Over the next few months I will be dipping into the new Hammond archive and alumni database to feature the story of a past student every week.
Our first student is Connie Mansell née Vaughan who attended The Hammond at Liverpool Rd. from 1958 – 1961. Connie was originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
What are your favourite memories from The Hammond?
‘Endless … the opportunity to study in such a wonderful environment … to be able to have ballet training where I ate & slept was a leisure.’
‘Being a Canadian, I could not always go home for holidays, so I was shipped to my great Aunties in Wales or Mrs Hassall’s Farm or home with a student … I had the privilege of staying with very generous and kind families of the students at The Hammond.’
Can you describe a typical day at The Hammond?
‘My recollection of daily life at the Hammond is connected to the sound of the “BELL.” Yes, the bell summons one to wake up, breakfast, coffee, lunch, tea, super and in-between a bell for afternoon Ballet Class.’
‘The teachers and the students were what gave the school its uniqueness, Mrs Hassall, Oggy, Miss Orme, Miss Boswell, Mr Marshell, Miss Lloyd, Mrs Hill, Miss Benson, Miss Syson, & many more.’
‘There was no heating in my time at Hammond, so in the winter a shilling in the wall heater was a must before springing out of bed to start the day.’
‘After breakfast it was off to school, Normain College, we usually took the bus. We came home for Lunch, again by bus, back to school by bus and then back again at the end of the day … sometimes we walked to save pennies.’
‘Ballet class was after tea. Preparing for Elementary was a hard task indeed. All classes had an accompanist who knew the combinations better than us. A flower arrangement was usually placed on each piano. Mrs Hassall would put bowls with wire inserts for hedge vines & flowers to make magnificent flower arrangements throughout the school.’
‘After class was supper, then homework up in the attic. Then bath – you had to clean out the tub for the next student – washed tights & undies were then placed in the airing cupboard. The airing cupboard had numerous racks for hanging our light things on and was heated by the water heater. In the morning our clothes were dry and stiff but clean!’
‘Saturday was at the Grosvenor Hotel Ballroom, to assist with the children ballet classes. The mothers sat on the sides having tea and we heard not a peep out of them. Walking to the Grosvenor was a thrill, passing shops and looking at life in the town of Chester. Saturday was market day and the rich produce from around the area was on show for families to buy.’
‘I went on to take my Intermediate RAD exam when I was a senior, no more Normain College. As seniors we had dance all day, variation classes, learning how to teach the syllabus to children, folk dances and helping teach in various locations of Chester. Passing my Advanced meant it was time for me to move on. I think I delayed it as long as possible. It was hard to leave even though I was going to get on with my new career, this had become home … a place where I had started to grow up.’
What did you go on to do?
‘Well, I was too tall to be a classical dancer, but tall enough to dance in revues. My first was in Paris at the “Casino De Paris”, I was 18 years old. From there I went to Beirut, Lebanon for two years 1962-64 and then back again … the revue was a spectacular show that used choreographers from all over the world.’
‘I ended up in Las Vegas as a dancer for seven years and this is where I meet my husband. After leaving Las Vegas I started to teach RAD in Aspen, Colorado, and San Francisco California for the total of 33 years.’
‘Now, I am retired and a Grandma, I live near my two children, and enjoy the Art of San Francisco.’
Thank-you so much for your wonderful memories Connie!
Keep an eye out for next week’s Student of the Week and if you haven’t already, please fill in our Alumni questionnaire.