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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Urban Eskimos: 1961

Urban Eskimos: 1961

"Snow igloo, 1961." Somewhere in Baltimore near Kermy and Janet's house. Note the variety of lunch-carriers. 35mm Kodachrome. View full size.

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Young Debutante

The girl in the middle is holding a lunch pail shaped like a wicker basket with a handle at the center. It has a pink ribbon threaded through it and one word, "Debutante" in lacy handwriting.
A friend of mine has one of these lunch pails, which she uses for an emergency sewing kit for the girls at--where else--the National Debutante Cotillion.

Tough girls

Same as when I was in school- early '60s- no pants for girls. I figured it was because girls were tough! But in hot weather girls had the advantage- cool with bare legs while we boys had to wear long pants. A lot of silly rules back then. Probably not enough rules now.

Dress Code

I was in junior high when the school board changed the dress code to allow girls to wear pants. The school board may have changed its dress code, but my parents did not! Dresses were still mandatory for a few years until my incessant whining wore my parents down.

End Of An Era

We didn't have any rules about girls wearing slacks or jeans in elementary school, but when I entered high school they had a dress code that banned slacks, pants and (especially) jeans for girls. This was in 1970 and just about every girl in the place wore mini-skirts. As you may guess this provided an impressionable freshman with quite an education, particularly on some of the staircases.

However I happen to live in Saskatoon, And if you think Baltimore is cold in the winter, well as the man said you ain't seen nothin' yet. By January of 1971 the dress code had changed to allow slacks and pants for girls (but not jeans until about May). Either complaints about high school girls coming home with frozen legs, or the realization that mini-skirts were a greater "distraction" to the teenaged male population of the school system than the dreaded slacks or even jeans caused the school board to change the dress code.

Wonder years

We used Wonder Bread bags, too! I'd forgotten that - amazing how clearly it all comes back. In Ohio, going to school with bare legs in the winter would have been considered slightly indecent. I wore bulky tights that, in those days before spandex, always seemed to be sagging halfway down to my knees. I spent half my day surreptitiously yanking them up.

Bare legs and bread bags

My elementary school didn't allow girls to wear pants, either, but there's no way I would've walked to school with bare legs in sub-zero temperatures. I had no less than a dozen pairs of tights in groovy '60s colors. I have to admit I'm disappointed to learn that the bread bag trick was so well-known, though. I thought my mother invented it.

No Pants Ever! is Right

Gary Hoff is correct. I was in 3rd grade when we moved from West Virginia to Baltimore in January 1962. My mother sent me to school in snow pants (worn under my skirt so they could be slipped off when I got to school). I was informed - archly - that We Don't Do That Here.

No Pants Allowed

I'm about of the age of the kids in the photo, and I well-remember walking to school with neighborhood girls in skirts, dead of winter. Reason wasn't because the girls were dumb or trying to be more feminine. In our case it was because schools (well, our system anyway) didn't allow girls to wear pants. Ever.

Flip top Purse

The girl on the right is carrying a brown purse. I don't know what they were actually called (and their popularity was short lived) but they closed by flipping the two halves of the top over each other. My older sister had a red one that I coveted beyond description. Wonder what ever happened to it.


Having grown up in the Washington/Baltimore area during the 60s, I can say that the amount of snow on the ground is a bit unusual. After a scan of snow depth records for 1961, I would guess that this photo was taken on February 4th or 5th. There was a storm on the 4th that dumped about 10" of snow (which had a few inches on it beforehand). The temperature was also right near freezing which is why the snow looks so clumpy and "packable". Great snow for building forts, igloos, snowballs and, of course, snowmen.

Addendum: After realizing that I never looked at a calendar, I have realized the the 4th and 5th were Saturday and Sunday. So this picture must have been on Monday the 6th.

Shoe Keepers

I remember those rubber boots with clasps too. I also remember wearing bread bags over my shoes to make it easier to get the darned things on and off.


I attended K-1 in balmy Cleveland, Ohio, (rode the streetcar there, too, though that's another story), an experience that taught me I'd rather steal for a living than teach elementary school. Our teachers seemed to spend most of their time getting us out of our snowsuits and galoshes, then back in for recess, than out, then back in to go home, etc. Add the trauma of the occasional lost mitten or the kid who, after having been made into a reasonable facsimile of the little brother in "A Christmas Story," announced an urgent need to go to the bathroom, and one wonders why the suicide rate for lower-elementary-grade teachers in the Snow Belt is not much higher.

Right to bare legs....

Just as an extra data point, last night I happened to be in Baltimore and saw quite a few men walking around in shorts, in 19-degree F temperature with 20 mph wind. Personally, I put it down to insanity.


Look at that igloo or snowfort behind them. Isn't that what it is? It's huge! We used to dream of such big snow forts, but it never snowed enough where we lived.

Boot removal

@wxman1: The way to take those boots off without having your shoes come off with them is to put plastic bread bags over your shoes before putting on the boots. Preferably Wonder Bread.

My lunch bucket

I am 61 years old and remember having that lunch bucket. There is some sort of underwater shark scene on the bottom if memory serves me. My younger brother had a rectangular cowboy themed bucket. I think it may have been a "Gunsmoke" or maybe "Wyatt Earp" theme.

Rubber Boots

All of them are wearing the rubber winter footwear popular in those days. Looks like the boy is wearing the same kind I remember wearing to school. They were all black and had a half dozen metal clasps. They were also impossible to take off without leaving your shoe inside.

Loose Leaf Tabs

My lunch always went to school in a brown paper with me walking it there but what caught my eye here was the red loose leaf tab. You'd buy the 3-hole oak tag dividers and each one was "tabbed" with a different-color plastic gizmo. You'd insert a paper strip that had a school class subject written on it and you'd flip that tab in class to get to that class's work. Red always seemed to be the top tab. I was 13 in 1961 and back then nobody on Long Island knew what a school bus or "free" school lunch was.

But why bare?

I can understand, pattyanne, why a teen would want to ditch the puffy snowpants (my own pre-teen resents having to wear them, but that's the price of being allowed to play outside at recess during the winter) -- still, why not wear leotards or stockings or leggings? I can't get over these girls with their bare legs in sub-freezing temperatures.

Re bare legs

DavidK, as a Minnesotan, I wore snow pants until I started junior high and then we would not be caught dead wearing them to school. We could only wear dresses to school. Yes, I remember standing at the bus stop with freezing legs in 1961. Dummies! Ha ha

Oh, Grow Up!

Good illustration of human growth patterns. Girls get their height spurt at 10-12 years, boys at 12-14. Typical grammar school 6-7th grade observation.

Bare legs

As a Canadian, I must ask: What's with the bare legs in winter?

Aladdin "Buccaneer" Lunchbox

Came out around 1957.

Off-center composition

Possibly the result of parallax problems from a rangefinder-type camera or just an off-centered photographer.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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