I remember Cynthia’s school stories because they were so foreign to my experience. As a child living in suburban Canada, I walked to school, returned for lunch, went back for the afternoon, and came home for tea. (Okay, perhaps that wasn’t so Canadian. But it was just tea and a cookie, not a meal.) The concept of going somewhere away from home and staying at school all the time seemed so exotic- and also was linked to the old school stories from my mother’s childhood that she had handed on to me- The School at the Chalet, where girls wore gym tunics and adults had hats pulled down over their heads. Teenage Cynthia had worn a gym tunic and she and her friends had done what many of the school stories mentioned (except the early Chalet books- there, the emphasis was on the deliciousness of Austrian cooking) – and had a midnight feast.
Cynthia’s letters show that there were only seven boarders at her school, including her friend Jessie Muir, in 2 dorms, with 4 beds each she said, and since one letter was written in bed in pencil after Lights Out by the light of the summer sky, there wasn’t punitive supervision. So Cynthia and her fellow boarders started planning a Midnight Feast towards the end of the summer term and she calmly told her parents about it as she asked them to send her more goodies (and warned them not to tell.) I gather these Midnights happened more than once, the menu varying with the season perhaps, since once they had raspberries and cream. As a child, I’d never heard about their hoarding of their tuck- Cynthia’s oral story started with the girls surreptitiously buying treats while in town on their Saturday shopping.
That night, the girls went to bed very correctly, and then got themselves up around midnight. They collected together their newly bought treats and tuck, proceeded to their common room, poked up the fire (? in summer?) and enjoyed themselves very much. In spite of having planned this for a long time, it appears that there wasn’t enough food to give them the impression that they had feasted so they went exploring through the dim house, down the backstairs to the kitchen. In the pantry they found a tin of little cakes they thought might have been forgotten, so they appropriated these as the successful end to a wicked party. They returned to bed and slept the sleep of the full-tummied.
On Sunday, Cynthia was picked up by pre-arrangement, and went off to spend the day with the family friend May. Back at school, retribution fell. The little cakes had been destined for Sunday staff tea, and their disappearance led to enquiry. The six boarders left broke down and confessed, were scolded, sanctioned, and left to feel very sorry for themselves. When Cynthia returned that night, she found she had missed the fuss, missed the punishment, and never heard anything more about it. A happy ending to her first term at boarding school!
I’ve been doing some sweet silhouettes I’ll bring them home for you to see. We haven’t got drawing results yet.
Darlingest Daddy and Mummy,
Thanks awfully for the parcel. I’ve got some questions to ask you. Daddy, when you write to ask Mrs. P about forwarding my trunk will you send money for my train fare and everything, that’s what all the other girl’s fathers do. Also, next week shall I get all my remaining money, 7/7 1/2, out of the bank so as to be able to get things for the train?
Daddy darling, do you know you’re a bad wee boy? You haven’t written a letter to your own girlie for a whole week! But perhaps you’ve been very busy so she’ll forgive you if you write a nice long one to her soon!
Would you like to know my exam results? I’ve got them all except my Geometry & Science
Algebra 2nd 75% H.
Arithmetic 2nd 57% P.
English 1st 66% P.
French 3rd 52% P.
History 7th 57% P.
Latin 6th 50% P.
Geography 1st 70% P.
Scripture 8th 40% P.
39% is fail so I haven’t failed in anything yet, 75% is honours.
On Mon. we are going to a rehearsal of the Tattoo in the afternoon, the real Tattoo is at night but we go to the Rehearsal which is just the same only earlier and not half as expensive. On Tues. we are having the B.G. against College match, also on Tues. morning are the swimming sports, I’m not in for any because I can’t swim the length yet. We went to the baths yesterday morning, it was lovely, and glorious weather, also today.
On Wed: it was fun, it began to pour as soon as all the people came & then they stood about under trees & in sheds until Mrs. P arranged with Miss E to have tea at B.G. (isn’t that a screaming rhyme) instead of outside, so all the people came into the Comon Room & Dining Room & Hall, and all the boarders had to hand tea & stuff round, I wandered round with a plate of cakes & one of sandwiches until I came to a man who hadn’t anything so I gave him a sandwich & he began playing with my one & only curl! and asked me what my house ribbon & girdle were for, I explained then dashed away to somebody else. every time I saw that blessed man he stopped me & patted my head or pulled my hair or something! I was told afterwards he was a bit conked, I quite beleived it! Miss E. introduced me to a new girl that’s coming next term & the lady, Mrs. Binks who was to have given out the prizes, it was lovely.
On Thurs. it was a lovely day, and I ran in the House Corkscrew & Flag Races. We didn’t win either but we won the Cup for the most number of points. The prizes will be given out one day this week I expect.
