Dear Jen

Dear Jen,
I know you always ask me about my life as a little girl, so I thought I would share my story with you. The year was 1960 when I turned 12.
My mother, your great grandmother sent me off to boarding school when I was 12 because my family did not “have the time for me” while they were trying to run the family business. It was a small mixed goods shop which sold fruit and vegetables and family staples. Even though both of my brothers left school at age 14 to help your great grandfather harvest and grow, I always felt like I was disowned. Going to boarding school for me felt like it would be better than any life I would ever get at home.
The meals were simple, the uniforms were simple, but I sort of got used to it. I guess I had to. I had to do my own dishes and wash my own uniform but these days you have a dish washer, washing machine and clothes dryer.
After dinner we had to do homework and chores then it was lights out and bedtime. The beds were really hard and small and we had one little cupboard to put all of our belongings in. The dormitory was always overcrowded and we just had boring meals like rice/stew/bread! But as bland as the meals were, no one ever complained as we had three meals a day. There was no such thing as a canteen or ordering anything different.
You could never say anything out of line to the nuns because you would get something called the paddle. The paddle was something every girl feared as it was a long stick with a round end on it, almost like a boat oar that your generation would use to row a boat. Luckily, I never got the paddle because I was so shy and always did what was asked of me. I did one day witness my friend Molly get the paddle for yelling out how awful a meal was in the mess hall at dinner time. The mess hall was a big dining room where we all ate together on wooden benches at the same time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The potato was dry and we had not had meat in a week. Molly never complained about the meals after this day. She was only 13.
My hand was always sore because we had to write everything on our chalk boards and slates. These days it seems a whole lot easier with the technology, laptops and smartboards to work with.
So that’s my story of me as a 12 year old in the 1960s at boarding school. Be thankful for the facilities you have these days as life wasn’t as easy for us.
Appreciate your family my dear Jen.
Love your grandmother,
Mary

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