We have heard from an Old Girl and her memories of PHS are so entertaining that it was decided to start up another section for memories. Hopefully more Old Girls will send in some recollections, if only a few lines.
Former students & parents
Sheilah Da Silva (nee) Cresswell 1953 – 1959
First let me say, I enjoyed my school days. I made lots of friends there that I still have to this day (2006). We used to meet up after school and at weekends, stayed overnight at each others houses, went to interschool dances together, went on hockey trips etc. I remember we used to go to a Christian fellowship meeting every Saturday morning at St Andrews Church, mainly to meet the boys. I also remember meeting afterwards in the coffee shop at Dingles on Royal Parade.
It occurs to me that I do not remember any bullying at school. We hear so much about it in schools these days. There were some girls who were not in any of the social groups, mainly because they did not play sports, or did not go to the interschool dances; but they were mainly the quite bright ones and were probably more solitary and quite happy.
I joined the school in the second term of the second year as my Father moved to be headmaster at Devonport High School for Boys and so we relocated to Plymouth from Newport. I remember he had to decide which school I should go to - PHS or DHS for girls? Since 3 other DHS masters had daughters at PHS, (Jane Nicholas, Frances Berry and Jean Tamblyn), that’s where I went. It would have been hard to integrate if I had not been a fairly out going character, but I also had the help of Wendy Hillier, daughter of the school secretary. Another girl Maureen Ferris joined late and Wendy took us both under her wing and showed us the ropes.
Maureen and I were both into athletics and were selected for the Devon athletics team that went to Durham in 1956, she was a hurdler and I was a runner. We met up regularly in later life, even tho I lived in Canada for 21 years from 1970.
Wendy, Maureen and I were pregnant with our first sons at the same time in 1972. Unfortunately Wendy was taken ill with meningitis and died when Corin was born in November. My son Alex was born in September and Maureen’s son Luke was born in December. Wendy was just 30 years old. Her mother Mrs Florence Hiller is still alive, aged 96, and still living in the same house where Wendy and I used to play as teenagers. I visit with her regularly when I go down to Plymouth for ‘Old Girls ‘ gatherings!
My memories are all one happy blur of athletics at the Brickfields, hockey at the Farleys playing fields, tennis, school plays (I was a roman soldier in Androcles and the Lion), school Girl Guides and Guide camps with Miss Cook who later went off to Canada, Cookery classes with Miss Holborn; and being afraid of the headmistress Miss Miller who was rather stern (she died this year (25/01/2006) aged 87).
You notice there was no mention of any school work!
My Father had great hopes of me being academic like him and going to Oxford or Cambridge - sorry Dad! Not for me! I went to Keele university and scraped through with a 3rd class degree in Maths and Physics, joined IBM UK Ltd and remained a lowly computer programmer my whole working career.
Now I am about to be 65 years old and, feeling much wiser, I realise that education does and should prepare you for life, not just for learning – as the school motto says. And in my case it did.
Doreen Susman Memories of Plymouth High School
I entered Form 1A as a 10- plus-year-old, among the first intake of purely “scholarship” girls in September 1945.
In those days I was known as Doreen Susman, one of very few Jewish children in the school (others included Sheila Hack, Margaret Goodman and Valerie Gordon), and one of my long-standing memories is of sitting (Jews and Roman Catholics together) for what seemed like hours in the cloakroom at the foot of the stairs that led up to the gym/assembly hall, waiting to hear the “amens’” that signalled that prayers were coming to an end. Then, when the final long “Ah-ah-ah-men” was heard, and before Miss Turner, the head mistress, began the announcements for the day, we had to march down the ranks of all the other girls to take our places at the end of our particular form . It was all very unnerving for a small 10-year-old, and it never stopped being rather difficult.
Equally troublesome – and in this case resented by me – was being sent out of class (by Miss Hartley, the music teacher?) in the run-up to Christmas when the weekly singing period was devoted not to the English folksongs and some Schubert lieder (although I am not sure that we knew we were singing Schubert), but rather to Christmas carols. How I longed to remain in the class, because I loved the tunes (and somehow managed to learn them and the words), but carols were not for the Jewish girls.
I also recall never grasping trigonometry because I was kept away from school for the Jewish religious festivals and all the early trig lessons, and a great deal of physics, too, were given on those days in our fourth year!
