Schoolboys 80 Years Ago
This is a child page of Our Monaghan
Children going to school about 1930-1940 had a harder time than today. There were no lifts to school - unless on the bar of a bike!
In summer many children in the town went barefoot. The streets then were rough, and many footpaths had no concrete. You could "crig" your toe on a stone or get a cut on a piece of glass. Boys wore short trousers until they were several years at secondary school. A jersey and shirt completed the outfit - three buttons closed the neck. Most boys got their hair cut at home, or with a neighbour - the barber cost 21/2p. About half the home haircuts were close to the scalp.
In St. Mary's at lunchtime there was hot fresh loaf bread, strawberry jam and a mug of cocoa for poor boys in the hall of the high room at the handball alley. The Misses Rooney of Park Street served the lunch on a long narrow hinged table.
Many schoolboys had no bag to carry their books. They just put a strap around them and slung them over their shoulders. Some others had cloth bags, usually homemade. The cloth bags which were bought lasted no time. The well-off boys would have had leather bags.
Shoes were usually handed down in a family and they were often too small for the wearer. The shoes were well worn, with holes in the soles. The children wore "gutties" in the summer, with no socks. These canvas shoes were very light and in two colours only - black and white. The white ones had to be whitened on a Saturday or Sunday. Sandals with cross straps were common enough, but were always lifting sand or gravel.
Many boys would have liked a job as messenger boys for shops or as telegram boys. The shops had bikes with an iron holder in front for the big grocery basket. The telegram boy had a leather pouch and uniform. In the summer children headed off for the Deep Sandy, below Patton's field, at Milltown. Crowds of children went there to bathe and to learn to swim. Others went to fish for "striddles", with jampots. You could stand in the Blackwater and watch the fish swim around your feet. Crover Quarry, the canal and Lambe's Lake were for the better swimmers. In winter everybody went to sleigh down the hill behind the hospital.
Times were hard and money was scarce, but the children learned to put up with hardship and they found satisfaction and happiness in simple things, which cost you nothing. As the song says, "The best things in life are free"