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My 125 Moment – Jennie Oakley

Jennie Oakley

Woodford House Old Girl


WH 1951-1956

I will always acknowledge and be forever grateful for my six years (1951-1956) at Woodford House. It was here I learnt the skills and gained the confidence to face whatever life threw at me in the coming years.

On reflection, boarding in the 1950s was archaic. From the ringing of the bell at 6.30am every day other than on Sundays until our lights were turned off at night, our days were programmed to be in the classroom, on the sporting fields, or attending a Chapel service. There was some free time at the end of the school day before the evening meal and prep but sport every afternoon was compulsory and needed to be done in this time too. Nor did lessons end on Friday afternoons, we were back in the classrooms on Saturday mornings too until 11.am when it was time to wash our hair, do our mending and polish our shoes. Our shoes had to be checked and passed by a prefect before we could line up outside the House Matron’s office for our weekly allowance of sweets that we had handed in at the beginning of each term.

Photograph of Jennie at the Hawke’s Bay Show in 1952.

Sunday afternoons were a time we relaxed with our friends and of course wrote the obligatory letters home. We could also send a letter home midweek if we so wished but no letters were able to be sent directly to anyone other than parents. Should anyone want to write to even an aunt or uncle, let alone boyfriends, it had to be sent in an enclosing envelope to one’s parents for them to forward on.

There were only three Sundays during each term of 11 or 12 weeks when we were able to leave the school for the day. For the girls whose homes were too far away to make this possible, they would be invited out by one of the local families. On occasions, one of the girls would have her Visiting Sunday cancelled but I do not remember now how ‘wicked’ one had to be for this to happen but I can certainly remember it happening to others.

For minor misdemeanours, such as talking while waiting to go into Chapel the prefects would give us hard labour which meant helping in the laundry on a Saturday afternoon or weeding the bricks in the classroom quad. This I do remember well.

Finally, my memories of the Chapel, situated right in the middle of the school are what I shall forever hold in my head and heart with great fondness. The twice daily services, the beautiful architecture, the carved altar, the stained-glass windows, the music and of course the exquisite nativity set that Miss Holland had bought in Oberammergau, Germany many years earlier, that had pride of place in the Chapel towards the end of the last term every year. Wonderful memories indeed.


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