I love old school magazines. In 2004, when I was a teacher, I based an exhibition about the school’s experiences in World War One largely around a stack of 1914-1919 school magazines. In 2014, I revisited these magazines as stimulus for my story ‘Each Slow Dusk’ in Walker’s The Great War. I’ve also plundered them for convincing Christian names for my 1918-set teen WIP, and I'm always moved by the juxtaposition of hockey matches and deaths on the Western Front.
As I’ve confessed here before, I was always a History Girl. ‘Tell me about the olden days,’ I would beg my gran, born in 1908, and she obliged with stories of the shirt factory and Sunday school and naughty Aunt Annie smuggling a kitten up to bed in her pinny. I was enchanted by the kitten but even more by the pinny. The pinny was proof that Aunt Annie came from the real olden days.
The pupils from the magazines – all those Ediths and Kathleens and Gilberts -- didn’t go to school with Gran and Aunt Annie – they were just that bit older and further up the social scale – but they might have sat beside them on the tram.
Mummy, born in 1947, came from the olden days too: not quite so olden but still firmly black and white, gym frocks and Elvis.
Then the world shifted to boring colour when I was born in 1968.
Because I didn’t come from the olden days. Obviously. And because I don’t have children, nobody has ever asked me, ‘Tell me about when you were a wee girl in the olden days.’ So, though I know rationally, that I lived through history – rather a lot of history, given that I grew up in seventies Belfast, I rarely, in my imagination, think of it that way. History was big, and happening somewhere else.
And then, last week, I saw this tweeted picture from my old school library.
I was charmed. Elizabeth and I are still best friends, and I’m still trying to encourage younger people to read. I’d forgotten about the Junior Library Club. But there it was, a tiny bit of the history of my own old school, and of my own olden days. 1987, it would have been. Not long enough to be proper olden days, of course. And then I thought again. When I was ten, my mum was thirty. The olden days she described were less than two decades ago. 1987 is nearly thirty years ago.
I do come from the proper olden days. I have only just realised it, thanks to Twitter and an old school magazine.