‘My long-forgotten autograph books and the childhood memories they held inside’

Apr 17, 2021
Remember the autograph books from your childhood? Source: Getty Images

“2 Ys UR, 2 Ys UB, ICUR 2Ys4Me.” If you can understand that ‘sentence’ then you probably passed around an ‘autograph book’ at school in either the 1950s or 1960s, usually a year-end activity. Sure, the book perhaps contained at least one footballer’s signature, somewhere, but the real treasures were from our mates, our besties. Remember?

Our autograph books were used for very different reasons ‘back in the day’. Our heroes were our teachers and classmates, even our families and neighbours.

“No. 1 was a race horse, No. 2 was 12. No. 111 race and No. 2112.”

choldhood autograph books from the 1950s and '60s
One of Robyn’s childhood autograph books. Source: Robyn McCoy

Yep, we thought that was very, very clever. Can you remember or believe we (or the world) were ever so innocent? As childlike as some items were a few childish scores were settled with certain entries considered very naughty and even hurtful …

“Robyn was on the dance room floor, her movements were fantastic when all of a sudden her pants fell down … You can never trust Coles elastic” or “If all the boys lived over the sea, what a good swimmer Robyn would be”.

Hmm … Unsigned. Seems fairly innocuous by today’s standards, but quite the naughty statements back then. I ripped those pages out. I did! It makes me laugh now though, obviously.

“Remember me by the river, remember me by the lake, remember me on your Wedding Day and send me a piece of cake” or “When you get married and have twins don’t come to me for the safety pins”. Girl stuff.

Boys were rarely interested in such goings-on but if/when they deigned to participate there were masterpieces such as “Roses are red, violets are blue, your parents are good looking, what happened to you?”; “A bit of powder … bit of paint … makes a girl what she really ain’t!”; “Roses are red, violets are blue, lend me a fiva and I will love you.” Instant girl heartache.

Some little ditties are still in favour. I still sing this to my grandchildren and they love it — “A peanut sat on a railroad track, his heart was all a flutter, a great big train came ’round the bend, Toot! Toot! peanut butter”.

However, no autograph book would never be complete before the class joker wrote “By hook or by crook I’ll be first/last in this book”. Naturally some wag would come along and write on the bottom of the last/first page: “You may think you’re fine but I’ve got the last/first line”.

In my crowd we cherished our autograph books. On the first day of holidays we all counted our entries, celebrated and congratulated the winner but, by the third day, we couldn’t remember who had won. Needless to say, 12 months later, the whole rigmarole started again; and oh, how we loved it.

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Did you have an autograph book when you were a child?

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