Reading to the dormitory

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Chris T
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Reading to the house

Post by Chris T » Sat Oct 12, 2013 7:48 pm

When in a junior dorm, with 24 others on the top floor of the house, one of the regular delights of weekend bedtime, after lights out, was about 30 min of reading aloud by a dormitory monitor. The choice of literature was usually his, but the housemasters also took an interest in the choice, possibly as censors. Juniors sometime also sometimes suggested reading material. After so long I remember very few of the works read; only Edgar Rice Burrough’s stories of Tarzan and life on Mars, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”, also other of his works, and A.G Street’s short stories. Recent Blues probably don’t know any of these authors. (Poe is maybe an exception.) But with individual cubicles in today’s dormitories, is there any such reading now? What was read to the girls?

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Re: Reading to the house

Post by LongGone » Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:35 pm

My most memorable reading was 'Dracula'. For some reason, at exactly the right moment, the dormitory door would open with appropriate creaking.
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Re: Reading to the house

Post by alterblau » Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:52 am

In a sense, “Reading to the House”, included House “Duty”. This was the evening spiritual readings in the dayroom on the 6 days without Evening Chapel, after first prep and just before juniors went to bed. In my house only the house captain read and one of the two housemasters always attended. The “Duty” consisted of a lesson, usually taken from a folder of typed extracts provided by the management, and then prayers from a similar list, always including the Lord’s Prayer. Like gym (as recently described in another thread) it was considered a boring necessity. The reader could make any selection from the Holy Scriptures. Rarely was there any excitement with “Duty”. But, although I wasn’t in Maine A, I heard that on the eve of a particularly tense House Rugby Cup Final the lesson was the book of Daniel about the writing on the wall at Belshazzar’s Feast, which comprised the mysterious words, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin”. Or if you prefer, “Maine A, Maine A, tackle and pass it”.

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Re: Reading to the house

Post by Kit Bartlett » Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:58 pm

Some Monitors were I remember not particularly good readers. I also recall Rev. Cecil Cochrane, Junior Housemaster,
reading to the senior Dormitory "Nine Taylors" by Dorothy L. Sayers, quite a lengthy book which must have taken a considerable
number of nights.

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Re: Reading to the house

Post by michael scuffil » Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:29 pm

Our junior dorm readings were done by one of us. The reader's bed would be wheeled to beneath the central light, which could be pulled down (for matron's inspection). I remember some distinctly 'unsuitable' reading matter, for example the non-cadet edition of The Cruel Sea, and the memoirs of investigative reporter Duncan Webb, who specialized in vice rings. The only other book I remember offhand was The Lord of the Rings, which we started almost as soon as it was first published, but soon discontinued, as not many people liked it.

I do remember our housemaster John Page reading from 'Ghost Stories of the Norfolk Broads'. He was a Norfolk man himself, of course.
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Re: Reading to the house

Post by eucsgmrc » Sun Oct 13, 2013 6:43 pm

alterblau wrote:... House “Duty”. This was the evening spiritual readings in the dayroom on the 6 days without Evening Chapel, after first prep and just before juniors went to bed. In my house only the house captain read and one of the two housemasters always attended.
In ColA (late 50s-early 60s) the monitors took it in turns to read, but otherwise the ritual was just as you describe. The reader was free to choose what he would read, and nobody asked or checked beforehand. Very occasionally somebody would introduce a reading from outside Christian scripture, and Kit seemed to tolerate that without comment.

However, about once a year some daring spirit would take on the challenge of reading the valley of dry bones from Ezekiel 37. Although that's not intrinsically a particularly droll passage, the entire house believed it to be hysterically funny, and also knew the consequences of laughing. If anybody tittered, or if the reader corpsed, then Kit would be beside himself with fury and would cane titterer, reader or both. If, on the other hand, the reading passed off in safe solemnity, the reader would acquire great kudos with Kit as much as with the house.

I don't recall anybody ever reading about Oholibah (Ezekiel 23). I cannot imagine how that would have been received.
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Re: Reading to the house

Post by Martin » Sun Oct 13, 2013 7:49 pm

In our house the monitors took the mini-service of House Prayers in turn. One monitor never read from the New Testament, always using the OT. I finally deduced he was Jewish, but this was not otherwise obvious, for he attended Chapel and Divinity lessons.

