Patracat's Memories

This blog is my story. I have created it for posterity, as some of my early memories are of a way of life that many of my peers have forgotten, and the younger generations will never experience. I hope the reader enjoys it, and will be encouraged to write their own story. Once you have gone, your memories go with you and can never be recaptured unless you write them down.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Chapter 10: Secondary School, 1960 - 1963.

When we finished state/primary school, we had a choice of school to go to after that.  It would be either Caulfield Central or Brighton Technical school.  Caulfield Central covered Forms 1 and 2 (now known as Year 7 and 8) and from there the pupil would go to Caulfield High School.  These schools taught maths, science, English literature, history, etc. but little of the practical life skills.  So I chose to attend Brighton Tech. which taught the essentials of the previously mentioned subjects, but also cooking, needlecraft, dressmaking, millinery and horticulture, all of which I thought would be much more interesting and useful.   Brighton Technical school consisted of two schools side by side, one for boys and one for girls.  There were no mixed classes, and there was a high brick wall dividing the schools, with a single wire gate for teachers to pass through from one school to the other.  Some girls could be found there every day at recess and lunch times, making eyes at the boys on the other side, but they held no interest for me, having two older brothers.  I had enough of boys at home!

It is funny to look back on those days and remember how much I hated sewing of all kinds, but it must have had a positive effect in the long run, as not long after I started work, I decided to start making my own clothes.  I didn't take up embroidery and patchwork until I was in my thirties, but the memories of what I reluctantly learnt at school still remained in my head.  I never took up millinery though, that was  a complete waste  of time back then.

I loved learning to cook.  Even before I started tech school I would love spending time in the kitchen with Mum, watching what she did and helping her stir cake and biscuit mix (we didn't have mixmasters or blenders back then), and learning how to prepare roasts and other meals.  So by the time I started learning at school, I already had some experience.  Our very first lesson was to make Cinnamon Toast.  Everyone else was so excited, but I was bored!  Our teacher Mrs Browne also taught general domestic skills, and one day she taught us how to line a garbage bin with newspapers.  There were no plastic bag liners in the shops then.  I intently watched her demonstrate, and was pleased when she suddenly said "and now I want to see you do it Georgina!"  I lined the bin exactly as she had shown us, and she said later that she was surprised, because she didn't think I'd been paying any attention.  Quite the opposite in fact, and after that she went out of her way to be helpful if I needed help with something tricky like pastry making, which I hated, and still do.

Mum was alternately pleased and cross about all the things I was learning in the kitchen.  I started lining the garbage bin my way and she said no, it was wrong.  I told her we had to warm the oven for 10 minutes before putting a cake in to cook and she said no, that is a waste of gas.  But when she was ill or in hospital, I had the kitchen to myself and Dad and my brothers were a captive audience for my cooking skills!  They were quite happy for me to do it, and there was often something new and different that they had never tasted, but if Mum was around, she wasn't too happy about different things!

I hated arithmetic at primary school, and continued to struggle with it at first at tech school, because in addition to the ordinary arithmetic, we had algebra and geometry to contend with and I was at  a complete loss.  However, we had a wonderful maths teacher for my four years at the school, who was the most patient teacher I ever had in any subject.  I wasn't the only one who dreaded maths lessons, and she said to us all that she would have us loving it by the end of our first year.   We might not have loved it, but we all certainly had a better understanding of it under her guidance, and of course my father being an engineer, had no trouble with the algebra and geometry, so was able to help me with homework.  In my fourth and final year, after the final exams, Mrs B approached me and said sadly "I am so disappointed with you, I thought you would do better in that exam".  When I discovered my score was 94/100 I thought what on earth did she expect from me, and when I asked her, she said she was hoping I would get 100/100.  Well, that was being over optimistic in my opinion, but I was flattered to think she believed I was so clever.

English was one of my favourite subjects, possibly because I was and still am, a reader.  I never had trouble with spelling, punctuation, grammar or any of the tasks that our teacher set, and I loved writing essays, so I usually got top marks in English exams.

For third and fourth forms we had to decide which path to follow for our education, and one path offered to a limited few students was commercial art.  I had always loved sketching, painting, etc. and so I was encouraged to take on art for the last two years at tech school.  For the first time in the history of the school, there was a mixed class - 6 girls and 4 boys, if I remember rightly.  The other students were very talented in their chosen fields, some in lettering, architecture, painting, or cartoons, but I had no specific skills, and soon found myself on the outer of the group.  The teacher was a man from the boys' school and he didn't have much time for me after he saw that I wasn't particularly good at any kind of art form, so those two years were a complete and utter waste of time for me.  The girls in my form were envious when I went off to art classes 'with the boys' instead of dressmaking and advanced cooking, but I got to hate it.   The girls in the art class already had their careers in mind, and  except for one girl who was my best friend at school, the others looked down on me, and the boys didn't take any notice of me at all, not that I cared about that.  One of the boys became quite a famous artist, and I remember seeing his art on display at the outdoor Herald Art Show one year.
My best friend left after the first year of art because she was offered a job at a local shop as a ticket writer, which was what she wanted to do from the start.  She did that for a number of years until she married and left work.  My efforts came to nothing of course, and my first job was as an office junior, for which I had no training whatsoever.  But that is another story.


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