Can anyone still give an immediate answer to how much will one pay for dozen eggs cost if each egg costs tuppence three-farthings, or how many spaces there are between twenty posts, first placed in a straight line and then in a circle, or what is the cost of a gross of exercise books if one has to pay nine-pence for each one. This and similar basic maths was hammered into us every Friday morning in the mental arithmetic classes that were taught by whoever was our 1A form teacher (to my shame, I cannot recall her name).
Does anyone still remember having to number the pages of every exercise book, and of being refused a new one at the stationery cupboard in a cubby-hole off the main staircase if there were pages missing – for those were still the days of post-war austerity, almost rationing in fact.
I wonder what happened to the sailor-beware knickers that we had to make out of very boring blue and white checked gingham, complete with run-and-fell seams and self-made bias binding. Mine , I think, became a clothes-peg bag. And certainly few of us had any appetite for the good plain meals we learned to cook, although some basic rules still remain with me – twenty minutes to boil potatoes, for example.
Does Farley’s Field still exist ? That was where we played hockey in the winter and spring terms. It was a bus ride from school and how muddy that bus must have been after it had finished transporting us, for the field was invariably heavily water-logged; and oh the ignominy of not being included in the 22 girls chosen to play a proper game and of being sent instead to practise dribbling and shooting! The summer , with swimming in the pool on the Hoe, was far more enjoyable. Every week there were two gym periods, with Miss Garner – behind whose painfully erect gym-slip clad back we were very rude, I recall, only warming to her at the end of each term when she would arrange the gym for something called “Shipwreck”, in which one had to negotiate the gym and its equipment without once touching the floor (except certain designated “islands”).
Is there anyone reading this who can still struggle though a Latin text – we did Caesar and Virgil as set-books for “A” levels, with Miss Rhodes and Miss Gates, I think. In geography (Miss Rook), the maps were still largely coloured in pink, to show “our” colonies, though the pink was slipping off almost daily. Miss Godfrey(?) and Miss Saville taught us English (sometime during the 1980s, I went to visit Miss Saville in a nursing home in Exeter, where she died soon after; the visit was a very moving experience!); and there was the wonderful Miss Chivell – many years younger than the vast majority of the staff and a very different personality, too; rumour had it that she eventually left to get married! She taught us history and brought a refreshingly different character to our lessons. And in after school hours there was a literary and debating society, folk-dancing and girl guides – I only really warmed to the debating society and its strictly maintained protocols, though I tried the others, too.
Who still recalls the sliding floorboards outside the upper sixth form room that gave access to a concealed niche above the study of our awe-inspiring head-mistress. I still tremble with guilt when I remember how we stumbled on that dreadful secret when we were in the upper sixth form – but I don’t think we ever had enough nerve to use it to eavesdrop on what went on in that sanctum.
There is much, much more that I remember, mostly with a smile. There are also my fellow school-girls – the names that spring to mind today are Susan Carpenter, Gillian Tierney, Pat Barnes , Dorothy Bourne (who left when we were in the fourth form, I think), Margaret Allen and Margaret Cassidy, Camilla Blackman (a year ahead of me), her sister, whose name slips my mind – she was two or three years younger, the very impressive Margaret Hosking who was head-girl when my year were fourth-formers, I think, and her great friend -- Mary Palmer. And so many more whose names simply elude me
Anne Ceranski (nee Haynes)
I was a first former in Sept.46 and Miss Mitchell was my form-mistress----Form 1b. I remember Miss Chivell-- we all thought she was so glamorous with lipstick and nail polish! What about the up-roar when we got a man teacher? I forget his name or the subject he taught but I sure remember him! If I do remembeer correctly he was not allowed to teach the upper forms!!!! I lost contact with girls I was friendly with when I left the U.K. in '59 to move to the U.S. Before I sign off though I have to ask----does any-one remember Miss Davis(R.E.) and her ear-phone hair-do? What a sight that was ! Anne.
Memories of Mary Hulton (nee Gamblen) 1930-2007 Plymouth High School 1940-1948 by her sister Alice Clarke (nee Gamblen)
Since my sister was nine years older I cannot speak of anything much that happened in her early years except to say that, like many other PHS girls she went first to Hyde Park Primary School. She started at Plymouth High in 1940 just as the serious bombing of Plymouth was about to begin and, when evacuation was suggested, my parents agreed to send her away. One of my earliest memories is of seeing her wearing her school uniform, including navy school coat and velour hat, waiting to go. Unfortunately I was too small to understand why she did not come back that evening!
