Woodford House Old Girl
WH 1934-1937 and 1943-1946
I first attended the Woodford House kindergarten as a four year old from 1934-1937. The kindergarten was opened by Miss Holland, the headmistress, who had adopted a little girl called Margaret. When Margaret was four years old, Miss Holland thought she needed some children to play with, so their governess offered to start a kindergarten for about twelve to fifteen little boys and girls. The kindergarten was set up in one of the rooms in the old lodge, which was where Holland House is now. Unfortunately, the kindergarten only lasted a year as I think the governess found it too much looking after so many four year olds. My mother was asked if she’d be willing to let me continue coming to Woodford House and start school with Margaret, which I did for the next three years.
I returned to Woodford House during World War II, in 1943. Due to the shortage of domestic staff, we had to help out in the kitchen. We did the dishes, set the tables and peeled the potatoes, but we didn’t seem to mind missing school.
Most of the vegetables used were grown by the school gardeners and “land girls”. Land girls were employed to work at the school during the war. They did the farm work and looked after the grounds and gardens. The orchard provided a lot of fruit for the school and lots of it was preserved and made into jam. All the milk used at school was from the school’s own cows, and was unpasteurised.
We liked most of our teachers; none of them were married so they lived in the staff house (Morea). I can still remember a lot of the staff by name and some of them I kept in touch with after finishing school. By today’s standards, some of the teachers were very old fashioned in their ideas and enforced a strict dress code. I remember an incident in 1945, when a girl came back to school after the holidays with her hair permed. She was sent home in disgrace, until it had grown out and was cut off.
We always had to look clean and tidy. No dirty marks on your uniform or shoes and if any were seen, you had points taken off your house. We could only wear our own clothes after church on Sundays. We walked to church in Havelock North most Sunday mornings. We walked together in our houses; Rouncil, Tauroa, Frimley, and Wallingford and the mistress on duty would walk behind the whole group and give points for the best house. We went to Chapel every morning and evening after tea and before prep. We always spent Easter at school and sang “St Matthews Passion” by Bach every year in the Chapel. On Good Friday night, there was no talking after tea; we went to bed in silence.
You didn’t dare to misbehave; Rules were rules and if you broke them, you deserved the consequences. Punishment usually meant hard labour. All the brick paths around the school were weeded by hand so we had lots of practice doing that. We put on our blue overalls and were shown what part had to be done, with the prefect on duty keeping a watchful eye on us.
At the beginning of each term, table lists were put up in the hall and that was the table you sat at for the whole term. A mistress would sit at one end of the table and a prefect would sit at the other end, and you moved around one place each day. We had to eat everything we were given. The table just inside the door was the French table, and only French was to be spoken there! When it was my turn to sit next to the mistress who came from France, not much talking went on as I couldn’t understand what she was saying. Deportment marks were taken off if you didn’t sit up straight at all times. Also, we were never allowed to go up the stairs or steps two at a time.
We were lucky enough to have had the pool to swim in but there was no filter to keep the water clean so it had to be emptied every week or so, and by that stage, it had gone green already and you couldn’t see the bottom. Every year we were all taken to Clifton beach and we were transported by bus for a picnic. The girls who had learned “lifesaving” were allowed to venture out further in the sea, and form a line to stop anyone getting into deep water.
At the beginning of every term, we had “weighing and measuring” day. The games mistress would see how tall we’d grown and how much weight we’d gained. If you weren’t fit enough for games you could be “excused” and you went to the medicine room after breakfast and you’d go for a walk instead.
We enjoyed ballroom dancing classes every Saturday evening in the winter term and one girl, who was very good on the piano, used to play for us all the latest tunes; quicksteps, foxtrot’s and waltzes were in during that time.
We were well looked after and well fed. The school guidelines today were similar to ours. Be honest, hard-working, polite, thoughtful and caring. Take pride in yourself and what you do and treat others as you’d like to be treated.
In 2019, Woodford House will celebrate its 125th anniversary as a leading school for girls. In the lead up to this significant milestone, we are sharing 125 Moments or Memories about Woodford House from a range of perspectives including Old Girls, Parents, Current Students, Staff and Board Members. We invite you to share your special moment here