(Diagrams of the races and the old gent. See letter above.)
I feel so excited I don’t know what to do! I’m sure I had heaps to tell you & I promised a great long letter but I have nothing to say. We are going to hear a person lecturing this afternoon on St Bridget instead of the Minster.
I do think Uncle Nic is bad not to invite us to come a visit him & pay our fares & everything. I made a lovely dream up last night about what we’d do!
Yesterday I went with Pally to visit the horses in the field and we took them some little green apples. Pally gave hers to one first then I had mine out, but instead of eating the apple it ate my fingers and so I dropped it, and Pally had to give them mine. I’ve written to ask May if she’ll come for me next Sunday as it’s my last Sunday & I have that book to give back to her. I hope she will.
You know Daddy, how I came so low in Scripture was that we had English Prayer Book as well asking about Collects and things that I didn’t know, also we did the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Ezekiel and I didn’t know much about them, Only I wasn’t bottom.
The other night Miss John heard a nightingale here and one night when I was awake late I saw a baby owl outside, a wee white one, and I’ve seen a bat too, it’s the first bat I can remember seeing. Didn’t I tell you about the sweet wee brooch Ernest sent me? I meant to and I wrote and thanked him for it; it is lovely.
How is the garden getting on at home? We have some lovely roses & sweet peas here also poppies, marigolds and nasturtiums. The raspberries are just coming out, yum, yum and also the apples are getting big, there are heaps of apple trees, also pears, cherries, strawberries and a little grape vine, black & red currants, gooseberries and other things, we have peas carrots and even asparagus. Funny things.
Thanks tremendously for the things, Darlings I must stop now, tons & tons of love & kisses from your own girlie
One of our favourite stories when we were children was my mother’s tale of the midnight feast. She never wrote down that story, but in this letter we have the introduction…
Sunday, July 7, 1929
Darlingest Daddy and Mummy,
Exams are over! Hip, hip, hurrah! And I’ve something to tell you which I think will please you. I’ve had some results, Geography, Algebra and Arithmetic. I was top for Geography with 70%. Second for Algebra with 75% (Hons:) Second for Arithmetic with 57%. Aren’t you glad? I nearly shouted the College down when I saw the lists and I’ve been longing for to-day to be able to write and tell you.
Please do send another parcel soon Mum but not till the end last Sat: Mums dear, because as heaps of the girls are leaving we are going to have an M.F. (Midnight Feast) just to celebrate. You won’t tell anyone will you dears?
Mrs. Palmer has just come in with a £1000 Cross-word puzzle which she sent up last week and she thought she hadn’t and mistakes but then she found she’d put ‘dove’ instead of ‘love’ and it’s an awful shame but she’s still going to send the claim up and see if she gets anything. I hope she does.
How did the jam turn out Mums, was it a success? I hope so cause I like jam! Yum, yum!!
My teeth are getting nicer now I think and my nails are better than they were but they’re still rather awful, that old wart worries me now, Dad, do you think you could burn it off in the hols, it’s getting bigger now and it’s really horrid.
I wish I’d been Auntie Mac on Tues. Strawberries and cream. Oooo!
I’m glad I don’t miss any days to write to you, Dad and you are pleased with me.
I’ve put my name down for dancing and I’d love to go on with gym, Daddy, for I’ll be in the Senior Class next term and I’m getting quite good at it now and I love it awfully. But I’ll not if you don’t want me to.
What lovely things Auntie Mac & Uncle got, I do hope I see them & Kathleen again, I was thinking of Auntie Mac’s lovely chocolate cake last night!
I’m glad Ernest is getting better and will get his plaster off on Wed: It’s our Sports Day so I’ll think of him when I running my races. It was awfully nice of him to write to me when it is such a trouble to him. Tell him that I’ll answer his letter but he’s not to bother to write back.
Daddy, you are horrid talking about “my friend Billy” as though he was my bosom chum and wrote to me every day, when I come home I’ll tease you about “your friends, the German girls” how are they getting on? Billy & Walton are awful idiots, they are both very bad, no doubt. I know Athol Douglas by sight and he looks rather nice, have you ever spoken to him much, do you like him?
It doesn’t matter about seeing everybody before I go away then Daddy, but you’ll take me to the Exebish. won’t you, and I must see Ernest.
Mumsie, will you write & ask Mrs. P if she could forward my trunk for me, cause I’m shy!!!
On Thursday we had Geometry & English exams, on Friday Science & Latin, they weren’t as bad as I expected. I’ll bring the papers back with me.
Have you heard a record called “Let’s Fall in Love” from “Wake up & Dream”? Miss John has it and it’s awfully good. She has heaps of records and we have the gramophone on nearly all the time.
We had a Thanksgiving Service for the Recovery of the King at Olive’s this morning & I’m sending the little thing to see if you had the same.
