Memory by Anthea Moore
Written down by Beverley Moore
Pink knickers in the dining room
I was 10 when I was sent to Pengwern College. 1944. I remember three things about the dining room there. There was the delicious macaroni cheese, made with processed cheese the Americans sent over. Then there was the awful sago pudding. I was always starving – rationing meant there wasn’t much food. But I couldn’t manage the sago pudding. We got in trouble if we didn’t eat everything. The girl next to me saved me by stacking her empty bowl on top of mine. But my main memory is of the day my new school skirt arrived. I had to take off my old skirt and try on the new one in front of the whole school at dinner – all 60 girls plus teachers. I was wearing some dreadful pink knickers someone had given my mother, which she’d sent on to me. Can you imagine?
Pink knickers in the dining room – creative journey
I know little about my grandparents’ lives. I wanted to ask, but the gap between my experiences and theirs seemed too vast too bridge. Now I understand that life’s life, no matter what century you live it in, I’m trying harder with my mother. Asking about the geography of Pengwern College proved a good way to bring out new stories – but it was as if mum was talking about someone else’s past, rather than her own. Her slow, careful answers showed little emotion. I had to find out how she felt about her time at the school – might the good bits have outweighed the poor teaching and the casual cruelty? I tried a final, direct question: ‘Were you glad to leave?’ This time, the answer was immediate: ‘Yes. I hated it.’