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Re: Reading to the house

Post by Fitzsadou » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:07 pm

Concerning evening Duty,CME Seaman (headmaster & OB) once told me that when he was a house captain, in the 1920s, he had requested permission from his housemaster to read a passage from the Koran at Duty. Permission was granted. (But whether for more than one occasion, or whether the housemaster insisted on seeing the passage before the reading, I do not know. CMES was doubtlessly then a very pious person, as he was as HM, so probably there was no censoring for him.) He told me this with some smugness implying, it seemed, that he would welcome someone else doing the same thing. I did not do so and have no idea if anyone else ever did during CMES’s regime. But it must be emphasised that in the 20s, 50s and 60s attitudes to Islam in Britain were totally different to those of today. In Britain then there were very few Muslims and they were virtually invisible. Islam in those days was considered a very foreign and exotic religion, with no cultural relevance to the Western World. Effectively it was unknown, except for those who had lived and worked in Muslim lands, or who were interested in comparative religion. Yet the political and economic importance (oil) of some Islamic countries was acknowledged after the second world war. At Housey today, with its few Muslim pupils, is the Koran ever read at Duty, as CMES did?

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Reading to the dormitory

Post by Kit Bartlett » Tue Sep 16, 2014 5:18 pm

Do people recall he type of book read to both senior and junior dormitories ?. They were read by both masters and monitors. We had one monitor in Colerfidtge A who was such a poor reader out loud that it was painful to listen. Dorothy Sayers' "Nine Tailors" was a popular one as was "Moonfleet"

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by J.R. » Tue Sep 16, 2014 5:24 pm

I have vague recollections of being read too in Col B. "Rally Round The Flag Boys" rings a very distant bell.
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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by sejintenej » Tue Sep 16, 2014 7:28 pm

Kit Bartlett wrote:Do people recall he type of book read to both senior and junior dormitories ?. They were read by both masters and monitors. We had one monitor in Colerfidtge A who was such a poor reader out loud that it was painful to listen. Dorothy Sayers' "Nine Tailors" was a popular one as was "Moonfleet"
Thank goodness it was abolished when you left! As for STC; he would not be happy at seeing his name written like that :wink:

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by DavidRawlins » Tue Sep 16, 2014 7:46 pm

I remember Kit starting to read a number of books, and only reading a chapter or two, before he decided that they were unsuitable for us. I think that he used to read on Sundays. Icannot remember Corks ever reading to us.
I did read some of A A Milne's works when I was a monitor.
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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by michael scuffil » Sun Sep 21, 2014 11:26 am

I remember The Cruel Sea, which John Page approved of because it was the 'Cadet' edition. As soon as he had gone, the non-cadet edition was substituted, which contained some pretty juicy passages.

On another occasion, we chose Duncan Webb's memoirs. Duncan Webb was a crime reporter on the 'People' newspaper, and specialized in 'vice'. He was said to have originated the phrase 'I made an excuse and left the room.' It was from this book that I learnt about the Messina brothers, who ran a vice ring in London in the 1940s and early 50s. I mentioned this to my mother, and she said, 'Yes, one of them lived in Kings Court (the rather classy block of flats in Hammersmith where I lived till I was 2) and he used to tickle you under the chin.'

John Page himself would occasionally read 'Ghost Stories of the Norfolk Broads'. Not exactly bedtime reading, if you ask me.
Th.B. 27 1955-63

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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by Mid A 15 » Sun Sep 21, 2014 12:24 pm

John Wyndham's Midwich Cuckoos and George Orwell's Animal Farm are two books which spring to mind from Maine A junior dormitory 65/66 courtesy, mainly, of Geoff Fordham and John Lloyd the two monitors most involved with us squits.
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Re: Reading to the dormitory

Post by postwarblue » Sun Sep 21, 2014 4:47 pm

I'm pretty sure that it was monitors reading to the dormitory that introduced me to Thurber and Saki and Dornford Yates.
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