I made the most wonderful discovery last week, while going through some of my Mom's old papers - a small, leather-bound book with gilt-edged pages. Judging by the worn spots and scuffed corners, it had been well-loved and handled often. A single word, 'Album' was embossed in tarnished gold on the cover.
I opened the book, expecting to see my Mother's familiar handwriting, "this book belongs to Phyllis..." but instead found the following inscription to Mom's older sister:
Presented to Margaret May, member of winning team in Bowling Tournament held by Bellefair Young People's Society, Monday, January 6, 1930.
I turn another page and time falls away. I'm transported eighty-four years into the past, sitting in a classroom at Malvern Collegiate in Toronto with Margaret. The little leather book is new, its pastel pages clean and crisp.
"Psst." Tap a curly-haired girl on the shoulder and hand the book forward. "Autograph, please, and pass it on."
I blink and am back at my desk in 2015, turning pages, reading the thoughts and wishes of schoolgirls whose lives were just beginning. Most, like my aunt, probably passed from this world years ago. But their words, heartfelt, teasing, silly, and hopeful, live on.
You asked me to draw but I can't
You asked me to paint but I shan't
And so to spoil the look of this autograph book
I am writing these words on a slant.
|From Helen: |
One is a friend for a reason
One is a friend for a rhyme
One is a friend for a season
But I am your friend all the time.
|From Marion: |
In the pantry of your heart,
Consider me a lemon tart.
|A musical message from Queenie:|
Never B sharp
Never B flat
Always be natural
|From another Margaret:|
Some write for fortune,
Some write for fame,
But I write simply to sign my name.
When the gold sun is setting,
And your mind from care is free,
When of other girls your* thinking,
Won't you sometimes think of me.
(*Even back then the dreaded your vs. you're marred social media!)
And finally, the class clown makes her mark ...
To meet, to know, to love, to part
Is a sad, sad fate of a school-girl's heart.
|From Margaret #3:|
When on this page you look,
When on this page you frown,
Remember the girl who spoilt your book
By writing upside down.
Each of these autographs is dated February 7, 1930 - a time capsule of young women in their third year of high school. Did they marry? Have children? Write a novel? Did any of them imagine their future would include a second World War or human beings walking on the moon?
After graduating from Malvern Collegiate, Margaret attended Toronto Normal School (teacher's college), and collected more autographs there, as well as a few intriguing photos of her classmates which I'll post another time. Margaret married in 1940, had two sons, and lived a long and happy life in a little house in the East York area of Toronto. She collected Royal Doulton figurines and Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which are part of my library now.
Her little autograph book was also passed around for family signatures - I'll share some of those surprising autographs in a future post.
I know many people still pursue celebrity signatures, but whatever happened to personal autograph books? Does anyone collect these days? I remember having one in grade school, although I've no idea where it is now. I do recall my grade five teacher's inscription, though: "Step up the stairs, don't stare up the steps." Good advice, Mrs. Mackey. Good advice.
Labels: 1930, archive, autographs, family, family story, history, memories, time travel, writing