Organisation, Meals, Clothing & Pocket Money
This community differed significantly from many other organised care environments: it aimed to provide a setting which was as close as possible to a family life. The original policy was that, if children were either very naughty or had more than troublesome behaviours, they would not be removed from the community – in the same way that most conventional families would manage their own children during difficult times.
The management of the children’s lives was intended to be conducted in national groups, led by “house parents” of the same nationality – allowing the opportunity for them to maintain aspects of their own cultural identities. Due to the lack of numbers for most nationalities, during these early years, the only groups which had a dedicated national house were the Tibetan and the Polish children.
Each house was run by a housemother and housefather. The very first houseparents for the European children were two single individuals: Maureen and “Uncle Mac” (sadly, we can’t recall his actual name). Subsequently, houseparents tended to be married couples – but not always. On rare occasions there would be just a housemother.
The houseparents were supported by one or two assistant houseparents. In later years, these assistants were frequently volunteers who also worked at other duties (such as in the garden) while children were at school during the day.
A common experience in the early days (1959-1960) was that the children spent many of their evenings relaxing in the Warden’s family living room, watching television. At that time the Warden and his wife had one baby daughter and she was also
incorporated into much of our daily lives, often being nursed or given rides by the children. This constant, close proximity was probably not an easy thing for them – it meant that the Warden’s family had little time to themselves – but it did mean that there was a more intimate relationship established between children and adults (and, probably, a less institutionalised atmosphere). Coupled with this, all care staff (and many of the other staff) were addressed by their first names.
The founders of the Pestalozzi Children’s Village also resided within the Village and were called by familiar titles: Dr Alexander was “Onkel (Uncle) Alex” and Mrs Buchanan was “Aunt Mary”. Dr Alexander’s wife, Hilde, was addressed as “Tante (Aunt) Hilde”. We believe that the intention was to create a paternal and maternal image of these individuals which allowed the children to feel a greater degree of association and, probably, trust. While there are varying opinions about this, our view is that the idea was generally successful.
Later, following a substantial change of staff and the departure of the founders, this practice of familiarity was inclined to be discouraged – along with more separation of the personal lives of most of the staff. However, possibly due to the established attitudes among the children towards these relationships, it was never entirely erased. To this day (2014) many of us retain the same affection for the few surviving houseparents with whom we are in contact.
In 1962, a new Warden (Freddy Spencer Chapman) arrived and was provided with a dedicated (but very small) house on the estate. Our relationship with him was rather more distant and it had a very different dynamic. Also, his three children attended boarding schools and, when they did visit, there was very little contact between us and them.
During the first year or more, meals were provided in the Manor House dining room and were attended by all children and care staff – including the Village founders. Meals were prepared by the Village’s cook, Irmgard Pollack – renowned for her varied and delicious contintental recipes. The children contributed to the preparation assistance and cleaning up on a rostered basis. Dim recollections
suggest that it was a time of “organised chaos” but also an enjoyable experience. Every meal was preceded by one child reciting grace, usually in German or English, and, for a long time, followed by an enthusiastic shout of “Guten Appetit!” from one boy amongst us.
With the establishment of the Cedarwood House, the arrival of the Tibetan children and the construction of “International House”, our groups became separated into four houses: the Manor House, Tibetan House, South House and North House (the two halves of International House). However, we recall that cooked meals continued to be prepared in the Manor House kitchen and were transferred to the other houses in hot boxes.
Clothing provisions were organised by each child receiving an accumulating weekly allowance of 7/6d (about 37p – equal in 2014 to approximately £7.40) per week. Cash was withdrawn as and when clothing purchases were required and included school uniforms, the majority of which, we seem to recall, were bought in Hastings from Marks & Spencer’s on Queens Road who supplied the sturdy, if not fashionable, St Michael’s brand.
The Village also operated an on-site clothing store which was stocked from public donations and run by Sedlescombe local, Mrs Thomas – wife of Ted Thomas, our maintenance engineer.