Time and place

I can remember seeing my mother's School Certificate exam papers – this was the forerunner to O-Levels, except that you had to pass six papers including English and maths in order to get a certificate, rather than getting a separate English, Maths etc pass.*

The paper I particularly remember was the Arithmetic one (there was another one for other aspects of maths) where a typical question went something like 'The Atlantic Ocean is (so many miles, furlongs, chains, yards, feet, and inches) across, and the RMS Queen Mary crosses it in (so many days, hours, minutes, and seconds). Find her average speed.'

This is the intro to saying that another old exam paper has been found. In 1960, L's father took The Chartered Institute of Secretaries (Southern African division) Intermediate Accountancy exam. Question 2, the second of the three compulsory questions, was about the XYZ Lawn Tennis Club. Amongst the things people answering the question had to take into account was..

Two natives are employed by the Club, one to attend to the courts at a wage of £4 per week, the other to serve tea and minerals at a wage of £1 per week.


It's notable that the sale of those drinks is losing the club money: they're spending £106 annually to buy them in and only getting £149 from selling them… despite the way that the stocks on hand are worth £6. Whatever else the members are, they're rubbish at running a viable refreshments service.

Amongst the other striking aspects is that the women members pay a smaller annual subscription than the men (£4 vs £6, but that's still a month's wages for the person serving drinks…)

* If your six included a foreign language, you got a pass acceptable to universities. That would have been me stuffed then.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *