My great grand aunt, Julia Drew, was a school teacher in her home town of Copperopolis, California at the turn of the 20th century. Intelligent, stylish and fairly well traveled for a single young lady in that day, the stodgy old styles and school rules in place undoubtedly grated on her sense of fun and freedom.
It is hard to imagine how the young ladies in this photo of a Copperopolis school activity could jump rope without tangling their skits in the rope and breaking their necks. Perhaps the line up of ladies with dour expressions was enough to encourage them to not trip and fall least they be ministered to by the frosty faced matrons. Julia’s sister, Minnette captured the ‘joy’ of the scene almost to perfection.
Every school in America needs an American flag. Looking at the photo it is obvious that the school board was flush with budget funding that allowed them to purchase the largest flag in the catalog. The transverse loading on the pole in even a small wind must have been formidable.
The pole is being closely guarded by most of the boys and the toughest girls in the school in an emulation of a power circle to keep an apparent captive under control.. The hated but necessary death grip hand holding with girls ensured the flow of power in the protective energy capture ring. .
Until I enlarged the photo a little, I assumed the captive was the wicked witch of the West and that she had been tied to the flag pole for a session of ridicule and possible lynching. Of course that would have been just a flight of fancy in the minds of the youth of the ring. The enlarged photo clearly shows that she is free and still has a firm grasp on a witches wand that is hidden behind her back ready to zap anyone foolish enough to say they “hate holding hands with girls”.
Perhaps my imagination runs rampant when I patrol the pixels of old family photos and my thoughts and modern day themes overlay historical fact. .On the other hand, perhaps my story is only a weak interpretation of how insufferable school activities were in that day. By comparison, I only had rulers broken over my head by teachers. The poor lads back then could have been turned to stone from a teachers glare!
Undoubtedly the truth lies closer to my version of the duress experienced by boys in the Copperopolis school back then. Who could have been having fun wearing those clothes and holding hands with girls?
One has to be grateful for .soft comfortable clothing and grass in the school yards that we enjoy today. I suppose boys are still forced to hold hands with girls today whenever the dance instructor visits in physical exercise activities. It could be worse. They could be forced to sing a solo in front of the class or give a public speech like I was forced to do in a effort by my teachers to squash my youthful ‘exuberance’.
If they were to attend grade school today, they could even have their iPods or smart phones banned by the dragon master who greets the young indentured students at the school door every morning. But, fortunately, even if kids today fall under this misfortune, at least they don’t have to look at those ugly dresses all day too.
And there it is .. another ‘how hard we had it’ story is in the can to tell our grandchildren. Old genealogy photos spawn all sorts of fairy tales in my mind to be told on a warm summer night under the stars when they sleep over. After a groan of indulgence, they say, “Ok grandpa. Now what was the real story?” and off we go into the land of word images again.