In this post – Mrs Janelle Aldous reminisces about her memories of Physical Culture – 65 years since she first started ‘physi’. First with BJP and then from 1961 with the Edith Parsons School of Physical Culture in its inaugural year.
Janelle is a well respected and much loved physi veteran who works tirelessly to support Putney PCC – taking the fees, handing out reminder notices, helping with the little ones and generally lending a supportive ear. This year will be Janelle’s 20th year with the Putney club. Janelle still competes both individually and in team competitions against much younger ladies mastering the same syllabus as ladies more than 45 years her junior.
In 2015 Janelle competed in the Advanced Ladies Masters (over 60 years) competition gaining a well deserved 5th place.
The one thing that stands out for me, was in 1961 when I attended Drummoyne Presbyterian P C Club. Teach came to visit each of the clubs in her new school, just before comps and encouraged us to all compete.
I remember so much about that day – I had my hair set- at the hairdressers (for only the second time in my life), Mum came to comps with me (she had never been before), we thought we were running late, and while waiting for the bus to take us to town- ( which didn’t seem to be coming) mum hailed a taxi! (Unheard of!) I ended up drilling in the first heat, and my number was the very first number called out, to compete in the semi-finals. I was so surprised I didn’t know what to do! I had been drilling for 10 years and had never been out of a heat before. I was very nervous while waiting to drill again and a teacher (I think Shirley Bullock – Concord Wesley PCC) spoke to me and reassured me that I would be alright.
When I first joined in 1951 (I think) we wore soft black ballets called practice ballets, and white socks. The uniform was a short red tunic over a white blouse. A couple of years later for a team we wore brown and beige Sundeck linen uniform with a waist, four gore skirt and a side zipper. The highlight of this uniform was the addition of green ric rac braid trim, still with black bloomers, black ballets and white socks. There were eight girls in a team and we juniors did folk dancing, as a team dance, dancing in pairs around a circle, skipping into the centre or around your partner (that sort of thing). Very different to today. As I got older the uniforms changed a bit, but still with a side zipper and four or six gored skirt – sometimes with a collar or different coloured trim or braid. Sleeveless of course.
By the time E P Physi started I was a senior and we still had uniforms as before, but proper black ballets, and Teach insisted we wear black swami pants over another pair of briefs – didn’t matter even if the uniform was white! And we wore ‘March On’ to make our legs look brown.
Each club had their own pianist, who played for class and played for your own team in competitions. Sometimes the pianists were nervous and played something wrong and the team was penalised.
Of course in those days, Teach did all the choreography, dictated the work to the Teachers in Teachers Class and maybe showed them something that was tricky. I think from memory the work wasn’t quite as detailed as it is these days.
The best club I attended was Alicians, a Business house Club for 1st, 2nd and Senior girls only, which Teach herself taught. In 1962 when I started there, there were grand Finalists from 1961, including Grand Champion Girl- Barbara Hayes in the class and we learnt to listen to Teach’s answers to anyone’s questions, because that was how you learnt. Good training!
I have been a member of 7 different clubs, but will finish at Putney, which I rejoined in 1997. I have talked about just drilling this year and not competing, but Carolyn might have something to say about that.
Another plus for me is that Physi is for all ages. One of my daughters and two grand-daughters have drilled or are still drilling. It is a thrill for me to see them trying their best in competitions.
There have been many other changes over the years, but Physi is still a big part of my life. If anyone had said in 1951 that I would still be drilling in 2015 I would not have believed them. When I rejoined Putney in 1997, I didn’t think I would be still drilling in 5 years to get one of Carolyn’s awards. However I have enjoyed being at the one club with the same teacher for the last 19 years. But I am sorry Carolyn, you are a very good teacher, picking us up on all the little details, but the best teacher I had was Miss Parsons (Teach) for the five years I drilled as a Senior Girl.