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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 21 - Dances At The Yacht Club

Gayle Woodward completes her secondary schooling and looks forward to the future with growing confidence. To read earlier chapters in Gayle’s absorbing life story click on Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine the search box on this page.

When School Certificate results arrived, I found I was to be promoted to the Sixth form to study for the University Entrance exam. I replaced mathematics with a more in-depth study of biology and carried on with my other subjects.

At school the next year, 1965, my life had changed. I had to work hard but knew that this would be my last year at school as I intended to enter Teacher’s Training College the following year. I was urged to consider university study but was rather tired of academic study and wanted something more practical.

Now weekends were full of dates. There were dances at the Tamaki Yacht Club and some wonderful all-night dances at a dance hall in Milford called Surfside. We were dancing the new dances of the Twist and the Mashed Potato that had replaced the Rock and Roll that earlier teenagers had danced. We girls were in almost-uniform short dresses, with shoes, handbags and large plastic earrings that matched. My favourite were a pale blue handbag, matching patent leather shoes, and earrings made from plastic disks to match.

Patti Dell Ross arrived in our home as an American Exchange student in the winter term. I was very excited to have someone from an American High School to live with. I thought she would tell me all about class rings, prom dresses, cheerleaders and folk music. I was still very interested in things American and pleaded with my parents to let us billet her. They were deemed to be very suitable home parents and took Patti into their hearts as well as their home. She was older than me, seventeen to my sixteen and studied at Form 6A level, not my classes.

She became friendly with some girls in the top fifth year class, especially as one of them was going on a reciprocal trip back to Patti’s home town of Charlotte in North Carolina. She did not turn out to be the friend that I had so desired, but she was friendly and fitted in to our family well. Woody and I arranged blind dates for her so that we could keep going out together in a foursome.

We let her drive his car which was totally forbidden under exchange rules; she did not know how to drive a car that was not automatic, and had never driven on the left-hand side of the road, so we would have to keep to car parks and country areas. She dated a friend of Woody’s from school called Cedric. This was never going to any more than a polite friendship but we were happy. We could continue seeing each other. We went to Piha for a visit with Patti and Cedric, I wrote:

I had been informed that an interview for acceptance at Teachers College had been arranged for me. I was to start my training in February 1966. The interview was conducted in front of a panel and I was very nervous and shy but it seemed that my Sunday School teaching and my work with the Brownie Pack as a Pack Leader helped my case and I was soon accepted. It must have been obvious that I liked working with children.

When the end of year results came out I found that University Entrance had been accredited to me so I did not need to sit the exam. All of a sudden, in November 1965, my secondary schooling had come to an end. Those of us with no more study to do that year wandered around feeling a bit shell shocked. It was finished! Four years of it! And seven years of Primary School too. I felt great pride in my achievements and very happy with my social life and my appearance. I was sixteen and felt a complete transformation had taken place in my life. There were still battles with my mother, still more study to do in the next two years, still difficulties getting my hair right and worries about fashion and keeping up with trends but everything as coming together nicely. I could see a way forward, confidently.

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