In among the photos that families accumulate over the years, there are some that just beg for a closer look. And since I discovered this wonderful old photograph of my husband Jerry's kindergarden class (dating from 1934), I've often gone back to it for another peek to see what we looked like in those years. This photo is from Horace Mann Elementary School in Los Angeles.
My first observersation is that the photographer did a wonderful job in capturing this class picture. The images are crisp, the lighting perfect and the only thing missing is the teacher's face.
I have to think that the kiddies were dressed up for the occasion: the little boys (including Jerry, who is the blond curly-headed tyke fourth from the left in the back row) wore white short pants and shirts, the girls in their best dresses, all with high yokes and puffed sleeves. Notice the ribbons tied around the wrists of the little girls. I'm sure they did not wear this type of clothing to school each day.
I am not sure when, in California, we began letting our school children dress sloppily. I know that when my children were in elementary school (1961-1971ish), girls were still required to wear dresses, not pants, to school. At some point, perhaps in the 70s, what I would call "appropriate school clothing" guidelines went to hell in a handbasket, and now it seems to be every boy and girl for him- or herself.
My two youngest granddaughters have always picked out their own clothes each day to wear to school. Although I kept my mouth shut, I could not imagine anyone sending their children to school looking the way they did some days -- in pre-K, wearing a spaghetti strap t-shirts with a pair of short-shorts, or a floor-length dress modeled after one of the Disney characters. Or sometimes just a terribly mismatched set of clothing. However, the first time I was babysitting them and had to take them to school, I discovered that the whole class looked exactly like they did. They did not stand out as seriously out-of-step in the clothing department. Rather, they fit in just fine. Which caused me more surprise but eased my concern a bit.
It is interesting to compare the photo above -- with children looking like a batch of little cherubs -- with what a comparable bunch of kids in school look like today (anything but cherubic!). Anything goes. I am in favor of school uniforms, which I think probably helps create a better learning environment, but then I look at the education that little Olivia and Justine are getting in their weird ensembles and see that they are far ahead in their learning than where we were in ours when we were that age. So obviously clothing is not an educational determinant or deterrent, at least at this age.
Still, the picture taken in 1934 is worth a look now and then - to remind us oldsters of what we looked like when were were 5 years old, what the classes looked like, what society and the fashion industry called "the latest" in kiddie-wear was, and how interestingly our clothing ideas have changed in the last 75 years.
And not least of all, how much Jerry has changed -- from that darling little blond-headed fellow to a now gorgeously-gray-haired great-grandfather, who was given the name "Bonkers" by his youngest great-grandson.
He still has the same smile and still loves to be surrounded by girls. So it was not total change for him. Aging, yes, but change, no.