We were twelve when we had to decide what course we would take at secondary school. My twin sister and I had no idea what we wanted to do when we grew up. “Well”, said my father, “if you take a commercial course and learn to type, you will always get a job.”
I well remember the noisy clatter as a room full of teenage girls hammered away on sturdy archaic typewriters. The clatter was interspersed with the sound of a little bell when the carriage got near to the end of the line. The mantra was; asdf ;lkj. We wore black bibs which were attached to the typewriter and tied up around our necks so we couldn’t see the keys. That is how we learnt to touch type.
I didn’t really enjoy school and I was dead scared of failing School Certificate because it meant I’d have to go back as a second year fifth. There was quite a stigma associated with that. The second year fifths were not allowed to wear the uniform of their class mates who had moved up to the sixth form. I scraped through, despite failing shorthand. It was such a huge relief. My whole class left at the end of the fifth form. Only the academic streams went on to the sixth form as my form teacher didn’t think we could cope with University Entrance anyway. So dad said, “You may as well get a job”. And so we did.
With hindsight I wish there had been a careers advisor or at least someone giving advice about setting career goals. We were just expected to get a job, as my father put it, “to tie us over” until some knight in shining armour came along and swept us off our feet and we became a kept woman, just like our mother had been.