Mid-century school kids

Here’s Ignatius Thistlewhite and his school chums from The Year Without a Santa ClausPhyllis McGinley wrote the story in the 1950s, so I liked the idea of keeping it set in that time.

Most people, when they think of that era associate it with early rock ‘n’ roll, greasers, big cars with fins, malt shops—the image cultivated by movies and tv like Grease, Happy Days, Hair Spray, American Graffiti & Back To The Future. I was born in the 1950s and started school in the early 60s, so I saw that time through a child’s eyes.  I wore the clothes I put on Ignatius: a red fur cap with ear flaps and red plaid woolen pants. I didn’t wear a necktie as Ignatius wears in the sketches; art director Anahid Hamparian showed good sense when she asked me to lose it.

The classroom is how I remember Allen Road Elementary School under the tutelage of Mrs Gurney, Miss Yaeger, Mrs. Bowen, Mrs. Haskins, Miss Nugent & Miss Corey (the art teacher)—I know I’ve left out some names.

The b&w photo of the school teacher with the bangs shows a costume and hairstyle that are probably closer to the 40s, but she just looks so much like the teachers I remember.  In the same shot is the back of a kid’s head that I found useful.

The perspective in my classroom illustration is clearly—what’s the word?—nuts.  The kids in the foreground would need to be standing in a hole.  But I wanted them down that low so that Ignatius could be that high.  I think the composition works, and that’s what’s important.  So there.

0 replies
  1. Jerry Russell
    Jerry Russell says:

    Looks just like my elementary classroom(s). 🙂 Remember Air Raid drills?! Curled up under the desk or against the hall lockers with your hand over the back of your neck. I guess that was supposed to stop flying shrapnel. New black leather Buster Browns. Which were cooler, Keds or PF Fliers? I remember having a crush on Miss Ropo, who got married and became Mrs. Revette. I remember her explaining it to me, and then it was O.K.

  2. johnmanders
    johnmanders says:

    Yep, we did the locker/hands-on-necks drill! Anne Rice (the vampire author) does a great job of conjuring that era in her autobiographical Called Out of Darkness. She recalls her childhood in a New Orleans parochial school.


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