Harrow County School for Girls

1965-72 - Reminiscences of Fiona Santon

One of my fonder memories is of a rather zealous Miss Buckley regularly sitting in a cafe (the KKK cafe) around the corner from the school watching the schoolgirls on their way home after school to make sure that they were properly dressed (complete with school hat on) and behaving with the requisite decorum for Harrow County School girls. How well I remember the time she accosted me in Station Road and gave me a thorough and humiliating dressing down in the street about the length (or rather lack of it) of my skirt and then sent me immediately back to the school to see the head mistress for a further dressing down as the offending skirt was more than the regulation 4" above the knee (measured up from the floor whilst kneeling of course!) I always watched the window of the 3 K's very carefully after that!

Something that now seems like a memory from a history book - the desks we sat at still had inkwells for us to dip our pens into for writing with (this was before the cartridge pens we later graduated to and certainly before any use of biros in the school!) and I remember some of us plotting together and filling one girl's inkwell with oil although I don't remember whether the victim was Pamela Sweeney (where is she now?) or Jackie Roberts. However she was also targeted with minute pieces of screwed up paper being put in the ink to ensure that there would be distinctive blodges in even her neatest hand writing.
 
Jackie though was certainly the victim when we used to hide her school hat so that she would be unable to find it in time to race for her bus when the bell sounded to mark the end of the last lesson of the day. This meant of course that she missed her bus to Kingsbury and had to wait for a later one each time.

My main memories of the school are of being in trouble and include many spells of sitting outside the head mistress's office watching the traffic light system beside the door, waiting for the green light to come on for me to be admitted for yet another verbal admonishment and being grateful that our school did not entertain physical punishment. It seemed that never a week went past without me being given an Order Mark for something: for "crimes" varying from late submission of homework to being late for class, taking too long changing after games or swimming, running down a corridor, talking in class, laughing in morning assembly, the list was endless. But 3 Order Marks meant a trip to the Head Mistress and those infernal traffic lights! Not to mention the recurrent remark in my school report of "could do better if she tried".
 
Also, my younger sister, Hazel, had a rather prejudiced start to her career at the school as a result of my misdemeanours: At the end of my second year (lower fourth), my form teacher (was it Mrs Pledger?) asked our class if any of us had younger sisters starting at the school the following term. Among others I put up my hand. The teacher went to each girl in turn and asked pleasantly for details about the younger sister. However, when she reached me, she absolutely froze and then, in the most disparaging tone she could muster, (such as might be used for "oh, look what the cat has brought in") she said "Oh! And what's the little cherub's name then!" As if that wasn't enough, soon after Hazel started at the school we were all in the canteen for lunch, the staff sitting, as was their wont, at tables on the stage and us mere pupils in the body of the canteen. Over the hubbub of 300 girls chattering, from the stage there suddenly came a booming voice: "will the younger Miss Santon please be quiet!" Poor Hazel, she was never going to be allowed to be anonymous!
 
 Finally, my pet hate. Our swimming lessons consisted of a ride in a smoky old double decker bus to the open air swimming pool in Charles Crescent followed by instruction in the pool before having to change in cold outdoor cubicles, pulling on clothes over your cold damp body. I hated the cold so much that on every occasion I tried to find a good enough reason for missing these lessons. I remember one term when I managed to avoid all but one session and on the day that I did go in, the water was thankfully at its warmest for that term - 68F (brrr!). The cold of those lessons put me off swimming for life.

 

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