Whatever else disappeared because of the Second World War, one tradition which sank out of sight when the Fair was revived was wearing of school colours in the shape of bunnets, belts, ties and stockings for boys, hats for girls and a sash.
The pre-war spectacle of schools projecting a blaze of colour as they made their way to the Glebe Park is vividly etched in my mind. And once all the schools had gathered together must have been memorable for those fortunate enough to view the proceedings from a vantage point.
Being a Kinneil schoolboy, I was first introduced to the excitement of the Fair by the late and much revered Miss Mary Ross and her infant teacher at that time, Mrs Hardy, a lady who favoured black dresses and amber beads.
It was the custom then to have your head measured for a cap some weeks before the big day. That was the match which set alight the blaze of excitement which increased in intensity the nearer the Fair Day came.
All head sizes taken, the order was placed with one of the local business houses and from then on it was one eye on lessons and the other looking for a delivery of caps and hats.
When they did eventually arrive, one was asked to take it home carried inside out so that it wouldn’t be soiled for the big day. Needless to say, however, once out of school sight the caps and hats were quickly tried on.
The caps and hats were not the only part of the uniform. Ties, again in school colours, were worn by both boys and girls and to round matters off, grey stocking with the appropriate coloured tops were worn and for the most part the stocking wrinkled around the ankles due to hopeless garters which were invariably too big. The boys also had belts in school colours.
So on the Fair Day the boys wore caps, white shirts, school ties, grey trousers, stocking with coloured tops, and belts. The girls wore hats, white shirts, gymslips, school ties, and ankle socks, with all of us wearing “white gutties” – canvas shoes.
All of us were turned out sparkling clean. Certainly Persil was around in those days and there was not one among us whose mother could be accused of not using that particular brand of washing powder.
Along to school we trotted, very conscious of our scrubbed appearance. Some sort of record was set up if we managed to stay clean during the first hour.
Invariably, there were a number of over-excited girls who suffered the ineviable accident, but Miss Ross was experienced enough to know to expect such happenings and was equipped to deal with the situation.
The parade from Deanburn Road to the Glebe Park was led by Kinneil Band which inspired wee boys to grow several inches on the way along. Mums and dads followed in the wake, having eyes for their offsprings only.
After the coronation, every boy and girl sweated waiting to find out if they would claim a place on the horse-drawn floats or would be a “walker” for the parade.
The preamble around the town started off at a brisk pace, but gradually got slower and slower the further it went. The “walkers” were revived from time to time when bottles of lemonade were handed round.
After eating the contents of the bag and finishing off the bottle of milk, everyone made their way home to prepare for a visit to the “shows.” Our appearance on returning home could only be described as disastrous compared to how we started out. Tired but happy, another Fair Day had been enjoyed and celebrated to the full.
The ravages the bunnets, ties, belts and stockings suffered in the space of six hours meant that all of them had to be renewed the following year.
Prices at the time in Ballantyne’s Drapery Stores were;
GIRLS MUSLIN DRESS:
2/6 – 4/6, BLOUSE 1/11.5 – 3/6, BOYS CAPS or HATS (in stripes or colours ) – 6d.
3/6, TROUSERS – 10.5d, STOCKINGS – 7.5d – 1/6 per pair.
BOOTS (fine and Tacketty):
2/3 – 6/6, SHIRTS (plain or Tennis) 1, 1.5 – 1/9, SOCKS – 4.5d