Ritual humiliation at the hands of Miss Campbell again). It was customary to wear thick navy knickers and sports shirt. Mostly we kept this pair of navy knickers in our locker for such occasions. This day I couldn’t find them, horror. I put on my games skirt and hoped for the best.
All was well until we were instructed to climb the wall bars and to hang down from the top gap. Hanging there, with my skirt obeying the laws of gravity, displaying my red knickers for all to see. Miss Campbell, always subtle in her humiliations, made me stay on the bars like that so that everyone could see and have a jolly good laugh at my discomfiture.
Do you know I have not been able to hang upside down for the rest of my life? Not that I have wanted to frankly, the trauma I sense would be too great.
Plain, one-piece and all one colour, that was the rule. Remarkably difficult to find if you didn’t want the very plain and totally non supportive cross back regulation number.
Browns of Chester was the place to go and they did manage to produce the stunning white
costume that I was to sport in Upper Fourths. It was remarkably expensive at the time, constructed with linings and interlinings and decent cup support.
Swimming lessons were always something of a trial for me, I hated water in my ears.
Let alone the changing shed with the multi coloured plastic strip doorway, were they for modesty or just for the sport of self strangulation?
It was actually a sunny day for the premiere of the costume; the lesson went quite well, until I clambered out of the poor at the board end. Laughter was emanating from watery mouths, fingers were being pointed; at me. The swimsuit had turned transparent. I didn’t need telling not to wear it at the pool again. Strictly for sunbathing.
The next costume was all black, but it did have a net insert right around the middle, it didn’t please Miss C but it did fulfil the criteria right?