Yesterday I went to town with Pally and we got some lovely red cherries for 9’ a lb in in the market. Also I got a lovely tea rose buttonhole from an old man for 3’ + a lovely big bunch of water lilies & ferns for 6’ & gave it to Mrs. Palmer. Then Pally & I went to Smith’s a newsagent & went upstairs to an art gallery place where there wasn’t anyone & ate cherries for all our worth. Then we came downstairs and found a book of Schoolboy Howlers (Pax in bello. Free from indegestion!) and we nearly died laughing over them. In the afternoon we had to scratch the Tennis Match as it was to wet so Miss J. took us to the pictures to see “The Passing of Mr. Quinn” It was awfully thrilling, but quite nice. There was an awfully funny funny picture.
In the evening we went to the old girl’s play for the library. It was awfully good. First there was a play “The Lover” about a Queen who had been rescued by a gentleman when her horse threw her & she found out that he had followed her everywhere for years. It was rather feeble. Next came a “Mime on the word Irresponsibility”. It was done by an old girl & was awfully good, also a sketch about Domestic Actions. Just came two dances Night & Cymbal by another old girl, they were jolly good as there was hardly any space. After that came the best part of the Programme, by an old girl, an actress Betty Hardy. She did Charachter Sketches. She was awfully sweet. She did a Yorkshire, two Cockneys & an Irish. The Yorkshire was an woman telling her friend about her first visit to the theatre. Her husband had taken her & she’d seen a girl getting undressed & was rather alarmed then a man got out from under the bed & she shouted for “Perlice! Perlice!” & the police did come & take her out! Then a Cockney one was of a waitress in a café talking to her friend & telling about Whitsun-tide she went on the swing-boats with a nice young gentleman friend & his false teeth dropped out, and it quite put her off him, she said!
Then the Irish one was about a young girl who had come out of a convent & got a lot of money and she was talking about young men and she was awfully thrilled but she was only a little country girl & she said “Och, but Ah dunno!” Just like Leta does!! [Leta was a Ewing cousin her age, who lived in Ireland]
The last Cockney sketch was sweet, it was about a little girl & her wee brother looking into a room where there was a big dinner party & they were hungrey & they talked about the lovely food & the people & the dresses, then the footman came & pulled down the blinds & the poor little things both began to cry, then the little girl tried to comfort the wee boy although she was crying too & the girl was so good that she nearly made me cry too!
Mums, you’ll be pleased to hear that the sleeves are the only things I’ve got to finish of my white tennis frock! You see we all had to wear them at Tennis on Sat. and mine was nearly finished so Miss J. helped me heaps and it’ll be finished easily by the end of term & it fits a very nicely. We are all going to get white suede belts. My tussore, the seam by the top of the sleeve has come undone but Miss J. is going to mend it for me.
Swimming Sports are week on Tues. but I’m not going in for any as I don’t think my style is good enough & I mightn’t be able to swim the length yet.
I must end now so heaps & heaps of love from your own wee bairnie,
P.S. Mrs. P. has found 3 mistakes in the Puzzle now!
Thanks awfully for the parcel, I was just longing for one! I am keeping the little pots of jam till Friday when Miss John is out and will have them for tea with our bread and butter. I gave all the peppermints away, cause I didn’t like them. I haven’t got the letter from Ernest yet, I’m looking forward to getting it awfully. What do you think Mum, I got a letter from my beloved Gwen Embleton this morning. I was most thrilled! So you come home at a reasonable time do you Daddy? Isn’t Mummy naughty staying out so late! Did you have a nice time with Ernest, Daddy? You must write and tell me all about what you did. Did you have a nice time with Mrs. B. Mum? Do ask Mr. Cooper if he was brave enough to go on the ‘Tickle-your-Rils’ or if he was afraid of being seasick! Give my love to Edgar too, won’t you? I wonder if he’ll remember me when I come back. My friend hasn’t come yet Mum. How is Colin getting on in the Choir, does he like it? Has he joined the O.T.C. at school yet? Is the Curate’s wife a Newcastle girl? I bet Peggy Coates etc. will be feeling pretty green but the mas will be glad! Do you look particularly bridal, these days or what? First you were taken for my sister (at Fowey, remember!) now as a bride Gosh!
I’ll tell you one thing the fortune-teller didn’t get right and I forgot to tell you. She said I was very good at music & when I told her that I didn’t take it she said I ought to learn both violin & piano & tapped my hand significantly saying “It’s there all right, it is!”