The school was initially evacuated to Fowey, where the girls were billeted in private houses and much therefore depended on the attitude of the families who received them. In Mary’s case there were difficulties and her life would had been very unhappy indeed if it had not been for the kindness which she received from a different host family who were accommodating another PHS girl, the daughter of our next door neighbours in Plymouth.
When my parents found out the circumstances they decided that they would prefer Mary to take her chance of bombing and so brought her back to Plymouth for the remainder of the war. The arrangements in Fowey were obviously not satisfactory for others as well because the evacuated part of the school moved to Newquay where it became effectively a boarding school, taking over the buildings of the Headlands Hotel.
Back in Plymouth, Mary returned to St Lawrence Road and to what, for the duration of the war, was known as the Emergency High School, with unevacuated girls from all three Grammar Schools joining together, with Miss Violet Turner as Headmistress, while the remaining buildings were used for other purposes. School life in wartime was inevitably difficult with shortages of books and paper, lessons interrupted for possible air raids (shelters opposite the bicycle sheds) and damage to the buildings making some rooms unusable. Instead of Home Economics lessons the girls all took their turn in helping with the British Restaurant established on the site.
That temporary building long outlasted the war and was used as the school dining hall. As the French say “nothing lasts like a temporary arrangement”.
One aspect of school life which has largely disappeared from memory is the fact that although Plymouth High belonged to the City of Plymouth, education there was not necessarily free. There was a means test and until 1944 parents were expected to contribute. I can remember one Saturday morning asking “Where’s Daddy?” and being told “He has gone to pay Mary’s school fees”. My mother’s account books suggest that they were paying £12 a year.
This doesn’t sound very much but by the standards of the period it was a significant item in the family budget.
In the summer of 1945, between VE Day and VJ Day, Mary took her School Certificate examinations. She got excellent results and was awarded the Corrie Prize (which did not become an A-Level award until GCE came in, in 1951). As a Sixth Former she took Higher School Certificate courses in English, History, Latin and French. Some years ago, talking about those years, her comment was how small the Sixth Form was. Apparently they all fitted comfortably into Room 4 (upstairs at the front over the porch) both Lower and Upper Sixth together. Mary also won two inter-school essay competitions. She won the Astor Essay Prize for an essay on Abraham Lincoln and a special competition commemorating the fourth centenary of the birth of Sir Francis Drake.
Those years were a period of great economic hardship for everyone, worse even than during the war, but there were still opportunities for enjoyment.
There were dancing classes with the boys from Plymouth College and Inter-School Debates. The Sixth Form also put on plays of which I can remember two “World without men” and a morality play which Miss Saville wrote. In this Mary played Justice and that meant that my father had to produce appropriate scales. He managed splendidly with a piece of wood, lengths of picture chain and two cocoa tin lids, all painted with gold paint!
Another feature of that time which I thoroughly enjoyed was the annual Christmas Bazaar. Until 1948 PHS supported a cot in the Children’s Ward at, I think, Greenbank Hospital. Funds for this were raised through the annual bazaar. The theory was that the girls would make the articles for sale but, as my mother rather tartly said when producing her annual batch of waist aprons, woollen gloves or whatever else materials were available for, when we were young we lacked the necessary skill and by the time we were old enough to be capable, we had no time. No doubt many other mothers felt the same. Being quite small I always looked forward to spending my allotted sum, usually two shillings, which I could usually squeeze out to three purchases and a visit to the bran tub. After 1948 and the coming of the National Health Service the Bazaars continued but the funds raised went to various other charities.
In the 1940s, of course, Sixth Form General Studies programmes were unknown but Miss Hulbert offered Cookery classes to those who wished. Mary did and whatever she made each week normally came home and we ate it for tea. One of the high spots, however, should have been making a Christmas cake. This turned out a complete disaster although it was nobody’s fault. Food shortages were severe and sugar and dried fruit had to be saved out of our rations for weeks to provide the necessary ingredients. The cake was duly baked and iced (properly with a forcing bag) and it looked wonderful.
