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NEWS > 1574-2024 Anniversary Features > In 1985 'Frau Plow' shared her memories of thirty years of teaching at PGSG.

In 1985 'Frau Plow' shared her memories of thirty years of teaching at PGSG.

There will be many alumnae who will remember the German teacher, Mrs Plowman, affectionately known as Frau Plow. In the 1985 school magazine, she looked back at her three decades of teaching at PGSG.

As it happens the demise of Pate’s coincides with the end of my thirtieth year of teaching here.

When I arrived in September 1956 to take up a ‘temporary’ post as Assistant German Mistress, it was in the middle of building chaos and noise: the dining room was being extended to its present size.

In those days of the famous and formidable headmistress, Miss Lambrick, girls were not allowed to bring any food to school. School dinners were a must for all, from first formers to the Upper Sixth. With the kitchen out of use during alterations no hot meals were available and Miss Lambrick told the staff firmly to refer to the substitute hand-outs always as ‘cold lunches’ and never as ‘sandwiches’, which of course, they were.

After that, for years to come, there were two full ‘sittings’ in the dining room each day, prefects and fifth formers serving at the head of each table with staff on duty furiously ringing bells for silence at certain intervals for clearing and prayers.

No one below the sixth form was allowed to stay in the classroom during the lunch hour, whatever the weather, and the luckless member of staff on duty used to chase the girls out of form rooms and cloakrooms as fast as they kept coming back. Apart from making dinner registers balance each Friday (10 old pence for a family’s first child, 9d for the second and 8d for the third) my worst nightmare was ‘Supervision in the Hall’ on rainy days. All the first to fifth formers to be in there while not eating in the dining room, and the din was so terrific that I thought one session of this should be considered as the equivalent of at least ten years of purgatory!

The corridors were all open in those days, there were no glass windows anywhere! After opening the classroom door at the end of a lesson we would often sink into snowdrifts or disappear in swirling fog. When I enquired why this particular style of building had been adopted I was informed that it ‘toughened the girls and kept epidemics at bay’!

The film about life at Pate’s was made only just a year before I came and the making of it was still in everybody’s mind. Later generations of girls, when watching it, expressed amused surprise about the ‘old-fashioned’ uniform. In fact, the indoor uniform has not changed at all since then, only the hemline has gone up and down several times. At one point girls were ordered to kneel on desks and staff had to measure the required minimum length of the skirts!

Teaching staff came and went, just like the ‘mini’ and ‘maxi’ skirt and ‘Beatlemania’, which at its height even gripped the parents sufficiently to produce a magnificent. beautifully iced ‘Beatle’ cake. Mrs. Huddlestone, Miss Moon and Mrs. Whiting followed as headmistresses and each left their own distinctive mark on the school.

But in those early days Miss Lambrick was firmly in control. Hats on after school until you get home and don’t you dare eat any ice cream on the way! Forms 2P and 2Q start with Latin while 2R and 2S take up German. Like it or not! It seems strange but I cannot even remember any parental objection. Once Miss Lambrick complained at a staff meeting that girls were running wild between lessons.    “In future”, she told us, “no member of staff will leave her class until the next one arrives!”

Have you heard some talk about a skeleton that once attended morning assembly? The event seems shrouded in the mist of the past, but I can vouch that it actually happened, for I was there! One morning, after the last prayer had been said, a skeleton dressed in grey skirt, white blouse and red jumper sat up amongst the Upper Sixth, evidently eager to listen to the notices. Miss Taylor, the Deputy Head, gesticulated to the girls to remove the offending sight. Without a word four of the skeleton’s neighbours got up, hoisted it to their shoulders and carried it out of the hall. Yet the climax was still to come: Miss Lambrick, wrongly interpreting the events from the platform, told Miss Taylor to go after the girl who had fainted and see if she was alright!

We worked hard for many years raising money for our swimming pool; fairs, efforts, collections, donations – finally the pool was built. We felt exhausted but proud. ”It is my great hope”, the Headmistress said on the day after the official opening at morning assembly, “It is my great hope that one day this school will have its own chapel”. We never had that chapel, but other buildings went up: the First Form ‘huts’, the Art, Domestic Science and Needlework rooms. The tennis courts were built.

In my last year at Pate’s there is once more the noise of new buildings being erected, just as it was when I first came. But these are not for us, for we shall join the boys at their site at Princess Elizabeth Way which was not even thought of 30 years ago. The boys’ Grammar School was still in the High Street then, precisely where we now put our tins of baked beans in a supermarket wire basket.

At least we shall take our name with us to the new school and hopefully some of our best traditions. The school has served the town well since it moved to Albert Road in 1939. Generations of girls have appreciated the kind of education that Pate’s has given them and remember their school days with affection.

Do I hear you say you won’t feel nostalgic about it all? You’ll be surprised! Remember school trips and excursions, ice-skating, drama performances, music evenings, House parties and House competitions, Sports Day, the Swimming Gala and Mr. May selling ice cream, the Sixth Form Entertainment and the rousing rendering of the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’!

An era comes to an end and a new one begins. This is where we make our exit and enter a new stage – Long live Pate’s Grammar School!

Archivists’ Notes

Mrs. Huddlestone and Mrs. Whiting were Acting Heads. Mrs. Plowman continued teaching at Pate’s Grammar School, going part-time in the 1988-89 school year and we think leaving in 1991.

Did you know that Mr. Grunow started at the same time as Mrs. Plowman in 1956?

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