The Geography and French on Monday were quite nice on Monday, yesterday we had Scripture & Algebra, today History & Arithmetic, tomorrow English & Geometry, Friday Latin & Science. I think I’ve passed in all the ones I’ve done & I hope I’ve got Honours for Arithmetic and Algebra, and I’m going to try, try hard to get top for Geometry. The poor School Certif. people are really worked up. They got holiday today & as it happened it was Eleanor’s birthday and she was awfully pleased. She’s 16, I gave her an art silk orangie hankie.
Yesterday I went to the baths & tried to swim the length only I stuck about two strokes from the end, I nearly burst! I swum nine strokes on my back & I was awfully pleased with myself. Yesterday too, Dot Powell, a day girl & me played a tennis tournament against two other day girls. We won, two sets to one. Jolly good, little us! Today we had gym & I was tremendously pleased with myself, I did short arm balance. Turning upside down on the horse with your legs straight in the air hanging onto the horse handles with your hands. Also I got to the top of the ropes for the first time, and by the way Daddy all the girls who take extra subjects next term have to sign their names so I’ll sign mine won’t I, cause I’ll take gym & dancing. On Mon. evening I was standing on my hands on the lawn with Tishie holding me when along came Miss E. & laughed at me and said she thought I was one of the Kindergarten and asked me if I could revise better standing on my head! She was awfully jolly. Today she sent for me & asked me if I had a Bible reading book & I said yes that I read it every night & she was pleased, she asked me to take mine tomorrow & show it to her so as to see if mine was better than the ones the girls have.
On Sat. B.G. is playing the 2nd College 6 at tennis & I’m in the 3rd set. Clever me! I hope I win! Me & Gilbie are playing. In the evening we are going to a play at College by the old girls in aid of the Library fund. Daddy darling, give Ernest my love & hope he’ll soon be better also little Dorothy.
Thanks ever so much for your letters. I’ll begin by answering yours, Mummy. You are lucky getting a holiday for a whole week. I wish we were next week instead of exams! I am glad you like my Hurricane essay! Miss McMurtrie (our English mistress) has just asked for another of my essays, a conversation between a Rabbit and a Squirrel and I think perhaps she has sent it to Miss Ellett for original work & perhaps I’ll be able to write it in the special Book Miss Ellett keeps, I hope so because it’s just for very special work and it would be a great honour. Forgot to go and ask Miss E for a Sports invitation for May and I ‘spect she’ll be wild but I’ll ask on Monday.
I do hope Kath writes, poor old thing, fancy getting whooping cough, is it decided about where they’re going yet?
We wore our tussores at the Gala but only our gym’s at Luke’s Fete.
It’s been awful & dull this week & it seems as if it has dragged away as slowly as possible.
I do wish I’d seen Louie and Daddy squabbling I suppose you were heartily sick of her when she went, Daddy!
I’m so glad you go to see Ernest every day Daddy, I’m longing to see him and when I come home I must go and see him too. Only 26 more days. Oooo! I’m glad he liked to hear my doing this, I haven’t done much this week though as I have been trying to work up for the exams. We have Geography and French on Monday! Oh! I am going to try and get honours in Geometry specially Daddy.
Poor Ms. Bourne, she will have been awfully worried but I’m glad Mummy is taking her out. You will have a nice friend now Mum. Ernest will have a nice time with you Daddy, & by the way I’ve been trying to keep my nails decent and I hope they’ll be better when I come hope. I hope Ernest will like my Stamp Album, did you take Uncle Bills as well, his is the best.
Please give Auntie and Uncle Mac my love and tell them that I wish I had been at home to say good-bye to them. (I hope Auntie Mac won’t catch cold!)
I do wish I could have seen little Dorothy but I’ll see her in the hols. won’t I? She seems to be an awfully nice little girl and she must be awfully clever to look after her little brother and sisters so well.
Oh Daddy! You are so kind and good to these people, I do wish I could be like you because you’ve been doing all sorts of nice kind things since I’ve been away. But when I come home I will go and see Ernest and see little Dorothy and be nice too!
Do tell Ernest that I’m going to be a Girl Guide next term, p’rhaps in the hols. he’ll be able to teach me knots and some Morse code. It would be lovely if we could do Guidey & Scouty things together! I’d love to go to camp, it’s a great ambition of mine also to make fires and cook stews and things, and track people about and do all sorts of funny things.
How’s Dot’s Guiding getting on do you know? Has she passed her second class?
Daddy, do you think that the Sat. after I get home that Dot & Nan & Marjorie and us could all meet somewhere and go to the Ex. together it would be lovely if we could. Do you think you could ask them? I’m getting quite excited at the thought of it!
Jenny’s Daddy and Mummy are coming this afternoon and taking Jenny out and she has asked Mrs. P. if Pally and I can go with her and she said yes so we are going out. Miss E. has suddenly said that no boarders can go away any week ends to friends, they can go home but no where else. Isn’t it rotten? Masha was going to ask me to her home & now she can’t!
