The things you find when you start to declutter! School friend annual 1964 is a blast from my very distant past. Yes, I know, some of you weren’t born then, but I can’t resist sharing the sort of books produced for young girls in the olden days! I loved receiving annuals and anthologies, books in my favourite series or by my favourite authors. The more books I received, the more successful I rated my Christmas. Anyhow, it’s fascinating to look at this over 50 years after it was published.
School friend annual was an English publication which was also distributed in New Zealand, South Africa, and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Loyal countries of the British Commonwealth, in other words. As far as I can tell it started publication in 1927 and lasted until 1982 by which time I believe it was all comic/picture strip. One article I read suggested that the 1960s are the most collectible!
I’m going to discuss the main contents of my 1964 volume by rough category, so we can look at the reading matter deemed suitable for the young girl and teen of the early to mid 1960s. It’s a time when the Beatles were starting to make their presence felt, when the Civil Rights Movement in America was well under way, but when the second wave of women’s liberation hadn’t really started:
- Lucky Black Horse, by Cecil Danby: young girls and horses, then, and still now!
- The Ballerina from Nowhere: this would have been one of my favourite stories (told in verse in fact) as I adored ballet and loved ballet books and ballet stories. No horses for me. It was ballet all the way. The ballerina illustrated is very nicely developed, which was something for skinny-rake me (at the time) to aim for.
- A Christmas Carol, from the famous story by Charles Dickens: an excerpt.
- The loneliest girl in town, by Christine Landon: about the new girl in town who wants to join the dashing looking scooter club. This is a teen story, with such writing as ‘”Haven’t you ever realised why Gloria can’t stand you, Mandy?” she asked merrily, “It’s because you’re heaps pretty than she is. She was scared you’d be a rival.”‘ I don’t suppose writers of contemporary children’s books have their protagonists talking “merrily”, do they?
- The legend of the fire-bird, illustrated by Mollie Higgins.
- The girl who went back to 1066, by Evelyn Day: a time travel story.
- Tropical Magic: A cruise in the sun – the story of a hair stylist at sea, by Janet McKibben: about an Island Chief in the Indian Ocean wanting his daughters’ hair to be dressed western style!
- The midnight feast, by Gwen Perrott: besides the ballet stories, my other favourite stories were school stories – and if they had a midnight feast, all the better
- Ladybird’s alibi, by Frances Cowen: a detective story involving teens staying with relations: “Uncle George and Aunt Mary are dears, and almost make up for our not being about to spend our holidays with Father and Mother in Ceylon”. Love the language – “dears” – and the social history here, with the parents in Ceylon, another part of the British Commonwealth.
- The Fisherman’s Daughter, by Percy Clarke: an historical adventure story about a missing father, a strange lady in black and a foreign lugger.
- Mysterious neighbours, by Hilary Bailey: a contemporary neighbourhood story.
- All because of Cora, by Frances Lindsay: about a girl in a school choir who wants to be a singer, and her jealous rival.
Stories (Comic form)
- Dilly Dreem – she’s a scream and Mitzi and Fritzi: short comics, interspersed through the annual.
- Tracy on the road: a longer story about teenage fashion models. It’s all about a race to be first at a fashion show, but when their competitors run someone off the road, they stop to help. “Luckily”, we are told, “the girls had changed into casual clothes”.
- The Sparrows of Angel Street: about a street decoration competition
- My school friend Sara in A dazzling display: I suspect “My school friend Sara” is a series that ran through several annuals.
- The tomboy next door: what it says – and it would have appealed to me.
- Camera-mad Carol: about a school girl who wins a camera.
Crafts and cooking
- Present surprise: add a touch of tinsel: ideas for wrapping presents and Christmas decorations to make.
- Enticing with icing: how to pretty up a cake with lots of icing – “with a bit of care, imagination and a pound of icing sugar you an turn quite ordinary fare into delicious treats to surprise your guests”. I wonder how many pre-teens, as I was, had guests they cooked for?!
- Craft articles: two with Practical Prue, make a Pepper ‘n Salt Stand out of raffia, and how turn a dull tray into a “gay” one, plus another article on how to weave yourself a lampshade.
- Pretty up a plain dress in six gay ways: oh the changes in language we have experienced! Anyhow, this illustrated article, as they all are, shows how you can sew on lace, add a scarf or a belt, or a frill.
- A style for your shape: illustrated article on choosing a hairstyle to suit your face shape. After all “let’s face it, it’s your hair that tops off your final appearance”. Haha!
- Sally Brook’s Variety Act: for example, when buying a coat “don’t have a big collar … they seem to swamp young people”. And “Buying beads isn’t wise, if you have little money to spend on jewellery. Fashions change too quickly. If you want a necklace that you can wear on and on, and which always looks nice, save up for a single row of artificial pearls”. Or, for the same reason, avoid the long chains and medallions, in lieu of “a small chain with a locket or tiny pendant. Our Grandmas wore them, and they’re still being worn today.” (I’m afraid I didn’t take Sally’s advice when I got to the age a few years later – I bought the “in” chunky medallions and long chains! I still have some!)
- Pets and their people: a celebrity story containing photos of celebrities like photogpraher Cecil Beaton, actor Hayley Mills and singer Adam Faith.
- The seven ages of a ballerina: a story in pictures about learning ballet from beginning to being a starring ballerina, “her triumphant/dream-come-true/Reward for practising”.
So, plenty of illustrations, a few comics, a variety of stories covering a range of interests, plus the specific inclusion of horses, ballerinas, craft ideas and, most importantly, fashion advice. What more could a young girl want over the school holidays?
School friend annual 1964
London: Fleetway Publications, 1963