THE GIRLS' SCHOOL: EARLY MEMORIES
The following came from the 2001 Newsletter of the Plashet Old Students Association (POSA) - the association for past students from EHGS for Girls and later schools post 1972 - Plashet Secondary Modern and Plashet Comprehensive. It is worth remembering that EHGS for Girls was housed in the same Town Hall building as the Boys until 1932, when the new school in Plashet Grove was opened and the Girls transferred there.
Jim Briggs October 2001
When I attended the school it was East Ham Secondary School for Boys and Girls, and was behind the Town Hall in Barking Road. To other children our uniforms induced cries of "East Ham Sausage Shop". We wore a most un-becoming uniform in grey and navy and the girls section had house colours. I was in Green. I had three articles published in the school magazine. Diaries were records of our progress and had to be signed by a parent each week. Every summer we endured a Sports day, held in fields belonging to Hay's Wharf in Manor Park. I never won a race but my friend Margery came 2nd in the 100yards. Each morning we had a break for a drink and a snack. Parents of a girl in my class had a bakers' shop opposite the school so we all bought 'Vardy's Buns' - far better than any other shops! I found a short cut through a small gate in the Town Hall and down an under passage to a door at the back of the school. This cut off the corner and late comers, if lucky, were unseen and avoided a black mark in their Diary. No one had thought of school dinners. We all went home for lunch and then back in the afternoon till 4.0pm. Then it was homework time.
My school years were in the old building next to the Town Hall: no school grounds and all sport had to be elsewhere - Gooseley Fields, Barking Rec., Beckton and in the grounds of a house opposite the present school (tennis). Boys and girls were in the same building but only mixed at morning assembly and the annual social. Uniform was a grey tunic dress with white blouse; grey cap with button in house colour of green, red, blue or yellow; panama hat in summer and gloves at all times - headmistress Miss CA Croft insisted. We wore black woollen stockings, or lisle in summer. We had a good staff of dedicated teachers. After 5 years we sat the Oxford School Leaving Certificate. Very few stayed on in the 6th form as our parents could not afford to keep us. There were no foreign trips but we enjoyed botany day expeditions and a visit to the Houses of Parliament and Kew Gardens. I have a neighbour 'Becky' Sharp, now 90, who was at the school in 1920-24. She remembers Eileen Garson, then a prefect, who became Greer Garson the beautiful Hollywood star (who died a few years ago, aged 93, her local origins ignored by the Newham Recorder). Kathleen Fell, my cousin, was at EHGS after me. She became the actress Kathleen Byron and still appears on TV and in films . I am still in touch with three contemporaries - Marjorie Hamlin, Marie Emerson and Gwen Fordham (all maiden names) and would love to hear news of any others. I enjoyed reading of the post-war exchange visits. These were impossible in the economic climate of my school days. But when I was 14 our kind and dedicated headmistress Miss Cross took a party of us to Babbacombe at Easter. We stayed at a Home of Rest for Gentlewomen and had walks, cream teas and primrose picking on my first real holiday. In the evenings we had a fancy dress competition and put on a play for the elderly ladies. I went for two years and have very happy memories of the beautiful scenery, the fun and companionship.
Eileen Nixon (nee Fell) EHGS 1926-32.
I entered EHGS, in Form lA, in September 1926, the first year in which scholarship pupils were admitted for a minimum 5 year course. Previously 4 years had been the norm. I cannot speak too highly of the education I received. The staff were great, under the very able command of the Headmistress Miss CA Cross. Discipline was maintained with kindness. In September 1939 I married Frank Scrutton, who had entered the school on the same day as I, and we met at a school dancing class, run by the History Mistress Miss E Foreman. Last year we celebrated our Diamond Wedding!
Gwendoline Scrutton (nee Fordham) EHGS 1926-31
My first memory of EHGS was the Annexe in Shrewsbury Road for a year till the school in Plashet Grove was built in 1932. Keen on sport I benefitted from living in Manor Park near Rectory Road Sports Ground where I played hockey, and later tennis with the Old Esthameians. Miss Curtis Bennett (Rosalind) and Miss Turner were PE staff and I won the Sports Champion Trophy 1934-5 and 1935-6, as my sister Bessie had in 1926! I still have the miniatures, and my silver prefect's badge like a Maltese Cross. Edna Green (nee Petrie) and I were rivals at sports as she was not in Blue house, like me. I learnt a lot at school also! Particularly maths from Miss Bubbers, who was Headmistress of Romford County High for Girls when I married and moved to Hornchurch. When I met her at her retirement and she forestalled me introducing myself by saying "Don't tell me. You're Kathleen Quinn". This was 1972 and I left school in 1937! " Ah," I said "I was either your best pupil or the rebel of the school". Her reply was "It doesn 't matter now".