We went to Luke’s Fete on Friday evening. It was an awful dud show! There was a vegetable stall & a few sweets & some hankies, an ice cream place, a “Mysterious Lady” a thing where you roll little tanks about a hoop la and a thing where you throw rings on money.
Pally and I went about together & we went into the lady, she was a fortune teller & I had my fortune told for the first time. She said that I made friends very easily especially with the other sex (I laughed here) but this would show most when I’m 18 I am to have 2 love affairs when I’m 19 and 21. I’m to take care of my health when I 25. She said that I was clever at school only I sometimes couldn’t be bothered and let things slide (I blushed) & that about two years hence, I was to pass a big exam with high honours (hope it’s the School Certif) and I was to have a very clever son who would be my first child. I hope the nice part comes true. I’ve made a good resolution that the next time I have my fortune told that she’ll say I am a good hard worker!
I won a sweet little crocodile at the hoop la, he’s sweet, he’s called Kas it was funny cause, I was the last of 4 of us who wanted him & I got him with my last hoop! His mouth is wide open laughing and his top jaw wobbles and makes him seem to laugh.
I must stop now so heaps & heaps of love & kisses from
P.S. Thanks awfully for the paper Dad.
P.P.S. Your stamp wasn’t a great success was it?!!
You’ll never guess when I’m writing this. Early in the morning before 8 o’clock! You see I knew I would have to go back this afternoon and would probably get heaps of revision to do, so I thought I’d write it now. I’ve just had a cold bath with Pally and we had a lovely time, she’s practising now.
Dear Daddy, thank you ever so much for the postcard, I love the wee bears! And also you for your letter Mum. Doesn’t it seem ages since last Tuesday? I seem not to have seen you for ages.
You are lucky having a holiday! I am aching for one but we haven’t another till end of term now. Jessie’s had a nice little one all to her self though, she’s had a bad cold and may’nt come to school today if she doesn’t want to.
The Gala was lovely, I had a glorious time, we came away straight after the fireworks which didn’t begin till it was dark, you see, so it was fairly late. I spent 5/- all but 2 1/2’ at the Gala. I hadn’t much left had I?
Don’t you like the Club? You must’nt tell anyone, it’s a secret! Masha thought of the name for it and we aren’t going to have any more members, just us!
Phyllis is in our Form too, and all the others, except Masha are higher than us.
We’ve just run off the Sports Heats but I didn’t go in for any because I had to be a senior and there weren’t any nice ones. But you know I’ve been put into St. Georges, the Red House, and I’ve been chosen for one of the first six in the Relay Race, a great honour for little me.
You know the joke about Pally & me & Midsummer Eve, we forgot to get up on the day! I’ve had one cherry off the tree already.
For the last few nights we’ve been playing Stalkums, it’s the most exciting game. Phyl & Masha stalk Pally & me & they try and catch us.
I’d love to adopt Ernest, daddy, I’ve been longing for a brother, he could come to St. Peter’s, here.
Mumsie, you are lucky, Mum, getting a new coat.
Do you think I’ll see Kathleen before she goes? If I don’t give her my love, wo’nt you, I might write her a letter.
You are being gay, now that the little pussycat it is away!
I did my returned French lesson yesterday.
The Confirmation is tomorrow & Miss Ellett came around to our form to-day & asked if anyone wanted to go, and noone put up their hands. I didn’t because I thought Mrs. P. would have told Miss E. that we were all going but she didn’t & we were supposed to say ourselves. Afterwards two girls went and asked if they could go but there isn’t room for anyone else. Masha & Jessie and the 2 School Certif: girls aren’t going. Phyllis is the only border to be confirmed this time. Next week on the Sat we are all going to St. Luke’s Fete, we go every year it seems & a kind old lady who wants to give money to the church gives all the BGites 2/o each to spend. Topping!
Thank you ever so much for the parcel, all the things were lovely. The Russian cake was golopious, we had it for tea and everyone had a piece and we finished it then and there! The choc: biscuits I shared too, also the other biscuits, they were awfully nice daddy, and I’m still attacking the honey for tea. The Potato Crisps were jolly decent, one pkt, we ate before dinner and one in the dorm. after lights out, bad children!
The Dic: is awfully nice Daddy dear, and the little printer thing is lovely, I’ve done it on the top of my letter, see? The dresses are sweet Mumsie, they really are lovely, I didn’t realize at all that the blue one wasn’t new, I thought is was until you said. Thanks awfully for the little something too, and it’s nice pockets! I think the new one is sweet, I haven’t tried on any of them yet but I think they will be all right. The silk stockings are quite all right & have no holes in, I will be sure and mark my stockings.
