Girls lived such exciting lives in the 1950s! This picture is the opening page of the School Friend Annual of 1953 and flicking through the book, I immediately fell for the characters and settings for the stories in there. No fashion or makeup tips to be seen. No celebrities, boy bands or suchlike but a wholesome collection of girls and young women overcoming adversity, having adventures and mostly being jolly good sports. When I was nine or ten, I loved my comics and readily identified with the girls in the stories, even if Beverley Road Junior School was more likely to hold a sack race in Pearson Park than a bobsleigh race in Switzerland.
Bearing in mind that these annuals were often around at Christmas time – mine usually came in my stocking and had been read by breakfast time, this feature on drawing from The Bunty annual of 1969 was probably a popular one. But the language is so different! Great to see that girls were not “talked down to” – the advice in the feature about drawing figures is detailed and comprehensive – but oh my, what do you make of “drinking iced concoctions at a cafe table” ? Did we really write like that in 1969?
Oh, and in case we were having too much fun drawing and reading about our favourite characters, the Bunty Book for Girls included one or two more worthy features, including
But for the most, the stories were of young women we might aspire to become. People like Jane Comfort, the student teacher and Tina Roberts, who worked for the Gold Seal Agency, testing products before they went on sale to the public, who had a riotous time testing roller skates on an elephant. Dora Dexter, who ran a delivery service in a little market town and Wendy Brown who had “a wonderful job as Junior Air Hostess with Elmbank Airlines, flying all over the world and helping to take care of children travelling on the company’s luxury planes”!
I love how anything is possible, how girls were given all kinds of dreams and opportunities. I consider myself so lucky because parents brought me up to believe that I could do anything if I worked hard, regardless of my gender. Reading these books I can see that reflected in the games and stories we read. To be a girl in the 1960s was full of possibility, it seems.
But we were very good, weren’t we? One striking characteristic is that good always wins over naughty and kindness conquers all in The Bunty. Tell the truth, be kind to animals and always do your best for your dreams to come true and a happy ending all round.
Even Pepita, the poor Flamenco dancer who will never dance again following an horrific car accident, finds a way through. Phew…it was touch and go at times, I can tell you.
So why am I suddenly muttering on about the Bunty? Well, thanks to my good friend Fanny I’ve got a handful of old annuals here to take for our road-trip pal, Mary, for whom the concept of the girls’ comic is unknown. Quite what she will make of them, who knows? All I can say is that I’ve had a jolly good time reading them myself! Maybe, too, I’ll keep one back, to give to my small friend and see what she makes of it…