Kathleen Steele (nee Quinn) EHGS 1931-37
I was only at Plashet Grove for my last year at EHGS and can recall the opening and, I believe, the earlier laying of the foundation stone. I lived in Forest Gate so, en route to the old 'Tech' I saw the new school at various stages of building. Before that I remember the White House on the site, with tennis courts where we could play. I was told, but can't confirm, that the house had connections with the Fry family. The school also used tennis courts at Gooseley Lane and two beside a very small cinema in Barking Road. When the 'Talkies' began we could hear the sighs and sounds of the heroine! I realise how much I owe to the Grammar School and the 'Tech' particularly to Miss Cross, who inspired timid pupils with confidence. Also to the dedicated teachers of English and French, Miss Tozer and Miss Furby, who laid the foundation for a love of language and literature which has lasted all my life.
Elizabeth Hicks (nee Bessie Willson) EHGS 1927-33
I attended most POSA reunions until 1966 when Miss Catherwood, the last remaining mistress of my years, was retiring and Kathleen Byron presented her with a bouquet. I knew Kathleen's parents who, like my mother Mrs Lily Sutton, were Councillors on the Education Committee. My mother was on the Board of Governors for EHGS and Mayor of East Ham in 1959-60. I remember her presenting the prizes at several Speech Days. When the foundation stone was laid there were two head girls whose names were pegged on the stone in copper letters. One, Phyllis Chennells, was in the 6th when I was a first year. At the 1992 Reunion the peg marks were there but the letters had gone. My year - 1931-36- had our own Reunion at my house in 1990 when we were all 70. 19 of us met from 11.30am-6.30pm. A 3-page article and photos made the Nov/Dec 1990 Saga magazine, which generated lots of correspondence. We have repeated the Reunions in 1995 and 2000. I still have a prefect's badge, a silver cross, which I'm sure dates to Miss Cross' time, when a staff member left a legacy to buy the badges each year . I also have a school hymn book. Phyllis Reece (nee Bulley) and Ethel Buvyer are also from my year at the school.
Molly Fossey (nee Sutton) EHGS 1931-36
When I joined EHGS in 1942 most of the school were evacuated to Kidlington so I went there too. It was my first time away from home. I was lucky to be in beautiful Thornbury House, set in its own grounds, with 30 other girls. The house was divided into several dormitories and mine Sardinia - was the largest with seven girls. Others were called Heaven, Paradise, Eden and Erebus. Our Head was Miss Hewitt, welfare assistant Miss Kruger and cook Miss Elliott. I remember large apple and quince pies, the quinces from a tree in the garden. There was a lull in the bombing on London and some girls returned home. In summer 1943 we all returned to East Ham and I spent the rest of my school days at Plashet Grove.
Joy Hemsworth (nee Joyce Cavalier) EHGS 1942-48
In 1949 EHGS was again sent food parcels from a school in Hawera South Taranaki, New Zealand. The luxuries of dried and tinned fruit went towards our Christmas party in the big hall of the Town Hall. We wrote thank you letters to the school, and I was lucky enough to receive a reply from Ethel, who got my letter. Ethel and I exchanged many letters and small gifts over the next 50 years. I answered the phone one day in 1984 to find Ethel saying they were coming to London, did I know of a hotel? Obviously they stayed with us for the two weeks and we took her and Don all over London. We got a small item in The Newham Recorder, with Ethel and I photo'd outside the school gates. Sadly Ethel died suddenly last year .
Muriel Williams (nee White} EHGS 1948-54
As far as I know I was the first girl graduate from EHSS and definitely from EHGS. I was the first girl to specialise in geography, thanks to the good groundwork by the geography master Thomas Franklin. When I reached College I had a much better knowledge of all parts of the world than many of my fellow students. "How was I admitted to College in the first place?" (where I mixed with others from much grander educational establishments). I think it was by the very good testimonial from my headmistress, Miss CA Cross. It referred to my academic interest and ability but also to my out-of-school activities and interests, and I think this is most important for anyone trying to progress to a higher level and in a wider sphere. At College I studied geology as well as geography, both of which required much time spent in the field. Days, weekends and weeks out together meant a great deal of camaraderie between us all, and was lots of fun as well as hard work. I kept in touch with many people and two of my best friends are still alive. I went to the Reunion of the Joint School of Geography at Kings & LSE to celebrate 50 years (now disbanded). Besides academic work I joined the Music and Dramatic Society, whose Musical Director was Patrick Steptoe, who pioneered the first test-tube baby. I was a leading fairy in Iolanthe! I played the piano as a child, and choral singing was cultivated by the Singing Masters at the old school - father and son by the name of Day-Winter. Our school choirs won many competitions. I also played badminton at College, a sport taught in the 6th form at school by the Head of Maths, Miss Howard. I played it until eyesight problems at 56 made it impossible. I played the piano in the College chapel for special religious events which were broadcast on radio and Reginald L Smith, a boy from the old school who went to Kings to read English, played the organ. He was much more talented than I. We played for sing-songs at the Yearly Conversationes - glittering 'open events' for parents and friends. I enjoyed college life!
Madeline Salinger EHSS /EHGS 1927-34
Note by Jim Briggs. Sadly, Madeline Salinger's University achievement was not recorded in the 1955 Golden Jubilee edition of the Esthameian. Many later ones were also not recorded, often because entrance was gained two years after leaving school, due to National Service, and the school was not notified - I'm guilty in this respect!