52 Ancestors: Back to School – Oscar’s New Boots

Here is another post in the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge

By Kendall Gibson, Wellington New Zealand


Linton School is near Palmerston North in New Zealand. Five of our Larsen ancestors were recorded as being among the 20 first day pupils when the school opened on 18 March 1889.

Their parents Hanna and Nicolai Larsen, had emigrated from Norway in 1873. In 1888 Hanna was widowed. She was left to run their farm and raise a family of 10 children, with the youngest being only two. The older Larsen boys helped build Linton School that their younger siblings attended. Unfortunately, we’re not sure about identifying some of the family faces in this early photo. Thanks to a couple of family stories we have certainty on a few of them.

Oscar, born 1883: Clearly his mother Hanna was concerned that her kids did the family proud in their first ever school photo. Oscar got new boots for the occasion. The Larsens would have walked to school (a distance of about ½ mile uphill). By the time Oscar got to school in the new boots the poor little guy had very sore feet. In later years he told his granddaughter Brenda, that we could pick him out in the school photo as he was in the front row with his thumb down his boot, trying to relieve the pressure on his blistered feet!

Sena, born 1881: I remember my grandmother showing me this photo and pointing herself out. She also identified her older sister Cas. Interestingly she couldn’t identify any of her brothers who were in the photo. Sena left Linton school in Oct 1894 when her sister Martha was married. Sena went to live with Martha and Charlie Brown as a ‘home help’ at their farm in Tokomaru. where She attended Shannon school until the end of 1894 when she left having reached the school leaving age of 13.

Caspara, born 1877: On her first day at Linton School in 1889 Cas would have been 12 years old. The older Larsen’s had attended Central School in Palmerston North until moving to the farm at Linton in 1885. At that time there was no school to attend. So it seems that Cas at 12 years old, Gus at 14 and Harry at 11 all went to school for the first time when Linton School opened in 1889, which is a bit late to begin formal education.

The Larsen children who attended Linton school:
1889: Gus 14, Cas 12, Harry 11, Sena 8 and Oscar 6.
1891: Jim 6
1893: Fred 6

Who else is in the photo?

One of the challenges with identification in this photo is that the exact date it was taken has not been recorded. Our family holds several original prints and the photo also appears in the school’s centennial publication* with the caption ‘sometime before the end of 1893.’ Judging by how old the children we can identify look to be, my guess is the photo probably dates from around 1890 or 1891.

In attempting to identify the other Larsen children in the photo I have tried:

  • Looking at photos of them as adults and noting which side their hair is parted on (thinking it wouldn’t have changed from childhood).
  • Looking for any resemblance to the siblings we can identify. For example is there a ‘Larsen mouth’ with a distinctive dimpled chin?
  • The educational level the army required for enlisting in 1914 was passing the ‘4 th Educational Standard.’ (Standard 4 or Year 6, is average for 10
    year olds today.) Gus’s army papers say he’d passed Standard 3 and Harry had passed Standard 4). So they must have stayed at school long enough
    to reach these standards. Are they in the photo?

Questions remain.

Linton School Celebrations
At the 50 th anniversary in 1939, ‘Miss Caspira Larsen the oldest first-day pupil present cut the jubilee cake.’ (p195).

The ‘Diamond jubilee’ was held in 1949 and attended by Oscar Larsen (p197).

A celebration to mark the 75 th anniversary of the opening of Linton School was attended by Oscar Larsen and Sena Larsen (Roberts) in 1964 (p199).

Source:

LINTON 1889-1989, A School and District Centennial History,’
W.J. Lauridson, Palmerston North, NZ 1989
ISBN 0-473-00706-1

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