There it was - a sweet “blast from the past.” Sitting on the book table outside the Guild Care charity shop, along with an assortment of cookery books, gardening books and crime novels. I recognised the cover
immediately - School Friend Annual 1958.
I couldn’t possibly leave it there so I gathered it up and took it with my shiny pound coin to the shop counter
where I expressed my delight at finding it to the fella accepting my money. I was going to take it home and sit outside in the back garden, reading it from cover to cover and pretending to be eleven years old again I told him. You may be thinking this is too
much information but I have always been one to share my delight in small things.
The shop assistant demurred, telling me gallantly that I really couldn’t
be that old. I can only imagine he must be short-sighted - though I had just emerged from the hairdressers so perhaps I was looking rather more presentable than usual?
Perusing the Annual over a cup of coffee on my return home, I was struck by how very different in tone and content it was from today’s story books. It was, I decided, a much more innocent world back then. Back in 1958, School Friend Annual cost
7 shillings and sixpence, the equivalent of 37 and a half pence today. You could say that, at £1, I had paid over the odds - but you can’t put a price on memories, now can you?
A couple of pages, inexplicably, are missing - which means I am not able to start the picture strip story about the latest adventure of The Silent Three until page 5. The Silent Three are school-girls named Carol, Peggy and Joan who
are always pictured wearing their stripey school blazers until such a time as they don their hooded secret society robes in order to pursue some Good Cause. I used to love The Silent Three when I was a youngster - it may be, I ponder now, that it was the influence
of the Hooded Threesome which led me to invent the existence of the Green Veiled Ladies. This was a game which kept my Little Sister Maggie and I enjoyably employed for many a day as we trailed around not-so-very-heavily disguised in some old green net curtains.
I remember (somewhat shamefacedly) that we used to employ our disguise to avoid the company of Margaret from over the road who always wanted to come and play with us, despite having far more exciting toys than we possessed including a dolls house with real,
“By golly! This is certainly a mysterious message,” says Carol (or, possibly, Peggy or even Joan - I can’t remember who’s
who) in the first picture. That kind of sets the tone for the rest of the story which involves a secret hoard of valuable bonds, a dog called Rufus and a dreadful bounder called Ned Boyle. You will be pleased, I know, to hear that it all ended happily, thanks
to The Silent Three.
Some of the stories in the Annual are picture strips, others are prose, divided into short chapters. Each of the prose stories has an introductory
by-line, telling the reader what to expect. So, for example, the story entitled When the Family Plotted a Double Surprise is described as “A Delightful Story about Bette and her Brothers” while The Junior Mag’s Most Amazing Scoop is “An
Enthralling Story of Two Fourth Form Editors.” These are bold statements which brook no arguments, wouldn’t you agree?
There is no romance, no tips
on make-up, no agony aunt column. There is, however, a page entitled Candy Time, with recipes for Crackly Toffee, Creamy Fudge, Chocolate Fudge (no cooking), Marzipan (inexpensive) and Chocolate Corn Crunch. The introductory blurb involves a conversation between
“Fourth Former” Sally, her friend Prudence and young sister Cathy and includes important hints like using a “stout saucepan.” I am very tempted by the recipe for Crackly Toffee though I am not absolutely sure whether any of my saucepans
are stout enough.
I think I must bring today’s Blog to a close, because I can’t wait to read Post-Girl Betsy Makes a Dream Come True (or “How
a Brave Girl Brought Happiness to a Lone Cabin in the Wilds.”)
I am eleven years old again - just for the time being...