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Back to School: 1950

Back to School: 1950

Palatine, Illinois, circa 1950. "Schoolchildren at Hirsch's." Home of the Neon Typo. 4x5 acetate negative from the Shorpy News Photo Archive. View full size.


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It's just around the corner, kids. Boys, you will need those hats with the convertible earmuffs for those snowball fights -- some are sill left in the modern red plaid. It will be aces in the cold! Girls, pretty dresses for all seasons, in all sizes!!

Crammed cars

Those cars in the parking lot are sure crammed together.
How could one even open a door to get out?

Boom Town

The population of Palatine grew spectacularly between 1940 and 1960, nearly doubling in the first decade and then nearly tripling on top of that in the next. The prewar town was pretty small at 2,222 residents, so it's not terribly unlikely we're seeing the only clothing store in town.

Background stories

So many things going on here!
I'd love to be in on the exchange between these two girls!

"Kids, C'mon Down!"

It looks like several of these kids are holding identical-sized papers/envelopes in their hands. Perhaps their grade cards? Maybe this is a promotion based on getting above-average grades in some class?

The woman may be the teacher of the class. I thought it looked like she was "snapping" her fingers, perhaps to get the attention of the girl looking her way. Maybe her prestidigitation was fast enough to get a double-exposure and double the digits?

At least somebody on the premises knew another way to spell "Jewelry"... it's on the sign above and to the right of the woman's head.

Neighbours to the North

Canadians also spell it as "jewellery", not to mention a host of other British spellings. The lingo is a bit different too. Try this quiz to see how much you know about Canada.

Long before Walmart

Can anyone figure out what was going on here? Surely, even in a small town with only one clothing store (like the one in which I was raised) we never had it packed to the rafters with kids of all ages like this. Most of the townspeople ordered lots of things from Sears and Wards catalogs via mail order. It is very interesting to see the endless multitude and variety of facial features, sizes and revealing attitudes of all these very different human beings. Maybe we all are "snowflakes" after all. Yet when we see a photo of a flock of dozens of flamingos or an island covered with penguins, they all seem to look exactly the same. Maybe when animals look at clusters of people, we all look the same to them too, but I digress. Can we get a clue as to what this was all about? One boy is totally shirtless. Curiosity killed the cat and I need a story to go with this. Thank you for allowing me into your home or place of business.

Could this actually be

The first "flash mob"??

What is going on with the Teacher's right hand?

I see the pencil. Can't figure out all those fingers.

A repurposed store?

I wonder what this store was in a previous life. I see very ornate ceiling tiles and crown moldings.

[Pressed-tin ceilings of this type were ubiquitous in stores all across they country from the late-19th century through the first decades of the 20th. The sheets and tiles were mass-produced. - tterrace]

All of the lighting fixtures have the wiring conduit exposed and the sprinkler system appears to be an add on also. As are the fan boxes connected to the windows above the shelves. I wonder if they were used for exhaust or intake? Almost like it was some one’s home.

There are over 72 kids jammed in here. Only 19 0f them are boys which gives them a ratio of 3.8 to 1 girls to boys. Good odds for finding the perfect girlfriend.

I see one boy without a shirt that must have been in a hurry to try clothes on, no dressing room needed.


That's the way the British spell the word jewelry over there. I saw it while reading British news sites and thought it was odd the first time I saw the word spelled that way.

[Actually the British would spell it "jewellery." - Dave]

Bare-chested boy

Turn around, kid. The shirts are right behind you.

Selfie City

This collage of 1950 selfies is priceless. The woman's pencil move garnering a stern glare from across the room full of uninhibited kids creating their own topless boy and google eyes classics. Compliments to the photographer.

[Not sure how "selfie" applies here. - tterrace]

The "selfie" tie in that should have been mentioned was this photo reminded me of a collage of selfies made into a large get well card seen at a hospital.

The Lad Under the Lady's Arm

Perhaps shopping for a class clown costume?

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