My friend hasn’t come yet, so I don’t know if it’s coming. I got a pad on Sat. I didn’t get it as I didn’t go to town but Jessie got it for me, also a birthday card for my darling Gwen, hers is tomorrow Peggy’s is on the 15th I think, please send her a little something Mumsie dear. I can’t send my Hurricane essay yet as it has to be corrected again as I had some mistakes.
Please tell Auntie Mil to stop at York & take me out, I’m so glad Jack will be at home when I am, I’m longing to see him!
Oh Daddy I’m longing to go to the Ex: you are a dearest darling to buy me a season ticket, we will have fun wo’nt we?
I’m so sorry I won’t be able to tell you which day we are going to the Gala, the days are changed to Tues: Wed: and Thurs: and Mrs. P says that Miss Ellett will tell her soon & I’ll tell you on Wed.
The garden will be lovely just now Daddy dearest, and I’m aching to see it. You must spend a lot of time in it.
I’d love to help you sell tickets Daddy! I love doing things like that and I’d be a great help wouldn’t I, dear? I do hop I win a prize, I’d love a Baby Austen and a camera or a portable gramaphone, if I win wine or whiskey you can have it, as a present!
I’m so glad little Ernest Bourne is getting on better, I’ve got a P.C. with three little puppies have a tug-of-war with a glove, on it to send to him, do you think he’ll like it? I’m glad he liked the little motor car, it’s just the sort of think a boy would like isn’t it?
The Mon: is our 1/2 term hol. but I’d love you to come over on Tues: if you could because we just have swimming in the afternoon I don’t think I have a paper of the hols at all Daddy, but I’ll look & see and try and get one for you. We are just going to the Gala one day and I’ve told you before, is you’re coming the secret or not? I am expiring with curiosity!
I’m enclosing to you an invitation I got for you to go to a concert that some of our girls are in at school. I do hope you can come! We went to a play that some of our girls were giving yesterday, there was a silver c’llection and Mrs. P. gave us each a 6’, I ‘spect it will be on the bill. It was awfully good and there was a little play and some dances, and the chorus with actions sung ‘Misery Farm’ and ‘It goes like this’! It was lovely.
The sports are on 10th July and the Tattoo is soon, this is a very full term isn’t it? This morning what do you think we did? Got up five mins, before breakfast and had to scoot, I slept soundly through the rising bell & first breakfast! We came back after break, and got washed and properly dressed!
On Friday night we were all feeling silly so we all, five of us, got into one single bed! Phyllis, Jessie & Sylvia at the top, Marsha & I at the bottom! We stayed like sardines till about 11:30 then we went to our own beds! Every night Miss John does something for us, when she takes lights, she recites or dances or something she does it beautifully, we’re all convinced that she’s married to the Prince of Wales or is really an actress or something awful, she’s so mysterious. She sometime faints for us as Tessa in the “Constant Nymph’ and dies, she does it beautifully!
Miss John is going to do my nails for me tonight, Mrs. P. got a shock when she saw them & Johnny is going to perform regularly on them! I had my hair washed yesterday and Johnny waved it for me only she was in a hurry and it is’nt as nice as it was before. It stayed in right up to yesterday and it was ripping.
I’m busy reading the “Carillon of Scarpa” and it’s awfully nice.
This is a really lengthy letter isn’t it, my darlings? I hope you wo’nt be shocked with our naughtiness but when you’re at school it is awfully difficult to be perfect but I always read my Bible and try to be nice.
This rather giddy letter shows that Cynthia has adjusted to her new school and is feeling happy! I think some of the things mentioned in the letter- the ring, the Exhibition her parents have gone to in Newcastle, and the suggestion that relatives will be visiting from overseas- are the factual events she based her story ‘Jack’s Visit’ on. (See earlier post.)
Just a note on the envelopes (which I include for the sake of veracity and postmarks): this letter and the previous one didn’t have envelopes, and the envelope June 12th has no letter, so I’ve combined them here.
June 5th 1929
Dearest of Mummies and Daddies,
The time has flown has’nt it? It seems just a little while since I came here yet a long while, I don’t know how. I got a letter from Marjorie on Monday and she told me about the book.
Oh mommy, I’d love a ring! Secially a blue butterfly wing one, it is a lovely of you and I would love one. Thank you so much. I would much rather have a ring then anything else. Isn’t Edgar sweet? I wonder if Dr. Ewing sat on the top of the funnel? Daddy, you are a naughty boy, fancy running away from Louie and Kate!
When you speak of salmon mayonnaise you make my mouth water. Mrs. P has just thought of a new idea for making us less hungrey when we went to bed (as we had told her we were hungrey) and now for tea we just get two half slices of bread and a cup of tea, and at supper we get something meaty and bread and jam. We are just trying it for a week to see how we like it, I don’t know if we do!
