Thursday, 9 July 2015

Is it home time yet?

The prompt photograph for Sepia Saturday #287 features a group of very solemn looking students. Clearly posing for photographs was a serious business and smiling was not the done thing whenever this photograph was taken.  This made me think of my parents' school photographs taken in the era of the 1930s and 1940s.

This first photograph is of my father and his 48 classmates in Standard 1 at Rangiora Borough School,NZ, 1932. My father Ian Cruickshank is lying in the front row, 5th from left.  I don't know for sure if this is all one class but that was quite likely the case. The pupils would have been around the age of 7-8 at this time. The girl in the spotted dress in the 3rd row is smiling, and a couple of other children have the glimmer of a smile, including my father, but the great majority of the others are downright scowling and certainly look like they are not enjoying their school days at all. All except one have been identified by staff at the local Rangiora museum and their names are attached to the photograph, but I won't include them here, as I know at least 3 of them are still with us, now aged in their early 90s.

Ian Cruickshank aged 8

The next photograph shows a tall 16 year old Ian standing out 'above the crowd' in the centre of the back row in this Lower 5th Form class at Rangiora High School in 1940. A few of the students including Ian still have fairly serious facial expressions but more are smiling overall. That folded arms pose seems to be de riguer for the boys.

Two years later and it's a very small and seriously focussed class remaining in 6th Form, 1942. Only those wishing to go on to university would have stayed on to complete this final education year.  These days Rangiora High is a big school and no doubt there is a substantial group of students in Form 6, or Year 13 as it is now known. Ian was inspired to study science by his science master at Rangiora High, and after he passed away in 2000, wife Jean endowed an annual prize at the school in his name for promising science students. Hopefully Ian would have approved of this as a suitable memorial to his life and work as a research scientist.

The Rangiora School held its 125th Jubilee reunion in 1998 and my father attended the event, although  he really didn't enjoy it, as he didn't remember anyone from such a long time ago, having left the country in 1956 and having little or no contact with any of the other students since.  He appears in a photograph taken at the reunion, although his name was omitted from the identification list that comes with it, which perhaps confirms that other attendees from his year did not remember him either.

In the Jubilee photograph above, the unlisted 74 year old Ian is wearing a blue shirt and cream jacket on the far right of the second row. There are 14 of his former classmates identified in the photograph, but only one other gentleman amongst them, also named Ian, standing 5th from left in the second row in 1932, and 5th from left in the back row in 1998, and he is one of the three who to my knowledge are still with us. Of course some others may not have been interested or their whereabouts may have been unknown.  A number of the other people here appear younger and perhaps this group photo represents a decade of students. 900 old students in total attended the Jubilee.  At least most of Ian's cohort look happier than they did in 1932!  It's not too difficult to discover whether a certain individual has died in NZ, because if they were aged 80 or over, their name and date of birth then instantly appears in the historical death index. This means for example that from 2004 onwards the index will include the names of anyone born in 1924 who died at any date thereafter. On the other hand, the name of my uncle who died in 1994 aged 56 will not appear in the index until 25 November 2017, being the date that he would have turned 80.  Of course this doesn't apply to those few like Ian who left the country and never returned.

Here's my mother, Jean Morrison as she then was, aged 10  at Somerfield School, Christchurch NZ in Standard 4, 1936. Little Jeannie doesn't look particularly happy here, 5th from left in the second row practically being elbowed out by neighbouring girls, and those two standing above with arms folded masculine style look particularly menacing. Always a small child, Jean was victimised by both the teacher  and the other girls. Understanding that Jean was not enjoying school in these circumstances, her sympathetic mother Mona arranged for her to change schools.

Jean Morrison, 2nd row centre

 Jean was much happier at Cashmere School, even if she doesn't really look that way. Here in a combined group of Standard 5-6 pupils in 1937, she is seated second from left in the front row. The row of boys with arms folded generally look to be older than those in the back row. Smiles are more common in this photograph, but they are not yet universal. 

At Christchurch Girls High in 1940, being a member of the C tennis team was clearly no laughing matter, although Jean at far right looks slightly bemused all the same. She enjoyed playing tennis.

