This blog shines the spotlight on one of the original teachers at Alexander Road High School. It is a transcription from an article entitled OBITUARY: MISS LAUREEN ALMA CHILCOTT 1914-2007 by Peter Chilcott, her nephew.
Miss Chilcott taught at Alex from 1955 until her retirement in 1973.
Main picture: Miss Chilcott
Born in Middelburg, Cape, on the 8th December 1914, Laureen’s family relocated to Queenstown in 1917 where she did her schooling at the Girls High School. While living in Queenstown, the family-owned horses and Laureen was a keen rider.
After her schooling, Laureen went on to the Teachers’ Training College in Grahamstown where she obtained her diploma. She obtained her first teaching post at Rondebosch Primary School in Cape Town where she taught until the outbreak of World War 2. During the war Laureen joined the armed forces, serving in the special Signals Services based at the Castle from 1943 until 1945. Afterwards Laureen was demobilized, going to UCT. She studied Art, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Art degree.
Laureen then went on to further her studies at the Royal School of Art in London where she specialised in calligraphy. In 1955 she joined the Alexander Road High where she taught until her retirement in 1973.
Civil war erupts
One day Miss Chilcott was walking across the tarmac area in front of the entrance to start her day when she tripped or fell due to a small pothole. This infuriated her so she rushed into her art supply store that was snuck in under the staircase and proceeded to whip up a bowl of plaster of Paris. That little place was her funk hole and, if she was upset and there were any number of things that upset her, she would take refuge there. Anyway, having got the right consistency, she rushed outside and proceeded to fill in all the holes. Unfortunately for her, this was outside the staff room and Waco – WA Cordingley, the headmaster, AKA Batman – spied her and flew outside to remonstrate. Flew is the correct verb as he always wore his Batman cape – his academic gown – and he was perennially in danger of taking off as he energetically rushed around the school. Overall he was a good man but he had a short fuse which combined with his tendency to suffuse beetroot red could be rather frightening. Not to Miss Chilcott though. Her dander was up and she gave as good as she got. The result probably was a dishonourable draw.
Sharon Rhode recalls that on one occasion Miss Chillcott (Chilly) sent all the boys in her class for a caning. Waco hit his desk instead and then winked at the boys, telling them to rub their behinds as if they had been caned.
A respected artist
Laureen did numerous calligraphy scrolls for various universities and municipalities, and her mark has been left on this city as she did the Golden Mayoral Book for the Port Elizabeth Municipality. Unfortunately, that legacy of hers was probably burnt up in the fire that consumed the City Hall in 1977. She enjoyed reading and was widely read, Laureen also It travelled frequently, visiting many resorts and historical sites around the world. She participated in many local clubs and her interests included history, art, and music. Furthermore, she was a keen member of the Historical Society, even after her eyesight failed.
Following a bad fall in September 2005, Laureen was admitted to Greenacres Hospital from which she was transferred to Nightingale Lodge in Fernglen, where she died on the 15 October 2007 at the age of 92. She never married and is the last of the family of two brothers and a sister who have all passed away. She is survived by her two nephews, Peter in Port Elizabeth (and his children in the UK) and David (and his children in Australia).
Comments by ex-pupils
Sharon Rhode [Edelson]: Does anyone remember Jimmy holding Titch upside down in Miss Chilcott’s class and banging Titch’s head on the floor? I don’t remember why Jimmy did it but I remember them both being sent to Wacko.
Obituary: Miss Laureen Alma Chilcott, 1914-2007 by Peter Chilcott (Looking Back, November 2007, Volume 46)