musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Sunday, January 04, 2015

time travelling ... back to the 1930s

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.
From Theressa:
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.
From Daisy:
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!)
From Melba:
To meet, to know, to love, to part
Is a sad, sad fate of a school-girl's heart.
And finally, the class clown makes her mark ...

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.

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At 12:48 pm, Blogger Becky Willoughby said...

I have mine from primary school!

At 12:54 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

Hi Becky - lucky you! I wish I could find mine but fear it was lost in one of many moves. It must be full of memories for you - good ones, I hope! Thanks for visiting.

At 1:42 pm, Anonymous TRTnursing, Leslie Anneliese said...

I never had autograph books and I don't recall seeing them. The closest I might come, would be when we signed each other's yearbooks from high school. But we didn't write clever poems in them. And I don't even have those books anymore.

The music bars are delightful. And just look at the lovely cursive writing!

Thanks for sharing this with us.

At 8:10 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

Thanks for stopping by, Leslie. It's interesting to see what people used to before Twitter and Facebook, isn't it? I love the writing, too - wait until you see the next installment. The ladies at teacher's college have lovely cursive script.


At 6:52 am, Blogger said...

How neat to find your mom's 'autograph' book. I never heard of them. But I love your fifth grade teacher's quote - great advice!

At 7:02 am, Blogger Cheryl said...

I agree, Pamela. There's something a little bit magical about these unexpected finds - it really does feel like a kind of time travel. Thanks for stopping by!

At 2:53 pm, Anonymous Single Mother Ahoy said...

This is fantastic, what an amazing find! Thanks for linking up with #WeekendBlogHop!

At 10:27 am, Blogger Cheryl said...

Hi Vicky - thanks for stopping by. Amazing is right. I've got material for two more blog posts from this wonderful little book. Flu's got me down, though, so I'll hop back on your #WeekendBlogHop next time. Stay well!

At 3:33 am, Anonymous Susan McNicoll said...

Thank you so much for this trip down the memory lane of so many young girls. Loved it. I have the most incredible collection of autograph books from my three years at an English Boarding School - autographs (of course),art, poetry, do you remember when you got me into trouble books. Time to get them out so thanks for the nudge. I worry about computers and items like your treasures getting lost.

At 10:11 am, Blogger Cheryl said...

Your boarding school autograph collection sounds amazing, Susan - what a trip down memory lane that will be. I keep hoping I'll discover my little book, hiding is a "safe place" one of these days. Meanwhile, I have another post or two waiting in the wings from Aunt Margaret's album. Stay tuned!

At 5:25 pm, Anonymous Susan McNicoll said...

Beautiful Cheryl. Full of hope and humour and school friendships. I have three of the most amazing autograph books from 1962-1965 (I was 13-16) when I was at boarding school in England. Some of the art is really good, most just an attempt to stop me bugging them for an autograph! Some are many pages long filled with all the memories of the trouble we brought to the school. I cherish them more than I can express. Thank you for sharing these.


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