What did you get Daddy, when you shot? Was it a present or what? Oh, that’s a rhyme! I did’nt mean it to be. What was in the African village? You are going to the Ex heaps! I think your tickets will have a hole in & when I come home mine will be brand new! Have the L.N.E.R run a railway to the Ex?
Next time you go to Uncle Mac’s will you please give him and auntie my love & ask how Kathleen is getting on for me & if she will send me Kath’s address I’ll write to her. Please give everyone who askes about me my love and tell them I’m getting on ‘tophole’! The garden looks lovely Dadski, & my tulips are still going strong, some of the columbine have come out. The painting was lovely, too, darling.
I ‘spect Mrs. P will pay entrance to the Gala and I will draw 5/- out of the bank when the time comes. We’re going to a concert at school given by some of our girls in aid of the Poor Children. There’s to be a silver collection.
Mumsie, what do you think? I really forgot to wish for hares and rabbits! But I’ve wished now, such a nice wish! I haven’t got my ‘Hurricane’ essay back, but I’ve had an excellent for Geometry, and I’m so pleased! If you get 2 ex: running you go to Miss E. and sign the Honours Book. I’m going to try hard!
We went to swimming again on Tues: & it was raining & made the water gloriously warm. I enjoyed myself greatly. She said I was doing better. Jessie is bigger than me, a bit, I’m the smallest girl in B.G. & 3rd youngest. I call Jessie, Jenny, & Miss John, Johnny, she told us that when she was at school she was called Jucy Lohn instead of Lucy John! Mrs. P say’s that she and Johnny will run them up on the machine.
I’m so glad Granny is getting better Mum, & will Auntie Mill & Jack being staying at N/C when I am there, I do hope so for I’m longing to see them both. I’m longing for the parcel to-morrow!
Oh Mum I went to May’s on Sun: and she gave me strawberries Yum-yum & I’m to go there for half term. On Mon. Sir Alan Cobham came to York in his aeroplane & gave a display I saw him lots o times and waved & I’m sure he waved back!
We had a glorious gym lesson to-day all nice things & Miss Brooke said I did them well. We had a drawing exam to-day for the London Society you know, a pair of steps covered partly with a cloth (awful) our own selection (I did a buttercup) & snapshot. Some envelopes with a card of wool on top. I think I passed.
I think I’m getting on quite well here my darlings and I’m awfully happy, nearly everyone likes me I think & the mistresses are all jolly decent to me. Mrs. P and Miss J. are both golapious & I feel so happy, oh parents mine!
Heaps and heaps of love from
Cynthia your own girlie
P.S. I have to get some more envelopes and pad soon.
This letter shows the connection between Cynthia’s schooling and that of her mother. Carol Hazell had been sent from the West Indies to school in England, to the Streatham College for Girls in London, in 1909. Her Headmistress had been Miss Amy Lefroy, who had become a friend over the three years Carol boarded there. When Carol and a four-year-old Cynthia arrived in England from St Vincent after World War I to join Gordon Ewing, they stayed with her in London before travelling north, and obviously the visiting continued.
The York College for Girls was founded in 1908 by the Church Schools Company, the same company involved in the Streatham College for Girls, and Miss Ellett was the first headmistress. Clearly, she still was 20 years later when Cynthia arrived! Miss Lefroy and her colleague Miss Ellett obviously knew each other and so I assume Cynthia had been sent to that school on Miss Lefroy’s recommendation. Since the school was in the middle of the city, the boarders live in another house, Burton Grange, and walk to school, the Baths, St. Olives, or the Minster for their various activities.
May 11th 1929
My darlingest of Daddies and Mummies,
I hope you will excuse me writing in pencil but I’m writing this in bed after lights out as it’s still quite light, and I have no ink up here.
I got your letter all right this morning, Mumsie, and I’ll answer all your questions. The laundry here is awfully good and they do our jolly decently. Our vests don’t shrink in the least and we can send one cotton frock a week to it. I use my little red book as a laundry book, also I keep my accounts in it! We do darn our own things but I’ve only had one hole in my old stockings and that’s all, we do it after sewing on Sat: By the way I only have one more end to do of my embroidery but my silks are running short, also my dress is getting on nicely and please I only have three stamps left, one for this, one for Marjorie’s letter and one over, would you send me some more please?
The minister at Olives is quite decent, he’s middle-aged but doesn’t preach interesting sermons but we’ve just got a new curate he’s awfully nice, quite young and awfully tall with a bald head but he preached last Sun: and it was an awfully nice sermon.
Please ask Denis not to practice at tennis too much, for if there is a public exhibition it’ll be too bad if I’m squashed won’t it?
Oh Daddy and Mummy I am longing to see you again, it won’t interfere in the least with the Gala and I can miss swimming for that afternoon can’t I? Also I don’t think I’ll write on Sun: for then I’ll have more to talk to you about!
