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Florence Cole as a child

Extra-curricular activities for children
in state schools in the early 1900s

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Charity collections at school

From time to time during World War I, the teacher at our school would make a collection for the prisoners of war. I think we each contributed a copper or two.[Coppers meant old pennies which were made of copper.] She always made up the parcels in front of us and she would name the items as she put them in. There was always a tin of 'caffee au lait' which intrigued me as I didn't know what it was. The only coffee I knew came out of a bottle and was called 'Camp coffee'.

Another thing we contributed to was a large Union Jack flag, which was sent as a present to our namesake town in Canada - Edmonton in Ontario. I can't imagine that it was particularly appreciated, even though Canada was a dominion of the British Empire.

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Empire Day at school

The first Empire Day took place on 24th May 1902, Queen Victoria's birthday. Although not officially recognised as an annual event until 1916, many schools across the British Empire were celebrating it before then.

In 1958 Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day, after so many of Britain's colonies had been given independence.

One of my pleasant memories from school was Empire Day. Alas that is no more. On Empire Day the girls wore red, white and blue ribbons in their hair. The Union Jack would be in much evidence on public buildings and the church.

union jack flag

The highlight as far as we children were concerned was the parade in the playground. Each child would have a paper flag of red, white or blue and the girls had red, white and blue hair ribbons in the colours of the national flag. We children would then march past the dignitaries who assembled along with the headmistress on the steps in the playground. They included someone from the Board of Education and maybe the parson.

Then we would sing stirring patriotic songs like Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory, and of course the National Anthem. Finally there were three cheers. I loved it. I love all pomp and pageantry. If I see the Household Cavalry, I'm all British and proud of it. The climax to Empire Day was a half day holiday.

Although Empire Day was still in force while I was growing up in the 1940s and early 1950s, it was not celebrated as far as I know. Perhaps that was because of the austerity of the war years and the years afterwards.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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Pound day at school in the 1900s

On Pound Day, children were asked to bring a pound of groceries to school which would be sent to the hospital. I expect they got lots of sugar, that being about the cheapest commodity, along with rice.

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School preparations for Christmas in the early 1900s

In the week before Christmas children were allowed to make paper chains at school. We were given coloured paper which we cut into with lengths of about eight inches long and three quarters of an inch wide. We started a chain by looping a strip of paper into a ring and gluing it closed. Then we threaded another strip through and glued the ends together to make the next link in the chain and so on. Quite long chains could be made this way and any one chain could be joined to any other using another length of paper. Then we strung the chains across the room.

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Celebrating the coronation of Queen Mary and George V

If you can add anything to this page or supply a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

I can just recall the coronation of Queen Mary and George V in 1911. Each girl in my class found a coronation mug and a bag of sweets on her desk. Presumably there was something similar for other children.

We also had a half day holiday.

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May Day at school in the early 1900s

Information on May Day in the early 1900s is on its own May Day page because it was enjoyed by the wider community as well as school children.

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.