Chapter 2 - At junior school
In the autumn of 1956, I left the infants school and moved into the adjoining ‘junior mixed’ school for the next four years. The scene was much as before – a sea of matronly frumpiness but with the addition of rather stern men in sports jackets. The deputy head, another pleasant and effective teacher in her 40s, was however an exception. She was a diminutive and neat woman who invariably wore stilettos – usually black suede ‘baby dolls’ with a heel of at least 3.5”. Her glasses were retained by a cord round her neck and perched on her fairly prominent bosom when not being worn.
A never-forgotten event at the end of my third year was the retirement of the headmaster, a well-respected man whose rather formal ‘tweed suit and brogues’ appearance belied a kindly nature. During his retirement speech in front of the whole school and a number of parents (many of them former pupils), he burst into tears. He had been understandably overcome by the emotion of the moment, which we all briefly shared sympathetically with him. For the first couple of years, the secondary modern school on the same site was also ‘mixed’ and the older girls there (14 – 16) were not obliged to wear uniform and took advantage of that, with some seen in the prevailing fashions, including winklepickers and kitten or modest stiletto heels.
Outside school, I had joined what was then known as the ‘Wolf Cubs’. In addition to ‘Akela’, there were two or three young women who helped with our activities from time to time. One of them, in her early twenties, was fairly tall and slim and in the summer often wore thinly-strapped slingback sandals with 3” stilettos. Not the most practical of footwear for active service but nice to look at; I have favoured them ever since.
For the record, my experience of wearing any women’s footwear during this period was limited to a few attempts at trying-on a few of my mother’s shoes or sandals, out of pure curiosity. Alas, my feet were almost too big and anyway her styles were unexciting. How I envied those friends whose mothers or sisters had what was (to me at least) better and more adventurous taste – although I doubt their shoes would have fitted either. Once, during a game of hide-and-seek in a mate’s house, I found by chance a pair of his older sister’s white stiletto courts. Alas, they were just too small, despite being marked as an ‘8’ – probably American sizing but this puzzled me for years.
I left the junior school in the summer of 1960 and, having passed the entrance exam, was awarded a free place at a good grammar school in West London, starting there in the September. This opened-up a whole new world for me, as I shall describe in the next part of this chronicle.