Now here is a photograph from my father-in-law Bob Featherston's collection, showing him with his fellow boy scout troop members, displaying a trophy they had won. Folded arms was the preferred pose here too, in about 1930/31. Bob joined the scouting movement in 1929 aged 12 and progressed to became a Queen's Scout.  Here he is standing on the far left at the back, trying his best to look stern and serious, as are the other members of the 1st Barwon Troop. 

Certificate of Admission as a scout

Robert Featherston, Queen's scout

Now for a troupe of a different kind, here is a postcard produced by W.H. Duncan,15 Anlaby Road, Hull, showing a rather unsmiling group of girls of all ages from a dance school with two of their teachers. I think the little girl in front, just right of centre, is my mother-in-law Mary Featherston, then Mary Olds. She's not the smallest member of the troupe, but almost. Mary herself is not sure, but perhaps someone can identify her from the sweet individual photograph below. She must only have been about 5 or 6 at the time, in about 1930/31, around the same time as her future husband Robert Featherston was engaged in his scouting pursuits. Mary modestly says that she was not very good at dancing, and only did it for a little while, until her father Frank Olds decided that there was too much travelling involved. Her mother Doris didn't drive, so unless the dancing school had a bus, Frank would have had to take Mary to perform at the various venues around the countryside. The family lived in Hull, where Frank worked in the Civil Service, Ministry of Labour.

Today as I write this, 8 July 2015, little Mary is 90 years young, and has had a very enjoyable time receiving cards, flowers, gifts and messages of  congratulations and well wishes. She's not up to dancing these days but is still smiling and still managing to live on her own in the house that she and Bob moved into in 1959. I've mentioned Mary and included other photographs of her and Bob in previous blogs, for example here and here

This photograph was taken today by her granddaughter Josie. Happy Birthday Mary! 

For more group photographs of serious people and otherwise, just take a trip over to Sepia Saturday #287. No smiling, mind!


diane b said...

Enjoyed the stories about these lovely old snaps of serious groups. Happy Birthday to Mary. She is doing well.

Joan said...

Nice family school and group photos and stories. I was surprised at all the crossed arms. Tho out of nearly the same era, but in the rural Pacific Northwest of America, we were much less posed -- in fact my school pics usually looked like a hodge-podge of kids.

Postcardy said...

Nice collection of photos. I am always both amused and surprised to see the changes from young to old of the same people.

Kristin said...

I think the birthday photo of your mother-in-law is about the happiest of your bunch.

Jo Featherston said...


ScotSue said...

A great selection of photographs to match the theme - especially that first one - a student group and hardly a smile amongst them,! Lovely to see the photos of the young Mary and her smiling face on her 90th birthday.

Family History Fun

La Nightingail said...

It seems strange today to see a photograph of a group of children looking so serious with hardly a smile. (Good for the little girl in the polka-dot dress!) The photo of the scouts with arms crossed looks quite masculine until you notice those crossed-at-the-knees legs. I wonder who thought that was a good pose? I think you're right about Mary being just to the right of center in the dancers' photo. It does appear to be her. My daughters had dancing lessons & danced in recitals at young ages - also my granddaughters. And they did pretty well, too. But those recitals were wonderful fun - the young ones especially, all worried about who was doing the steps right, & who was doing them wrong, & freely expressing their opinions about it right there on stage! My husband says he & his Dad used to go to his sister's dance recitals when she was young & stuffed handkerchiefs in their mouths to keep from laughing out loud.

Deb Gould said...

Boys in my schools didn't cross arms, either -- I remember we all had to leave our hands at our sides. Boring, but probably a better photo. Happy Birthday to Mary!

Lorraine Phelan said...

You've come up trumps as usual Jo, with an excellent story to explain your interesting photos.

Little Nell said...

Wonderfully clear photos and a very happy smile to round them off.

Brett Payne said...

I love the photo of little Mary in costume, standing in front of the balustrade/scenery backdrop.

Doug Peabody said...

I love how the boys were informally posed in your dad's class. Very relaxed!

Wendy said...

It's almost as if the group photos were "choreographed." I especially like the one with arms down on the back row, arms folded next row, etc. Balance and symmetry!