IN the first of the Andover History and Archaeology Society December’s ‘Members’ Talks’, June Harris described ‘Secretarial Training in Wartime Andover’, at the Guildhall.

From at least 1917, secretarial training was offered at an official night school in East Street School at 3/6d for a two-year course. The private Woodner Institute offered day and evening classes with free typewriting practice at Lloyds Bank Chambers, above the bank. By the 1940s, Miss Hart, daughter of the ‘Parsons and Hart’ store partnership, was also giving secretarial lessons in her home in Junction Road. Miss Knapp, the surviving partner of the Woodner Institute when it closed, took that name for her school in rooms over Mence Smith’s hardware shop in Bridge Street, though it became known as ‘Miss Knapp’s’.

June started her training in January 1943, while she was aged 13 and still at school, attending in the evenings. She illustrated how the shorthand characters invented by Sir Isaac Pitman were formed. By autumn 1945 she had passed the 80 words a minute shorthand test. In addition to basing her working career on its use, she has found herself much in demand for minute taking!

Questions elicited that a Mr Charlton of The Avenue had been an expert in shorthand, which he had taken up through his interest in Charles Dickens, who used the Gurney system.

And why did June do it? It considerably broadened her employability: a shop girl could earn £1 a week; as a shorthand-typist she could expect £1 5s.

In the second talk, Phil Farlow shared his enthusiasm for music of the 1940s with a local connection.

In 1940, the relatively unknown Richard Addinsell, living at Chute Lodge, was commissioned to compose the score for ‘Dangerous Moonlight’, a film based on the story of a Polish concert pianist becoming a Battle of Britain pilot. The film is memorable for the ‘Warsaw Concerto’, written by Addinsell, orchestrated by Roy Douglas in the style of Rachmaninoff. Amongst Addinsell’s friends was Joyce Grenfell and Hugh Overmass, owner of Andover’s Savoy Cinema. Overmass promoted a concert with Addinsell and Grenfell in 1942 with the first performance of their jointly written song, ‘There is nothing new to tell you’. Phil also played Addinsell’s ‘Tune in G’, inspired by the landscape around his parents’ home in Appleshaw.

Roger Quilter, a generation before Addinsell, performed locally with Isidore Harvey, shop owner and aspiring concert pianist. Quilter is best known for his songs and the ‘Children’s Overture’ based on nursery rhymes premiered at the 1919 Proms. On 16 November 1921, in the very room of the Guildhall where the society was meeting, Harvey and Quilter performed two concerts. Phil played a recording of Quilter’s gentle piano piece, ‘Dance in the Twilight’, which Harvey had played on that day.

Phil then introduced the music of ‘The Squadronaires’, an RAF dance band formed in 1940, who are known to have played in Andover. They were high quality musicians, including trombonist George Chisholm. Phil signed off with a broadcast recording in 1944 of the band playing jazz standard ‘Cherokee’ by Ray Noble.