Saturday, June 07, 2008
A sad anniversary
The other day I came across something in my dressing-up box - now seldom used - which started me on a rich vein of nostalgia. What I found was a bag containing 10 small white aprons, of a kind worn by waitresses of a bygone age.
Twenty years ago this summer my village lost its secondary school. The Local Education Authority was pursuing a policy of closing secondary schools situated in villages and sending pupils to the neighbouring towns. Two other village communities in this area had already lost their secondary schools and we were next on the list. My youngest son had attended the school for 7 years, but had left before it was threatened with closure. During his years there it had been MY school too, and for a further three years before it closed.
I had joined the Parent Teacher Association early on, then been a PTA nominee for the first parent governor the school had had, and had ended up as Chairman of a Governing Body fighting for the school's survival. But however hard we campaigned, the governors had also to take the responsibilty of preparing for the future, if and when the school should finally close.
This meant that while campaigning, I also had to work with the Chair of Governors of the other school, with which it was proposed we should amalgamate, and with the help of the area Education Officer appoint a headteacher, and interview the staff of both schools who were now in competition for their own jobs. Fortunately she and I understood each other well, and working creatively with her towards a new school offered some relief to the despair of trying to save the old. It was however a very stressful and schizophrenic time. I am happy to say that the amalgamation when it took place resulted in a very successful school, which is not always the case with amalgamations. But I still mourn for our own school, and the loss of those school places is still acutely felt in young families in the village and further afield, as populations grow, and every year there is a shortage of places in the nearest schools.
However, this is far away from aprons, if you remember where I started. During my time on the PTA I assisted with many PTA dances and other functions, and looking back I am a bit surprised to realise how often I exercised my artistic capacities rather than my literary ones, which come more easily to me. I made decorations for the Christmas dance on two occasions, and for a Victorian Music Hall. But on the night of the aprons we were putting on a meal for parents in the main hall, accompanied by a variety show by a local group of players. We decorated the tables with artificial carnation buttonholes, made from crepe paper and doyleys, and we enlisted the help of senior girls to serve at the tables. We asked them to wear black skirts and white tops, and I was able to make aprons for them out of old pillowcases and sheets which I had inherited, many of which had embroidery or fancy edgings, as you can see from the photographs. For caps we made cutouts on yellow card (the school colour) threaded with black ribbon, and the headteacher, in his beautiful handwriting, lettered the name of the school on each of them. I remember that the girls really looked cute - (just as my teddybear does wearing one now!).