Swiss/German School Experiences: Otto (1940s)

Figure 1.--Apparently this story on HBC resonated with a Russian reader who not only translated the story into Russian, but also provided an illustration from an unidentified Russian book. The boy sulking in his short trousers and brown long stockings. We have added the illustration to the page since we have no image here. The boy may be wearing a red Young Pioneer scarfe, but we are not sure. Click in the image to read the Russian translation.

A HBC reader recently heard from a German friend in Estonia (Otto) who went to school in Switzerland during World War II and lived there up until the 1950s. Otto remembers an incident from his school days when he was 12 years old that throws some interesting light on boys attitudes to long stockings. Otto's account, which our reader has translated (with the aid of a dictionary) from German into English, might be interesting to HBC readers. Otto, who lived as a schoolboy in Switzerland during World War II and afterwards, writes of memories of having to wear long stockings to school in 1949. An interesting memory of attitudes to school clothes.

“When I was twelve years old in 1949 and attending a school in an urban part of Switzerland I was allowed to wear long trousers to school. Some boys continued to wear shorts but only in the warmer months; and when they wore shorts they invariably wore knee socks. A few boys continued to wear long stockings for warmth underneath their long trousers or else wore them with briefly cut knickers that buckled below the knee. During one very cold period in winter, I accidently tore my new long trousers, and my mother became very annoyed with me for being so careless. She promised to mend them for me, but the damaged area was still very obvious, and the trousers could no longer be worn for anything but play. To teach me a lesson, she insisted that I wear my old shorts with long woolen stockings. With these I had to wear a waist or “garter shirt” that buttoned down the front and had four garter straps with metal clips at their ends to attach to the tops of the stockings—two in front and two at the sides toward the rear. I knew that my fellow schoolboys would make fun of me for wearing old-fashioned long stockings and the necessary garters with short pants, so on the way to school I unfastened the garters and rolled down the stockings so that they looked more or less like knee socks. Of course my knees and thighs were freezing with cold because the temperatures were very low at this season, but I preferred to be cold rather than face the teasing of boys and girls who would have thought long stockings for a boy my age too childish and out of style. I had to put up with this discomfort for an entire week until my mother finally took pity on me and bought some new long trousers. Somehow I coped with the discomfort during school hours, but I pulled the long stockings up again on the way home and re-attached the garters because on the tram adults paid no attention to what schoolboys were wearing and didn’t care. I found it a great relief to be warm again, and I later discovered that quite a few boys my age wore long stockings hidden under their clothes but wouldn’t admit it.”


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Created: 6:22 PM 1/28/20100
Last updated: 8:02 PM 3/30/2012