Ground almonds were, of course unobtainable, so “marzipan” had been produced using soya and that proved ruinous. The soya had been in storage for too long and had gone bad. Not only was the “marzipan” inedible but the entire cake was so badly tainted it had to be thrown away. A much bigger disaster than a similar event would be today simply because special food was so rare.
JOAN SCHLIFFKE (nee Leonard)
Joan Leonard missed four years of early schooling due to serious health problems but caught up and sat a demanding entrance examination to gain a place at Plymouth High School at the age of 13 when she entered the Fourth Form. These are her memories.
During the war the windows of the school were laced with tape. We had gas mask drill ( a hilarious exercise exploited by us all, to the exasperation of the poor staff) Air raid drill was a welcome diversion from lessons; I do not think many of us had a conscious fear of being bombed; it was all a novelty.
Then the raids were real. My form was sitting School Certificate examinations which were repeatedly interrupted by mainly “nuisance” air raids. We would get up, picking up our gas masks and we would go to the shelter under the netball court. We promised that we would never discuss the exam paper in any way and we never did. Apart from playing games in the shelter, we had our knitting bags and we worked on squares for blankets. After the “all clear” we would go back to the exam room, pick up our pens and our wits. The loss in time was made up and we, apparently, as a form, had very good results that year.
School uniform was a forever grievance. We wore gym slips, white blouses, school ties and the hated black stockings with the crowning glory of velour hats in winter and panama hats in summer. Luckily, berets came in later but too late for my year.
Major sins were eating in the street when in uniform, talking in the corridors in school and graffiti, in fact, we were even made to polish our desks regularly.
Then came serious bombing and evacuation. PHS girls went to Fowey, then Newquay. I stayed in Plymouth with the residue of girls from Devonport High and Stoke Damerel all in the PHS building. In order to help the many homeless people a communal feeding centre was opened in the same building and lunches were served every day except Sundays. These were cooked by Miss Hulbert, the cookery mistress. Miss Turner served the meat and Miss Jones the vegetables. How Miss Hulbert managed to take her regular classes with the poor range of dull ingredients and do all the rest I cannot imagine. I was responsible for recruiting girls to help daily, including Saturdays. The queue of bombed out people sometimes reached the school gates.
Then the school itself was bombed- we arrived one morning to find the Hall burnt out and roofless; water pouring down the main staircase as a result of the firemen’s efforts to extinguish the fire. A number of rooms had no ceilings and no windows. Older pupils stayed to help clear up while younger ones were sent home.
When school resumed for everyone, assembly was held on the playground and I played the violin for the hymns. If it was wet we crammed into the chemistry lab. The school routine was always maintained.
I was given special permission from the police to cycle to the Treasury near St Andrew’s Church with the cash from the Communal Centre. I will never forget the smoking rubble and desolation and, above all the vile smell of the smouldering debris and burnt bodies.
On the wall of St Andrew’s Church one poignant notice “Resurgam” meaning “rise again” remained.. Both Plymouth and PHS did and to my great satisfaction and with a sense almost of awe I became a member of PHS staff myself
Rona Jacobs (nee Smith)
I was a pupil in l946 - 51 and read a letter from Anne Ceranki nee Haynes on the website. She was in my form - 1B - Miss MItchell when we started, and I would love to get in touch with her.
I left PHS in l951 and because I was too young to sit Matric, I left and went to Plymouth Technical College to learn shorthand, typing and book-keeping.( I now understand that this is now known as Plymouth University?!) My first job was with John L Cornish and Son (Auctioneers and Surveyors) whose offices were pulle down to make way for the new Civic Centre. I married in l954 and in l956 left Plymouth to come to live in Essex.
One of my outstanding memories of PHS is of a classmate, Winnie Shepherd, lending me her new frop handled bicycle to ride home at lunch time. My bicycle was much older and not quite so "Sporty". I often wonder where she is now. I also remember trudging all the way from Mount Gold to PHS in the snow of l946, only to find that the School was closed due to the weather. The snow was exceptionally deep, and It took me nearly 2 hours, and then I had to return again. The next morning, my Mother sent me off again, saying "Someone might be there, and if not, then you can always make your own way home." We were considered to be very tough in those days!
I also had a cousin - twice removed, who attended at the same time, her name was Wendy Bradford. I haven't seen or heard from her since I left school