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Alumni > Alumni News > Three generations of Pate's pupils, Bob, Anne and Katy.

Three generations of Pate's pupils, Bob, Anne and Katy.

Sunday lunch in our house often involves extended family and given three generations have been Pate's pupils, conversation often turns to comparisons of the different eras at the school.
Bob Shayler, father of Anne and grandfather of Katy
Bob Shayler, father of Anne and grandfather of Katy

We have chatted about so many aspects of school life I could write a book, if only I had time, which I don’t, so here are just a few.

Getting to school

My Dad and his contemporaries, attending the Boy’s Grammar school in Cheltenham High Street between 1948-1953 got to school by bike or foot and he remembers some boys used to fold their mortar boards into four so that they could fit in their pockets for the journey. They would then unfold the crumpled affairs to put them on in order to enter the building!

I varied my journey to school by either cycling the three miles across town or getting the Swanbrook double decker bus. There was never a dull bus ride! If you were lucky, you and your friends would grab the back seats that were laid out in a horseshoe and from there you could discuss the latest pop bands and last night’s “Top of the Pops” on tv. We all had our favourites, usually the boy bands and some even sported the latest make up trends (including Adam Ant’s white band across the nose) of their idols!

Current students come from near and far, arriving by train, coach, taxi, car, bike and on foot, but just as in years gone by, the students still enjoy that transition time with their friends to catch up and discuss the latest news and interests and there is still a fight for the very front and back seats on the coaches!

Assemblies

Every day at school for my dad (and later for me), included an assembly. In 1950, his tutor group based in an old house in the High Street, was marched across the playground in formation to the Hall, where the students had to stand for the entire service and were flanked by all the staff in their gowns. A hymn was always sung and the school anthem on ‘special days’ such as Speech Day in the Town Hall.

In the 1980s, the girls still had a daily assembly in the Hall (sixth formers on the beautiful oak balcony) and the staff all attended, but no gowns except for the Head who always wore hers to float around the school! We also had our own hymn books and would sing with great gusto- especially the school song (different from Dad’s) and Jerusalem. In both school songs some of the words were also the names of the houses and students would always try to shout these if it was their house, but the knack was to do this without being caught by a teacher!

Assemblies these days are very different. They are inclusive sessions used to pass on information and thought-provoking ideas. They are not every day, and they vary in who attends, from whole school to just year groups or houses. Unfortunately, the singing seems to have gone altogether but occasionally if you’re lucky there may be a montage video with background music to sing along to.

Food

Whilst the current generation of Pate’s pupils have a fantastic Refectory offering everything from breakfast to full Christmas dinner, those seeking an alternative- perhaps less healthy option -, find themselves heading for Gregg’s the bakers at Coronation Square. These are mostly legitimate visits by sixth formers allowed to leave site – only the very brave attempt the less legitimate “hole in the fence” technique of access!

Back in my day (the 1980’s), Pate’s Grammar School for Girls was in Albert Road and the dining room provided school lunches and a tuck shop at break, manned by sixth formers, that offered sweets and crisps. If I remember correctly the 5p bar of Highland toffee was always a good buy as it was so hard to bite it could last all day! But just like today, the lure of the local shop, in this case Cleeve Mount Stores, pulled in not only the sixth formers who were allowed to access it at certain times, but also the lower year students. This involved at least three students as you had to get down a narrow passageway that had a slight bend in it. You needed someone school end to check for staff and call to the person the other end who could let the girl in the shop know to ”disappear”! I must admit that I wasn’t keen on the “fear of being caught” aspect of this!

In the late 1940s the snack of choice was apparently dripping cake (drippers) bought from the bakers close to the Boy’s Grammar school on the Highstreet. These would be acquired by a boy asking a teacher if they could be excused to go to the toilet, they would then dash out of school with orders from other boys and round the corner into Henrietta’s Street and return very quickly with drippers stuffed down their shirt. The bounty was then passed along the rows of boys as the lesson progressed – all apparently without the staff knowing. In terms of lunch in those days, there were two sittings in the canteen, but there was always a race for first sitting. Every meal started with silence and the saying of grace and no-one could leave until the end grace had been uttered. Dad informs me that in all his years of saying this in Latin every day, he never worked out exactly what it meant!

Uniform

Over the years, parts of the uniform have seen huge changes whilst others such as the girls’ skirt remain exactly the same!

For my dad, uniform included a mortar board for a short time before they were phased out and replaced with caps and until age 13 he had to wear grey flannel shorts with knee high socks.

I really liked my winter uniform of navy blazer, red jumper, tie, white shirt, and panelled skirt (always rolled up from the waistband to make it as short as possible!). I was less keen on the summer dress which my Mum made from the regulation fabric and pattern and even less keen on the pressure of finding something suitable and trendy to wear when I got to sixth form and we were allowed to wear anything!

My daughter has enjoyed being smart both in the current uniform during years 7-11, which for her involved trousers rather than the skirt, and also in her sixth form “professional look”, when she chose to wear a trouser suit.

Teachers’ attire has also changed. Dad’s teachers wore gowns and he remembers one teacher infamous for using his gown to clean the chalkboard!

My teachers were always smart and sometimes wore gowns to important events, but otherwise it was just the head (Miss Moon followed by Mrs Whiting as acting head) who wore their gowns to float around the school and up the stairs to the stage to deliver assemblies.

Current teachers look incredibly smart, mostly in suits, but luckily for them, not a gown or mortar board in sight!

Desks

A strange topic, but certainly for Dad and me, desks were an important part of school life!

For Dad the traditional wooden desks with hinged lids and inkwells must have been a constant misery for the teachers. Depending on the teacher, on entering a class each boy in turn would sit, lift the lid and then drop it, so that there were up to 30 bangs at the start of the lesson, or as many as the teacher allowed before losing their rag! The boys also had good fun by putting carbide in the inkwells, which caused the ink to froth and give off a nasty smell instantly or if the inkwell was currently empty, meant a surprise lay ahead for the poor soul who next added ink.

By 1980 when I started at Albert Road, form rooms still had single traditional lidded desks but in rows of pairs. You were allocated a desk to store your books etc in, which meant they were accessible to anyone else sitting at that desk for a lesson, unlike today’s locked lockers in corridors! I remember various incidents where the desk lids were tapped up and down to make noise, or desks were rearranged to annoy teachers, or they were simply used to hide the answers to a weekly German vocabulary test on your lap!

Today’s student’s Formica topped tables are far more practical, but the location of lockers in corridors means you need to carry around vast numbers/weight of books and only actually use the locker for sports kits or small instruments, although on induction day, my daughter was rather amused when the then Head girl jumped out of a locker to surprise the newbies!

Anne and Katy Daly 2022

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