I am so sorry Miss Lefroy is going back to the College on Mon: evening, Miss Ellett saw me about it & I told her when she asked, that I did’nt think you could come on Mon. but she said she’d write & ask you. She has asked me to go to supper with her and Miss Lefroy on Thursday. Johnny is awfully strict and serious in lesson time but she’s awfully decent outside. She just water waves my hair with her fingers and a comb.
I went to the baths yesterday and what do you think I was trying to do? Swim on my back! It was awfully funny and I swallowed half the Baths but I got on quite well.
We had gym this afternoon and it was lovely, we did ‘Skin-a-cat’ and ‘Jack-in-the-Box’ and queer things. We had tea at school and stayed to a concert afterwards. Sylvia & Mary were playing & it was very nice, it was all on the piano and I got rather bored!
Darlings, I think I’ll have to stop now as I have some prep to do and I must hurry.
Yesterday was St Valentine’s Day, and this morning I heard a woman on the radio explaining that she sent Valentines to her friends’ children because they loved getting something in the mail with Their Own Names on, even in these days of social media. Some things don’t seem to have changed, as Cynthia is delighted to receive an answer to her letter sent to her former headmistress at the high school she had left. I didn’t provide a transcript of this letter since the typewriting was quite clear- even if the date was wrong!
I remember from her stories about boarding school that a friend or relative took her out on weekends, but I don’t know who May (or Jimmy or wee Margaret) were. It was kind of them, though, and much appreciated.
May 11th 1929
My dearest Daddy and Mummy,
You see even going to May’s on Sunday does not stop me from writing to my wee Dad and Mum! I hope you wo’nt mind me writing to you both at once but I think I will always as it is nicest to write all I have to say and make it nice and fat and interesting for you!
I got your little parcel this morning Daddy, and thank you ever so much, I love getting parcels and seeing what is inside, I’ve eaten the six chocolates, I shared them with Jessie, I like her best, I think, she and Sylvia, the girl from Benwell. I got your letter too Mumsie, and it was awfully nice, the girls always envy me because I get something in the post nearly every morning. It’s lovely, I love getting letters! I am longing to see my room and the bathroom, I think you must have made it lovely Daddy darling, and I am full of curiosity as to my room, Mother mine.
I had a glorious time on Thursday. The ones that were confirmed went to early service but Phyllis and Marsha and I had a nice long stay in bed then we got up and after breakfast went to town, and I got 1/- out of bank and got a pretty green hankie for Nancy and a pink one for Mashy, for their birthdays you know and Mumsie have you got Mashy’s yet? I put on my white frock with red on it was nice and not very long. We drew for partners and I got a rotten player really, we were second bottom, wasn’t that awful?
Do you know Daddy, Miss Hiley has answered my letter! A typewritten note. I shall enclose it and the receipt that I got a school. It was nice of Miss H. to answer wasn’t it?
It will be lovely now that the N.E.E. is going to be opened on 14th. You will go to the opening wo’nt you? And write and tell me all about it.
May telephoned to Mrs. P on Thur: and said that Jimmy would come for me on Sun: before on after lunch, she was’nt sure. Wo’nt that be lovely? I’ll wear my tussore and belt and blue bow. Posh! I’ll be sure and kiss wee Margaret & give your love to M & J Mums. Was’nt it kind of her to send the hankies, there is a blue & green one. Will you ask Patty to ask her when her birthday is? And will you send her a hankie or something for me.
It must have been lovely at the pics. We all wanted to go and see Revenge this week with Dolores Del Rio in but we didn’t.
Jessie & I went to town this morning & I got a 2/- book of stamps & a pkt of postcards we then went to a café and she got coffee & I chocolate and choc: biscuits. Lovely! Somebody said we were to have our hair washed to-night but Miss John has’nt said anything so I do’nt know. I’d love to have a tussore belt mumsie, so will you and get some, you are a dear!
Mummy I think it’s you that are misunderstood me for I do’nt go to school in my best shoes. I meant that they were too good to have at a boarding school. We have drill three mornings in a week so I do’nt get much chance to wear my school shoes but I wore them on Friday. The gym shoes are quite all right & I’m not turning into a little nigger around the feet yet! The bruises I got in drill are quite better now thank you they were’nt bad.
I know what you mean about my spelling Mum and when I was writing I knew that “their” was wrong only I was in a hurry and did’nt bother to change it!
I find the lessons quite easy Daddy and I am getting on well in French and Maths on Friday I was top of the class in English it was questions & I got one wrong out of ten.
OK my darling Daddy and Mummy I do so love you and I’m longing for the summer holidays to see you again, with heaps of love and kisses your own doggy Cynthia.