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3:Making polish and frilly hats

Daisy Noakes (standing left) in her formal uniform in the school grounds
From the private collection of Jennifer Drury

Walking up Greenways

Going to Ovingdean Boys’ Preparatory School you would get off the bus at the coast road. Then you would walk up Greenways where there were fields either side until you got to McCullum’s Farm.  This was the first building you came to on your right – he kept cows that went across the road, into the field. On the right side of Greenways  there were bungalows dotted here and there. At that time, in the early 1920s, there were a lot of people who bought up old railway carriages and had them put on a plot. They would renovate them and decorate them up to make them into nice little places to live. Then all you needed to do was put an archway and roses and call it ‘Dunroamin’ or something like that.

Making our own polish

At the school I was ‘on the go’ the whole time with cleaning and sweeping, dusting and polishing. We made the polish for the floors ourselves, not like now when you buy it in a tin. You had to cut up lumps of beeswax and put them in a seven pound marmalade jar and pour turpentine on them. Then you had to ask the cook, very nicely, if you could stand them on the kitchen range to melt. The cook was an old misery and had a face like a frog, all turned down at the corners. She would not let us do this until the meals had finished. When it was melted we would stir it all up to make sure that it was all mixed up and that was what we used to polish all the floors. It was hard work!

Our formal dress

We wore blue dresses in the morning with big white aprons like a nurse wears, and a ‘Dorcas’ cap which was like a mob-cap with just a cuff on it, and celluloid collars and cuffs.  Then we had to go and wash and change into our ‘afternoon clothes’. We had to change into black;  that was a black dress with a little fancy apron but still the celluloid collars and cuffs, and of course black shoes. We were allocated a hat which was three tiers of fluted material that we had to tie on with a black velvet band.  You had to ‘look the part’ – it was very formal. 

You can read the next part of Daisy’s story here.

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