"School Days" magazine

Vancouver School Board publication, 1919 - 1930

Inaugural issue 1919

1924 cover image

School Days magazine was a cross between a school reader, a workbook, a comic book, and a copy book. It was a pamphlet published in Vancouver by E.W. Reid, School Teacher and Principal, under the auspices of the Vancouver School Board. The content of the magazine was almost entirely provided by B.C. authors and schoolchildren. It was intended for younger students, and sold for ten cents. The first issue in September 1919 had a press run of 8,000 copies. Typically published monthly during the school year, ten issues from September to June, the magazine enjoyed an eleven year publication run.

Each issue was a compendium of stories, contests, puzzles, quizzes, exercises, and school sports results. The main educational content was provided in articles and illustrations by a number of Vancouver and Victoria school teachers and Principals, with occasional distinguished guests. There were many illustrations in every issue - the early copies contained mostly pen and ink drawings - and later issues used more half-tone photographs. The articles covered a wide range of topics, including history, geography, exploration, science, and nature. Puzzles and exercises included arithmetic, logic, handwriting skills, drawing, poetry and limerick writing, and short-story telling.

June 1920 illustration

Although Vancouver's post-war political or ethnographic sentiments were occasionally evident in items such as the editor's early contest to publish the best illustration for a short story about two Hindoos blowing themselves up trying to remove a stump, on the whole the magazine contained a wealth of interesting and informative articles for the student.

January, February and March 1921 illustrations by Maud Sherman for The Bug Hunters

March 1921 illustrations by Maud Sherman

March 1921 article and illustration by L.A. Elliott

April 1922 illustration by Maud Sherman

Creatures of a Bygone Age

One of the most prolific authors in the magazine was Ruiter Stinson Sherman, Principal of Admiral Seymour School in east Vancouver. His articles covered almost the entire run of publication - over 125 stories and poems in all - with most of them illustrated by himself or his daughter Maud Sherman. One of the longer tales was serialized in "The Bug Hunters", Parts One through Nine: a story of a pack-horse trip over the Dewdney Trail from Hope to Princeton and back again - looking for insects. Sherman's "Professor Instinct" series included "Professor Instinct's School for Cannibals", and "Professor Instinct Gives A Banquet".

Illustrations by R.S. Sherman

The pen and ink drawings in School Days are worthy of study in themselves. In addition to the scores of drawings by the Shermans, there are many drawings by well known Vancouver artists such as Spencer Perceval Judge, and Charles H. Scott (Director of the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts). Late in the 1920s a number of illustrations were also provided by various students of the art school, including Ellen M. Moore, Maisie Robertson, and Peter Meilleur.

Drawing by Patricia Morrison

Charles H. Scott often contributed a full page pen & ink drawing to School Days for special holidays such as Easter and Thanksgiving. Spencer Perceval Judge, a teacher, was another prominent Vancouver artist of British birth and training whose drawings graced the magazine cover for years, and filled out the articles with excellent pen and ink work.

Illustrations by Charles H. Scott

In a very real way the magazine nurtured the literary and artistic tastes of the young students, without condescension. The generous and varied offerings of knowledge, and the provision of many ways for students to contribute to the magazine, were followed up with frequent publication of the student efforts. Many of the magazine's front covers were student "prize drawings" and paintings. The "one-line drawing" was a perennial favorite for a contest.

Illustration by E.J. Hughes, 1925

The magazine also nurtured the writing and publishing skills of the publisher E.W. Reid. He wrote a number of poems and articles for School Days, and subsequently co-authored a number of school books and readers for J.M. Dent & Sons, usually with R.S. Sherman. Elmer also wrote a number of articles about teaching in the B.C. Teacher, the magazine of the B.C.T.F. - all the while continuing in his position as School Principal, first at Franklin School and then moving to Admiral Seymour School when R.S. Sherman retired in 1932.

Illustration by S.P. Judge, 1925

School Days perhaps broke new ground with its unusual "Save The Forests" issue of April 1926. For the only time in its publication run the whole magazine was devoted to a single, non-holiday related topic...and decades ahead of its time was expressing worries about the condition of B.C.'s forests after logging. An article titled "The Logging Industry" by R.S. Sherman was illustrated with a photograph by Leonard Frank, one of Vancouver's prominent early photographers.

Advertisement for "electric bread" 1919

The June 1926 issue of School Days included an article titled On the Selection of a Career, written by John Kyle, who was Director of Technical Education for the Province of British Columbia and a well-known supporter of the arts.

School Days now provides us with an educational and interesting look at life in Vancouver three-quarters of a century ago. The advertisements in the magazine are aimed at audiences ranging from grade school children and their parents to the teachers and administrators who ran the schools. Advertisements for automobiles were printed alongside those of bicycles. B.C. Electric touted the new electricity. Peanut butter and ice cream were hawked on the same pages as massive mimeograph machines and school supplies.

The last issue of School Days was printed in June, 1930. There was no farewell notice in that issue, no "thank-you" to the thousands of children who had purchased and enjoyed the magazine through the years. And yet an air of "business as usual, see you in the fall" somehow dissolved over the course of the summer, and the magazine simply ceased to exist with little to mark its passing.

Over the years existing copies of the magazine dwindled in number, from all of the usual number of ways: discarded as garbage, used to light fires, destroyed accidentally by fire or rot, or donated to the WW II paper drives. The author of this article has yet to locate a copy of every issue - at least fifteen issues remain to be re-discovered and enjoyed again.

Many of the stories in School Days remain as fresh and interesting as the day they were penned - a long-lasting tribute to West Coast outlooks and open-mindedness in education, from teachers invigorated with building an educational system relevant to the new province's vast demands.

Collections of School Days magazine are on file at the Vancouver Public Library - Northwest Collection, Main Branch; Vancouver City Archives; U.B.C. Library - Special Collections; and the B.C. Provincial Archives.