Thursday, February 14, 2008

ECSOGA

I am an old girl. Specifically a dues-paying member of the Enfield County School Old Girls’ Association. I recently received the latest edition of the newsletter with the un-welcome, if not entirely unexpected, news that the association is likely to fold up its tents in 2009. As is often the case with organizations run by volunteers, too few valiant leaders have been struggling to steer the organizations, too few old girls are interested. One of the joint chairs, Harriett Nailon, stated it eloquently: “the structure, ethos, organisation and activities of ECSOGA are not attractive to those aged under 55.”

As a member (significantly) over the age of 55, I shall be sad. I’ll still have memories, fading slightly every year, but there will no longer be a structure for keeping track of some of my fellow pupils. In actuality, not many of my contemporaries have made their present circumstances know to the association as it presently exists. That is one of the reasons why I was so happy to spend time with my friend Ruth on my visit to England this Christmas. We patched together some of the old days from our joint—and sometimes differing–memories. To further quote Harriett as she defined our era:

Memories of Houses, a spirit of (sometimes fierce) competitiveness, the annual Carol Service in St. Andrew’s church, echoes of World War II and the Cold War, impassioned debates about CND, listening to Radio Luxembourg, hitch-hiking, the terror of unmarried motherhood, how difficult it was for some of us to keep our stocking seams straight, the motto—ONWARD EVER— so (frankly) Victorian and confident, our taste for formality and decorum learned at a school where hats or berets were compulsory for two terms of the year, where some pupils (not students) chose to wear white gloves with their blazers in summer, where rules included walking along corridors in single file and silence, where pupils stood up when a mistress entered the room, where each and every day started with the whole school assembling for prayers, a hymn and a reading of a religious (generally Biblical) , philosophical or moral nature and where Jerusalem and The National Anthem were known by heart and proudly sung at regular intervals.
I have picked up a few English readers of a certain age, and all of this will sound—perhaps annoyingly—familiar to them. It evokes memories for me, some of which I must capture before they fade into the dim mist of forgetfulness.


Here’s a photo of the school prefects of 1957-58. That’s me scowling second from the right, second row from the bottom. We were members of VI B Arts or Science (junior prefects?) and VI A Arts or Science (senior prefects?) By the time we reached the Sixth form, gym slips had given way to skirts and blouses, and one student (Anne Robbins, what became of you?) is wearing the “school dress”, which wasn’t too popular as it couldn’t be washed. Notice our ties and our prefects’ badges and the white ankle socks I mentioned in the last post. The white sashes worn by some are the coveted “white girdles” awarded each term to the students who had shown exemplary conduct, outstanding neatness of dress and, I suppose, obnoxious brown-nosing. I was awarded one at some point, but obviously not at the time of this photo.

That’s Ruth, sitting one place removed from me, and next to her are the two magnificent women who ran the school. Next to Ruth is the Deputy Head, Miss F. Sharp, who was a strong disciplinarian and my outstanding and beloved Latin and Greek teacher. She knew her stuff! To her right is Miss M. C. Sharp (no relation), the Headmistress for all my time at the school.

If my grandchildren read this, I suspect they will laugh their heads off. But I want to preserve for them my memories of another time and another place. Onward Ever!

5 comments:

the mother of this lot said...

What I want to know is...who was the most popular girl in the class?

Beryl Ament said...

That's easy: Sue Page, who was Head Girl at the time of this photo and is sitting to the right of Miss M.C. Sharp. She was an all around "good sort" and she returned to teach French after her marriage. When I broke my ankle at a school play rehearsal (and that's a post for another day) she got her dad to drive me to and from the Emergency Room. Theirs was one of the few families who owned a car back then.

the mother of this lot said...

Oh, I was hoping it was going to be you!

Maggie May said...

Brought back memories of earlier days! Morning assemblies, blazers, panama hats! (in summer) One of the quotes we had to recite each morning was, "A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things, is a very great thing!
Another was, "Great is the art of beginning. but greater the art of finishing" Oh, don't start me off!

melissabrown87 said...

I recently graduated from university, before which I went to Enfield County School.

I did not join the Old Girls' Association after leaving, partly because no one I knew within a fifty year age range of me had joined, and partly because I wasn't (as far as I can remember) encouraged to do so. Discovering the news that the Association has ceased to be, however, was extremely saddening, as I thought it was an excellent way to keep in touch with old classmates and do charitable works. I suppose I always imagined that I would join one day, but I guess it was not to be.

I loved reading about your school experiences and imagining how the school had changed between your time and mine. Your headmistress and deputy look very formidable - my own headmistress, Miss Byard, had something of that in her, and she made an excellent and very fair headmistress.

I'm glad to hear you're still in touch with some of your old friends, despite the loss of the Association!