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LIfe in Boarding School in the 1950s-- clothes

In those days, Chinchilla did not have a High School. So to get my secondary education, I had to travel. Mum chose to send me to her old school, Girls Grammar School in Ipswich, almost a full day's journey away by train. Travelling meant black stockings [and suspender belts] broad-brimmed hats, [navy felt in winter, white straw in summer], and gloves [black in winter, white in summer. I remember that before I caught the train to attend Max's wedding in Toowoomba, I had my hair 'done' in Ipswich. Then in the train, my hat would not fit on top of the 'do', and perched on top of my head, ready to take off in the wind!


I wore navy box-pleated tunics, cotton in summer, heavy woollen serge in winter. I had several cotton tunics, and as they got dirty, we were allowed to put them in the weekly wash along with our undies [ghastly navy bloomers for sports days, with cotton ones for everyday]. I had 2 winter tunics, a good one for travelling, and church on Sundays, and one that I wore everyday during the winter. It got grubby and stained, and the pleats at the back lost their sharp creases because I sat on them so much. But I just sponged out the worse of the spots, and took it home at the end of term for Mum to get it dry-cleaned.


Under the tunics I wore white blouses. In summer they had short sleeves, but in winter I wore long-sleeved ones. And with those I had to wear a tie. The school uniform tie had diagonal stripes in shades of dark blue and grey. So then I learnt to tie my own tie. But I usually only tied the tie once or twice a year. During the winter I tended to just loosen the tie around my neck, pull the loop over my head, and hung it on the rail at the end of the bed. Then it was ready to just slip over my head the next morning.


In the winter I also had to wear a 'blazer', a short jacket of navy serge, with the edges piped in pale blue ribbons, and the top pocket proudly bearing a replica of the school crest. When I joined the tennis team [to my shock!] I had a white tennis dress, also with the pocket embroidered in the same way. In my final year, when I was made a prefect, then the blazer pocket had extra embroidery to say that.


As a boarder, I was allowed to shed the black stockings while within the school grounds. Then I could replace them with white ankle socks. But not go anywhere outside the school grounds with them on...... Also as a boarder, I was expected/allowed to shed the navy tunic in the evening. In summer, I had a collection of 'tea- dresses', cotton dresses, usually with loose mid-thigh length skirts, necklines that were distinctly 'modest', and also sleeves. I was supposed to wear stockings, and some of the resident staff would stand at the bottom of the stairs to watch me coming down, checking for stocking-tops and suspender belts. Anyone caught out would have to go back to the dormitory to put them on. During my time as a boarder, we were finally able to move to nylon stockings, and leave behind the detested thick cotton lisle ones.


In winter, there was only one 'dinner' dress, always navy, of some heavier material. With it I wore white collar and cuffs, which were detachable so they could be regularly washed. But detaching them meant that they had to be sewn on again, not a task any of us enjoyed. So I like most of my friends, usually just left on the long-sleeved shirt I had worn all day, with its own white collar and cuffs on display. Of course, if one of the staff was feeling particularly cross or officious, then I might have to come to the meal the next night with the detachable cuff sewn firmly in place.


Going to church in summer meant getting dressed in a white dress, also with a loose-fitting skirt, demure neckline and sleeves. I also wore stockings, nylon for preference, my white straw hat and white gloves. In winter it was my 'good' tunic, black stockings, long-sleeved white shirt and tie, navy hat and gloves. A member of the staff always checked us over before we left, and no-one got away with lack of gloves. Sometimes one of the more-daring of the girls would try to get past wearing lipstick of eyebrow pencil. Only rarely did they succeed. We walked back from church in time to shed these outfits, and change back into everyday tunics and white socks, before lunch.


There was a roster among the teaching staff to supervise the boarding school. Several 'lived-in' most of the term, and had their own bedrooms; a couple of the local women might help out in emergencies, and I don't remember where they slept. Perhaps in one of the resident's rooms, if she was away, or even in the sick-bay. It was usually empty. But there was always at least one member of staff on hand every day and every evening. And the Headmistress was almost always in residence, in her bedroom in the front tower.


The building was securely locked up at night. And the head often prowled during the night, checking on who was making the long cold trek to the toilets. And occasionally she would find an unlocked door that should have been secure. At least once during my years, she found an outside door open. Then she investigated the dormitories, found one where all the beds were empty, and sat down on the steps near the door to wait for the wanderers. I don't know what happened when they eventually returned, we never saw them again, at meals or in the classroom. But before the day was out, they and their clothes had 'left the premises'. Also the younger sister of one of them disappeared as well. I always felt it was dreadfully unfair on the younger sister.





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