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Waterlooville's Parish Magazine
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Ruby's Memoirs

Part 4. The Swinging Twenties

By now the twenties were in full swing and the whole country was dance mad. Jazz had arrived from America and a Jazz Band was the thing of the day. Any instrument could be used, even blowing through a comb and tissue paper made a noise for people to dance to. The school took this in its stride and found it a new way to raise money when needed and having school dances became quite the thing, in spite of no boys allowed. These were great fun especially for those who had already learned to dance. Now was the time to show your expertise as we had learned ballroom dancing in our local Dancing School so now spent quite a bit of our spare time trying to instil the 1-2-3 of the waltz, the different beat of the quick steps of ragtime and the slower one of the fox trot into our friends. The graceful movement of the waltz had gone, and a new dance called the Maxina arrived. All this was smiled on by our gentle Head who said she liked to see her girls "enjoying themselves". She certainly knew how to run a school and keep her pupils happy, I don't think the word "boring" was in our vocabulary.

All this made time pass quickly and before you knew you were 16 and the dreaded School Cert. Matriculation was on you and the end of your school days. I stayed on for another year to learn Shorthand, Typewriting and Business Studies. I didn't care for this very much, a few friends stayed on as well to take a similar course or try for Matriculation but we had lots of free time and were able to spend most of it on subjects of your own choice and help generally round the school. The school shop was very popular as stocktaking had to be done, and this meant counting everything that was used during the term from Text Books to Geometry Sets, pens, pencils, rubbers, note books, foolscap to say nothing of paper clips, ink and nibs and all that goes into school life. We usually did it in pairs and as it was the only place where you were allowed to talk it was always very popular only, being next to the Staff Room you had to be careful of what you said.

Eventually the year came to an end and for the last time we sang the hymn "Lord dismiss us with thy blessing". It was very emotional as a few of us knew this would be the last time we should take part, so said goodbye to our friends who we hoped to see again, and to many of the mistresses who had steered our course through school for the years we were there.

We were now well into the roaring twenties for real. It was a great change. No homework, no uniform, no timetable to live by, but a wide open world in which you had got to earn a living. For use if needed there was a Head Mistresses Association to help you in this. My father was all for me to stop at home but after a few months of this I decided it was not for me. A Dancing Career which I would have liked was out from the start, the stage being no place for me according to my father; as was a gymnastic teacher, but that meant going back to college, and if I went anywhere it should be into an office as it was safer. What would they have thought of life today. However, in those days you did as you were told and into an office I went. It was an accountants office which had just started to take school leavers of good education as shorthand typists. This was highly respectable so that was why I found myself as a very junior dogsbody in a room full of typewriters and some very elderly ladies, they were really quite young but to me they appeared to be very daunting with their long skirts and hair in buns. I found out later that there were only three of them and they typed the statements of companies accounts on enormous typewriters. After the first shock of being in the real world, I settled down and found the great outside full of surprises. In due course I left the typing bureau and worked on what was known as "the desk" dealing with figures and even learned to add shillings and pence together without making a mistake. After my stay there for five years, Comptometers as they were called, were being used for the first time as adding machines so all my expertise in this would have been wasted. But I suppose as you are learning one thing you learn another at the same time. Mixing with many different staff in a very large concern you learn about people who otherwise you would never have known. The ordinary clerks, pen pushers they were called, who earned a very poor wage as they had never been articled to a firm, and so would never get very far, the cleaners who tried to clean the old offices which were impossible to keep clean with the tools they had - a bucket and scrubbing brush and flannel, windows that were so dirty on the outside that you couldn't see through them anyway. It was all a very new outlook for me and I found a lot of reason in Socialism as did many of my age group who had had a sheltered upbringing, hence the coming of strife in the twenties, and the turbulent times that followed.

Ruby Bullock

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