GALLERY PART SIX - 1950s photos & anecdotes
courtesy Alicia (Alisha) Sufit

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I stumbled on your St. M's site yesterday and was fascinated and moved:
I was a pupil at the school from around 1952 -56, my name Alicia (Alisha) Sufit.

Gosh, gosh . . . the site puts together bits of the puzzle that remained mysterious to me. I'm going back to it soon to scour for more information! Interestingly, I'm still in touch with John Maizels, with whom I was also a fellow student at Chelsea School of Art, though he doesn't appear in your list of ex-pupils. His brother and sister were there too. Someone else I've been emailing recently is Gered Mankowitz, and I'm wondering if he's the "Gerald" in your photos?

So, was Nikolai Tolstoy a pupil at the school or a teacher? I'm a singer-songwriter (see web site - & and years ago I wrote a song about a man I had a brief relationship with - NicholasMaltzoff. I was singing it in a bar one night and this stranger came up to me and said the song sounded Russian, and that he was ? Tolstoy. It turned out that Nicholas Maltzoff was a friend of his. The ballet mistress at St. M's was Miss Trasvinski (not sure of the spelling). Her mother accompanied her on piano. I was ballet mad and went later to the Arts Educational School to train full time.

This one is of Jean Bennett's fireplace at Woodgate Cottage, Beckley, Sussex, with a portrait of her on the mantel


On Lawn at Woodgate Cottage;
Line-up left to right :- Jennifer Risner, Mark Latimer Sufit, Alexis Findon, (Peter the dog), Stephanie Tomalin, & Alicia Sufit.

I adored Jean Bennett, a brilliant and inspiring teacher. (Cripes! I still remember her phone number - Beckley 224. She was like a second mother to me, and more, as I'm sure she was to quite a few). I was also was very fond of Dorothy Bevan, though I'm not sure she reciprocated! Is she still alive? Dear Jean died about 24 years ago, I think, aged eighty, I believe. I'll try and pin point the date. A group of us went down to her cottage for a memorial service.

As mentioned on the bit I wrote "on site" my parents had the cottage and land next door to Hedgerley Wood. Our place was called Sunley Bank with fifteen acres of woodland attached. I remember going next door and meeting Mrs Bevan one time.

As far as I can remember the children are from left to right:- Evelyn Ripper. Front row -Vicki Berger and Lucinda Huxley. Back row - Gered Mankowitz, Yoko Suga, Alicia Sufit, Christopher Burns, Harvey (surname?), girl-can't-remember-name, Gloria Harris, can't-recall-name-of-half-boy.

The line-up is from left to right - Beverley ?? (tall girl kneeling), Christopher Burns, Gered Mankowitz (with beard!), Sarah Walton, Alicia Sufit (stocking plaits), unknown boy, Harvey ?? Seeing as I'm around eight years old, the year must have been approx 1954

I don't know the names of these children, but they were all in my mother's class - Mrs Sufit. They are dressed up for a play she wrote for them. She had the bright idea of asking then each what they'd like to be, rather than casting just one girl as the princess, one boy as the king and so on. She ended up with something like 5 princesses, six wizards, four kings, etc. Hilarious, and also much fairer, much more democratic!

My mother, Mary Sufit, who was a teacher at T & C, kept pet mice in the school for the children to observe etc. 'Minnie' had given birth to some little micelettes and my mother proudly took the aquarium they lived in round the school to show the other pupils. But she was very upset when she realised that 'Minnie' had not finished giving birth. Out popped another two, blind, pink little scraps. They lived in a nest of chewed-up cotton wool and newspaper, and were exquisitely beautiful. I can still remember the musty mouse smell, feel the little feet on my hands (and the accidental peeing!!) we also kept Moon Moths in the school, fantastic creatures that miraculously hatched out in captivity. They had huge scythe-shaped eau-de-Nile wings with little moon shapes on them.

Adrian Wright, son of Kay Wright, who taught art at the rival school, King Alfred's. Adrian is an actor, settled in Australia. Stephanie Tomalin has a beads and needlework shop in Portobello Road. About ten years ago I found myself next to her at the RFH. I leaned forward and said "Hello Stephanie", before my brain had caught up!

One lunchtime we sat down to eat in the subterranean dining area and found that sugar had been put in the stew instead of salt. I seem to recall that Mrs Paul (or was it Mrs Bevan?) came down specially to appeal to us to eat it up anyway, waxing lyrical about entering a new experience without prejudice and other such nonsense. I bet they didn't eat it themselves!! We were such nice little kids we just listened quietly and then tried very hard, but not very successfully, I reckon.

I'd love to know more about Rosamund Gardener - 'Miss' Gardener. I wonder if she's still alive? I'd love to talk to her or write to her, as I think she knew my mother quite well. My mother died of cancer when I was eighteen, so I never really got to know her as an adult.

I remember being taken right upstairs to Mr Paul's eyrie, where he presided somewhat nervily in a black beret. We were shown his miniatures, a bit like Indian miniatures. Mr Paul seemed very sensitive, perhaps a bit brittle and fragile, with that strange defensive vulnerability adults sometimes manifest faced with a group of children.

Also, whatever happened to Uncle Willy, the music teacher, who was such a sweet man, if a bit of a buffoon? I seem to recall he always wore a spotted bow tie and had a very beaky nose. he seemed so happy all the time. He introduced us to Peter And The Wolf by Prokofiev, and lots of other stuff too. Talking of happiness, I reckon I was extremely happy at that school most of the time, due mostly to Jean Bennett's influence. Mrs Paul once came into our classroom and got us all to meditate, eyes closed, sitting in our classroom seats. I remember the utter peace, the golden silence of the moment. She was an extraordinary character. My father affectionately used to call her the "Hungarian Goulash". Was she Hungarian Jewish?

I left the school aged ten, but soon met up with old class chums one day: Ninette Rubenstein, Jennifer Risner and Gloria Harris. Ninette suggested we should all go for a midnight feast on Hampstead Heath (ten year old girls, those were the days!) I thought this was a great idea. We all arranged to meet at Ninette's, her house being somewhere near Heath Drive NW3. I dutifully bought a Fruitarian sandwich, a Mars bar and a torch for the occasion, strapping the latter to my push bike to be "legal" at night. My father was away on business, so, after my mother had gone to bed, I got up, dressed and cycled round to Ninette's. But there was no sign of her. I started throwing small stones up at her window. Then, suddenly, her father appeared at the door. He very concerned about his little Ninette and the danger I was enticing her into. Even though it was her idea! He told me to run along home. Anyway, undaunted (having read too many Dan Dares) I set off to Jennifer Risner's house in St. John's Wood. Half way down the Finchley Road I suddenly realised she would be coming up to Ninette's on the last bus, a number 13 no doubt, so I would miss her anyway. At this point I gave up Our First True Adventure. But, suddenly, a cop comes across the road and starts quizzing me about having no lights on my bike. Oink! The torch had died! He ticked me off and told me to go home. I went all the way back to Kemplay Road, got into my nightie, went into my mother's room and woke her up. Then, I'm ashamed to say, I burst into tears. Did she believe a word? I think not.

I sort of gather that the school was your secondary education? wheras I left when I was ten.

I loved the Jungle Gym in the playground and the high suspended pole that one could swing about on. It was very interesting getting a glimpse on your site of that same playground after all these years!

kind regards, Alicia (Alisha) Sufit

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Thanks to Alicia for providing these photos and anecdotes.
Perhaps you have something you could submit for inclusion, The teachers? The buildings? Hedgerley Wood?
whatever you have that you could share. Contact me