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Anita Redman – Bath Spa University

Anita attended Bath Teacher Training College from 1954 to 1956. She was interviewed by the Principal, Miss Dawson, at 1, Royal Crescent, which was one of the college hostels. This is her story.

"We also invented a washing powder product called Wikko and, the night before the rag procession, a few of us crept out of the hostel at about 1.00am and painted slogans advertising it on lots of shop windows."

Anita Redman, June 2022

I spent my first year at Hockley, a large house at the top of an unmade road we called 'The Ruth', which was off Weston Park. There were two other hostels nearby called The Elms and Parkside. We were taken to lectures at Newton Park each day by coach and brought back after lectures. We spent the first three weeks on Village Survey, where we observed children in their local environment, researched the area as well as spent time in the classroom.

Two of us from Hockley were sent to a village school at Clandown, near Radstock. It was rather a depressed area then as it had once been part of the North Somerset coalfield. There was an old slag heap near the school with fir trees growing on it and the village had quite a depressing feel to it. The headmaster did not approve of modern teaching methods, preferring the old ways of children sitting at their desks and learning by rote.

I chose Biology as my main subject, with PE and Dance as my subsidiary one. Biology lectures were held in an old farm building opposite the Italian garden. I enjoyed the subject very much as we spent much of our time outdoors studying wildlife in various habitats, including woods, ponds, lakes and the seashore near Weston-Super-Mare. We even had a day trip to Steepholme, in the Bristol Channel, to study sea birds. For these activities, I wore a pair of denim jeans and a duffle coat, a rarely seen outfit in those days. We carried our books and folders around in donkey bags.

For PE we wore royal blue, pleated shorts and yellow polo shirts. We had hockey and netball in the winter and tennis and athletics in the summer. We attended an old swimming pool in town throughout the year. Gymnastics and dance lectures were taken in the new assembly hall which doubled up as a gym. For dance, we had to wear short, sleeveless tunics in green, blue or pink with pants to match and we floated around being birds, bees, butterflies and other creatures or objects, in the role of the children we would one day be teaching.

We had Education lectures on history, theory and practice, spending three long hours in the stable block each Thursday morning. I chose to teach infants and we sometimes had children over from the local village school for practical sessions.

I thought the parkland around Newton Park was beautiful with its trees, lakes and Georgian house. However, if we wished to return to our hostels early, the long walk down the drive to catch the bus was quite arduous, especially in bad weather.

We had to sign in at 10pm on weekdays and Sundays, and at 11pm on Saturdays. This greatly restricted our social life, which consisted mainly of visits to the Forum cinema and coffee bars. Some girls went dancing at the Old Mill in Bathampton but they had to leave early to catch the bus unless they were lucky enough to meet a young man who drove a car. Others went to the Pavillion where they could dance to the new Rock and Roll music. However, this venue was put out of bounds by Miss Dawson owing to fights between gangs of Teddy Boys there.

During our first term, we were invited to a dance at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol University's Student Union building. A coach was laid on for us and we had a late extension until midnight. A formal college ball was held at the Assembly Rooms that term when young, national servicemen were invited from surrounding army, airforce and naval camps.

I liked traditional jazz and caused a few raised eyebrows by jiving with an RAF officer. On that occasion, I wore a flared, black, taffeta skirt and a gold-embossed top with three-quarter sleeves and a boat-shaped neck.

We provided a float in the Bath rag procession the following February with an Arthurian theme, “Lady of the Leak.” A brave student, clad in a long dress and cloak, sat in a zinc bath surrounded by Knights and Ladies, who proceeded to throw cold water over her. A group of us from Hockley formed a band and paraded through the streets of Bath making a cacophony of sounds from a variety of homemade instruments, recorders and even a violin.

We also invented a washing powder product called Wikko and, the night before the rag procession, a few of us crept out of the hostel at about one in the morning and painted slogans advertising it on lots of shop windows.

We were never found out but the agony aunt, Marjorie Proops, who wrote for the Daily Mirror, and criticised those awful students who vandalised the beautiful city of Bath. That night there was a Rag dance at the Drill hall where Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz band played for jive sessions.

In June we had our second school practice and I spent a very happy month in St. John's C.of E. primary school in Keynsham. I took a hamster in for the children to observe and care for as my Biology project.

Our first year ended on a high note with a carnival in Weston Village. Three Hockley students entered the competition for Carnival Queen and one of them was chosen. She was given time off from lectures to tour around Bath in a procession and have dinner with the Mayor and other dignitaries. On Friday evening a fete was held in a field next to Hockley and we were all given a late extension until 11pm. A group of Petty Officers arrived from HMS Arthur, in Corsham, and paired off with some of us. A few of us stayed out later than the allowed time and crept in through the back door. Our warden found out and reported us to the Principal. We were summoned to appear before her the following Sunday to explain ourselves and apologise.

For our second year, I and the rest of Hockley students, along with those from the Elms and Parkfield, were housed in Sydney, the new hall of residence that had only been opened the previous year. We put on a show for the new students with lots of songs and funny sketches about the lecturers and college life that we made up. It was a roaring success and Miss Dawson complimented us all on our efforts afterwards.

The long walk up and down the drive meant that our social life was somewhat hampered. However, we had dances in the stable block to the accompaniment of gramophone records, with the usual selection of men invited. The college ball that year was held in the Guildhall and I wore a turquoise, A-line dress in shiny taffeta. At Christmas, we had a dance with a four-piece band instead of records. Four of us went boating on the lake afterwards, including the pianist.

Work became more intense as we had to prepare for our final school practice in February. I was placed in a new school in Odd Down, where I had a class of over 40 seven-year-old children. The head had just implemented an integrated day with a free expression so there were no timetables, reading or maths schemes. There was no class structure and the children chose their activities from the materials in the classroom. The class teacher had a nervous breakdown during my first week so I took the class single-handed, managing to create some sort of order from the chaos and getting a good report from my tutors.

We also had our Special Studies for our main and subsidiary subjects to research and write up, to be completed by the Whitsun break. I chose to study water birds for my Biology topic and spent a lot of time sitting by the lakes, armed with binoculars and a camera. For a Dance essay, I chose the history of jazz and dances connected to it. I studied the effect of television on children for my Education study.

There was an open day in June when the drama club performed scenes from The Merry Wives of Windsor in the Italian garden. I took the part of Pistol, one of Falstaff's cronies.

A new gymnasium was completed in time for us to hold the Summer Ball in the Assembly Hall, now minus all the gym equipment. We had a live band and I wore a long, crimson dress that I had recently worn as a bridesmaid at a friend's wedding.

We finished the year with an impromptu concert in the common room in Sydney and departed with fond memories of our time at college, feeling that the lecturers had prepared us well for the teaching roles we were about to undertake.

I spent four years at a new infants' school in Henbury, Bristol, and twenty-five years teaching at a large junior school in Bracknell's new town, Berkshire, before retiring and moving back to Chippenham in 1997. A group of us from Hockley had several reunions at Newton Park. The last one was in 2014 when we celebrated sixty years since starting college.

I married a pianist and had four children.

The Alumni Oral Histories project aimed to gather individual voices and views from the University's teaching alumni community and publish these stories in people's own words. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.

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