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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Sepia Saturday - Happy Student Days

 Sepia Saturday gives bloggers the opportunity to share their family history through photographs.


  This week's prompt shows a group of students looking very glum.  Well,  I can  recall one group photograph taken at my wedding where I seem to be the only person smiling - It was not a portent to the future as we are about to celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary!   However  I decided to consider family sensitivities and not feature the photograph online.   Instead I am looking back to my own happy student days.    

This  is the earliest photograph I have from  my school days in the 1950's when I attended Devonshire Road School, Blackpool, Lancashire.  I am on the second front row, second from the right, next to the boy in the  striped pullover. 

The fashion and hair styles here  were so typical of the day - the girls with plaits (me).  pudding basin haircuts, side slides or fancy top ribbons.  Boys of course wore short trousers regardless of the weather, with the step into long trousers a right of passage around 12-14 years old.   Look at any school photograph from across the country, taken in the 1950's and the styles are so similar

I counted a class of 46 - double today's standard for class size!   We sat in seried rows of individual desks with the ink well hole on the top.  I remember chanting our times tables, copying handwriting with scratchy pens,   the dreaded mental arithmatic sessions and of course reading which I loved. 

On a Friday afternoon we all gathered in the hall  for community singing  and I learned such patriotic songs as The British Grenadiers, Hearts of Oak, The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, Bluebells of Scotland and my favourite Men of Harlech, sung with much gusto.  Sea shanties were very  popular as we swung from side to side to sing What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?  and the chorus  "The Landlubbers Lying Down Below, Below, Below".  Are these now all forgotten,  as I doubt that children are familiar with them today?

 I moved on from Infants to Juniors, where the boys and girls were in separate classes.  I am the prim little girl second from the right on the front row of seats.  Hair styles are much the same, but see the popularity of peter pan collars, and our Clark sandals.  And another feature missing from the group  - no signs of any obesity crisis amongst us  here, as we were growing up when rationing was still in force. It only came to an end in July 1954  -  9 years after the end of the war.

There was not a strict uniform at my primary school, but I was desperate to wear a gymslip and tie.   My mother did not like them, but eventually I got one handed down from my cousin and wore  the school red and navy striped tie and the red girdle round my waist, feeling I had stepped out of one of the school stories I loved to read.

We didn't seem to get  class photos or individual portraits at my secondary school (girls only)  but I remember two occasions when the whole school (about 500  of us I think) gathered on the playing fields for a massive group photograph.  The first year pupils sat cross legged on the grass, with the staff in their academic gowns seated  on chairs, and the rest of the school grouped behind, either standing or  balanced on gym forms.  The result was a large rolled photograph in a scroll box.  Unfortunately I did not see fit to keep these and threw them out when I was having a major de-cluttering session  prior to getting married and moving to a small flat.   I do regret that now! 

So I have nothing but my memories to remind me of my High School days and University days where I was unaware of any group  photographs ever being taken.

My student days ended on graduation, - followed four years later by my brother - and look at those 1970's sideburns!  Both our parents left school at 14 years old,  and we were the first generation to go to university - something our parents were very proud of. A happy occasion all round. 

Click HERE to discover more stories  from fellow bloggers. 


With apologies - I cannot seem to get rid of the double spacing at the start of my post. 


  1. Very sweet happy photos and memories of your school days. I remember singing 'What shall we do with the Drunken Sailor', and 'Men of Harlech', which I also learnt to play as a marching tune on the recorder in a primary school band, but it wasn't until 1992 that we travelled around Wales and visited Harlech Castle.

  2. I too wish you had kept the high school photo --- on a scroll, no less. The school pics that you have and your wonderful description of clothes, desks, and curriculum takes us all back to our school days, whatever the era. I remember those desks with the ink wells, and the scratchy pens were my undoing. Thanks for the school daze.

  3. The first school photos I have are from fourth grade when my family moved, and I went to a new school. From then on, I had individual photos every year. There may have been some class photos from my first school, but I don't remember.

  4. We didn't have school classroom photographs when I was in school in the 1950s in Detroit. Too bad because I would like to see my classmates from back then. We weren't over weight either. No rationing but we walked to and from school several times a day and played outside running around for hours after school was out. Not to mention daily gym classes.

  5. Old school pictures are so much fun to look at. I, too, have learned to be a little more careful about what I throw away these days - having realized, as I get older, the value of things I didn't consider when I was younger. That is too bad about your high school pictures. However, your University graduation portrait is beautiful. You look like you're ready to tackle whatever challenge the future hands you!

  6. You and I are, roughly, the same age...and your younger class portraits look EXACTLY like mine -- even though we lived an ocean apart! Amazing, isn't it? Loved this post.

  7. I find with many class photos that they could easily be mistaken for Australian ones. I loved the reminder of hair ribbons, having a collection of colours and having to have them ironed between uses. As for your songs - we had all those in school singing in Secondary School. We were very British !

  8. You brought back many memories for me - including all those songs - the exact same ones! You make a god point about no obesity; I don’t recall any overweight children at my primary school either.

  9. School group photos really do have a character all of their own, especially when several successive years are viewed together. I have purchased a couple of sets like that from the late 19th century and find them fascinating.

  10. Thank you to everyone who commented. I too am amazed at how similar so many of our school photos are despite the thousands of miles that separate us.

  11. I have a couple group photos of classes my mother taught -- all the kids were smiling. They looked sincerely happy about school, well-behaved, the model class. I imagine today it might be difficult to get everyone looking chipper at one time, and surely there'd be at least one joker in the bunch to ruin the picture by not smiling or doing something obnoxious.

  12. Hi Sue .I have the Collegiate 'scrolls'.I also have a virtually identical pic of Devonshire Road but I was in Miss Culshaw's class .The photo of the Juniors must have been taken when I was ill,I have one when I was in Miss Sugden's class.I too remember the singing -a welcome diversion from the rigours of being 'primed'for the 11+.Regards Jennifer


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