I remember, when I was at boarding school in the early 1950s, every Saturday morning we had to sit down and write a letter home. In those days we were only allowed to go home two or three times in a twelve-week term. In retrospect, the strict rules and punitive punishments were dreadful to inflict on any child. My letters generally followed this format:
Dear Mummy and Daddy,
How are you? I am fine.
The film was called Lassie Come Home. It was sad and I cried.
I got detention for running in the corridor. I got a credit for art.
I hate school please can I come home?
Love from Eleanor xxx ooo
The letters were carefully written on Croxley Cambric paper – in pencil until we graduated to ink. Royal Blue Quink Ink was the favourite. Some lucky pupils had fountain pens; otherwise we used a dipping pen. I can’t remember addressing the envelope but I do remember we were not allowed to seal it. This was not a ‘reform’ school but an upper-crust church school (Anglican) and all the correspondence was vetted. Hard to believe in this day and age! I have no idea what was censored – or censorable in an eight-year-old’s letter!
From week to week the only change in my letters would be the name of the film; how many ‘order-marks’ (bad) I got and how many ‘credits’ (good). Three order-marks equalled one detention. The top punishment was being ‘gated’: in other words, not allowed home for one of the Sunday Exeats. Major punishment was not being allowed home for Half-term. I was gated once for pulling a tongue at the matron. The fact that I was terrified of her and licking my lips to moisten them was not a valid excuse! Anyone who has lived through a winter in High-Veld of Africa will know how cold and dry the atmosphere can be.