This French Canadian boy in 1942 had his photograph taken for his first day of school--he doesn't look overjoyed about the idea. He wears short pants (culottes) and long stockings (bas longs). This was a requirement at the Catholic public school run by nuns. This was how all the boys dressed, although there was no uniform. Uniforms were required only in boarding schools. School began in September and the weather was still warm. The long stovkings sere not needed to keep him warm, but the nuns required all the hildren to wear them. He also wears a white shit with a Peter Pan collar. A wool sweater buttoned at front completes his outfit. Note the straps on his shoulders and waist for his book and pencil satchel. Long stockings were not commonly worn in France.
The boy in the portrait here is my brother Serge. This was Serge's first day of school here in 1942 (figure 1). He was not very happy when the photograph was taken. In fact he never did like school ans wanted nothing to do with school and books. He left school as soon as he could at age 14 to work on merchant ships as our father did. Father was a pilot on the St. Lawrence River.
We were very close in af. I was, however, very different than my brother. I always had my nose in books. At a very early age, I erased the answers from the school books I inherited from him, and I tried to solve math problems and write the alphabet. I began school at age 5 and was already ahead of many of the other children. I have already provided some details about his boyhood in a description of his First Communion.
I have several family photographs of Serge and Iwhich might be useful to HBC. Mother dressed us in short ponts which she thought suitable for boys. The last portrait of serge and I in short pants together was taken when Srgewas 12 and I was 11. She took us to a popular professional photographer for the occassion. She kept this photograph in her room until her death at age 94 in 2002. t was her favorite portrait of us boys. I can recall that when the portrait was taken in 1948 that both Serge and I were very anxioys to begin wearing long pnts. Mother like many mothers, hwever, like toi think of us as her little angels and insisted that we wear short pants. It is the same today, the difference is that we boys in the 1940s had to fight to become teenagers. Mother told us at the ime that "It is a mom decision".
Serge here wears short pants (culottes) and long stockings (bas longs) (figure 1). This was a requirement at the Catholic public school run by nuns. This was how all the boys dressed, although there was no uniform. Uniforms were required only in boarding schools. School began in September and the weather was still warm. The long stovkings sere not needed to keep him warm, but the nuns required all the hildren to wear them. He also wears a white shit with a Peter Pan collar. The Peter Pan collar wasn't reuired by the school, but my mother thought it looked nice. A wool sweater buttoned at front completes his outfit. Note the straps on his shoulders and waist for his book and pencil satchel. Long stockings were not commonly worn in France.
Mother bought very similar clothing for Serge and I. I also had shirts wh Peter Pn collars. I have a photo of me at two wearing one. The portrait shows me wearing bang. More i have a bang hair. I suppose that mothers found those collars cute and made some shirts with them for us.
Primary school was for 6 years. After there was two branches. The first
called primary superior was until 12 grade. The second was a classical course for more academically orinented chilren. It was an 8 year program.
Serge and I both began school at the same Catholic primary school in Québec. There were 6 grades in primary, just like in American schools. It was run as were most Catholic schools at the time by nuns who wre very strict. Discipline was stricter than today and parents were hand in hand with educators. They had control on kids at the difference with today where the leader is the market place.
The school had some minimal requirements like shirts with long sleeves, over-the-knee socks (or long stockings) with short pants at mid-tights. It was easy to follow those rules for everybody because Church convinced parents that schools are there to inculcate some principles like decency and obedience in matter of clothing. I believe the long stovkings were required because the nuns and the Church in general believed that children should dress modestly and cover their body, even boys wearing short pants. We wore long stockings even when it was quite warm. Discipline was stricter than today and parents were hand in hand with educators. They had control on kids at the difference with today where the leader is the market place. About short pants, they were dark brown, a practical colo because it doesn't show the dirt. About stocking, it was dark brown too. When young, boys and girls wore ribbed stockings but older (at 7 or 8 year-old) girl wore plain stockings in black, tan or light beige. Ribbed stockings were always a requierement for boys: It needs to be ribbed 1/1 (one knit inside one outside). Never plain cotton as girls wore. In the 40s and 50s, this difference was important because it was a kind of difference between boys and girls. A boy wearing plain stockings would be called a "sissy". I don't know if it was the same in Germany but the pictures I saw of boys with long stockings seems to be plain. I remember clearly my mother going to general store before classes for buying those
stockings.They cost 25 cents a pair. Most of the mothers stayed at home and had time to knit clothing, sweaters and stockings. Long stockings began disappearing in the 1950s, but I recall seeing them being worn in orphanages even in the 1960s. During the 1940s and especially the early 50s, more and more boys at our primary school began wearing breaches (knickers) rather than short pants. Girls wore dark brown too but also tan, beige, white or black because of the uniforms. Girls wore longer a uniform than boys. I have a picture of the sisters and the only boy at the first day of school. It was around 1955 and we can see the boy in long pants and girls with a uniform. I don't know why the boy is in such attire but I know that in many families at the same time, boys still wore short pants. As it is in a farm family, boys wore bib-pants for working. maybe it was not a requirement like in the city to wear short pants. I think short pants were in part a status symbol, at least for the parents.
After the 6th grade, boys began wearing long pants. I have a nice photo of my brother and I wearing our first long pants at 12 for my brother and 11 for me. At that time, there were suits that came with both breaches (knickers) and long pant. To tell you the truth, I wore breaches once. Other kids laughed at me. My mother understood my childhood was finished. it was just a minority who went to classical college (College classique) operated by diverses religious communities (Jesuits, seculars, etc). The main purpose of college was to get as many as possible future priests. I worked really hard on my studies in College!
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