Baiba Meistere. Riga

For about a year schoolchildren's folklore has been my field of interest, particularly the folklore reflected in schoolchildren's memory albums. During the year a collection of schoolchildren's memory albums of different periods has been obtained (about 40). The album material itself (1987-1995), comments of the owners of memory albums as well as the surveys conducted among the students of Latvia University and among the pupils of some schools, serve as the basis for the present paper. The research work has just begun, and the fieldwork is still going on.

Professor Velta Ruke-Draviria in her study on schoolchildren's memory albums states: "Schoolchildren's albums, in which they wrote a poetic line, or a lesson, or left a drawing for memory, were a common occurrence in the schools of Latvia at least in the first half of this century. It was often undertaken by girls, although the inscribed lines in girls' albums came from both boys and girls..." (Rüke-Dravina & Ore 1987, 82). The memory album tradition in schools of Latvia is about a hundred years old now, and they are continuously very popular among schoolchildren up to this day. Although the changes of historical and social contexts in the course of this century have left their traces on the contents of memory albums, thus making them different from period to period, this paper presents an attempt to examine memory albums from the viewpoint of their similarity. From this point of view memory albums of all periods have a similar function - to contribute to the communication process inside the autonomous community, i.e. among school-children.

To deal with some community, it is necessary to draw a boundary between the given community and the "others", opposing them to the "others" The opposition, which determines the schoolchildren's community existence, is school life as opposed to home life Attending school makes a child feel apart from his/her parents, family, and join another community - his peers They participate together in the educational process, run by the school administration School in its turn has its own rules and persons who impart these rules - school administration and teachers (just like home life is organised by parents) The children feel the necessity for their own society, sharing their world view and needs, i e for their peers Leea Virtanen notes, that "Both age and social position set children apart from adults as bearers of a tradition" (Virtanen 1978, 9) Thus children oppose themselves to adults, entering yard groups at home and actively creating their informal school life.

In schoolchildren's opinion, teachers are the almighty organisers of the formal school life Probably this image of a teacher serves as one of the reasons why this profession has rapidly lost its prestige among studying youth In the survey notebook belonging to the student, form 7, age 13, a question "What do you think of teachers?" deserves the following responses "Nothing" or "I don't think of them" or "They pretend to be clever", "They are also in the battle field" (an ironical paraphrase of the title of  Vasilyev's novel), or "It is fault, that they are teachers" or "They are stupid", etc The first year student of the Faculty of Education of the Latvia University observed "Teachers are interested only in our level of knowledge The fact, that someone pays attention to my thoughts, my tastes, was very important to me That is why these albums (i e memory albums) deserve serious attention" (survey 1994) Nevertheless inscriptions by teachers in the memory albums of younger school-children are highly valued by their classmates.

Memory albums along with other notebooks (e.g., of poetry, songs, dedications, surveys, drawings, etc) are one of means of the informal communication among schoolchildren Written form makes the communication process visually perceivable, and thus offers the child some advantages instead of those of oral communication e g , useage of lines and colours instead of mimics and gestures to reach the desired

Keith H. Basso, focusing upon writing as a form of communicative activity, proposes to analyse the following constituents of a writing event 1) participants, 2) form, 3) topic, 4) function (Basso 1991,428) I found it helpful for my analysis to define the communicative event under question as a writing event in memory albums. Muriel Saville-Troike gives the following definition of a communicative event: "A single event is defined by a unified set of components throughout, beginning with the same general purpose of communication, the same general topic, and involving the same participants, generally using the same language variety, maintaining the same tone or key and the same rules for interaction, in the same setting" (Saville-Troike 1989, 27).

Further, a page from a memory album as a unit, representing a complete communicative event will be examined. One page is a limited space, meant for a single inscription. Thus it represents the idea of the whole album, at the same time framing one specific communicative event similar to those on other pages. One of the aspects of this similarity is the same principle of page framing in the memory albums, for every communicative event in every page is constantly framed by the use of three key words - the word atmiria ('memory') and two names - that of the addressee, the owner of the album respectively, and the other - that of the person, who fills in the page, the writer. These key words can be displayed in different manner e.g., with bigger or smaller letters, brightly coloured, underlined, in different hand print, etc. Even if one or two of them are omitted, their presence is assumed by all the members of the community. They serve as index to the communicative event, which is represented by written text and an illustration. Sometimes they create a real visual frame themselves (II. No. 1: title "In rememberance", on the right side "to Dacite", on the foot of the page - first and last name of the writer, date and form). Further the structure of a page of a memory album will be examined, analysing its 1) framing, 2) contents, 3) illustrations.


The word afmipa ('memory') appears as a formula, permanently used titling albums atmiyu klades, almiyu albumi and thus indicating their function-to keep school-time memories. This function of the memory albums is mentioned by nearly all the participants of the surveys as well. In every inscription formula, the word atmiya ('memory') is displayed in different manner - as a title of page, included in the text of a dedication or rhyme e.g., in a very popular and varied quatrain:

 Memory is so tiny  
 Like a chamois  
 She lives in a fir-tree house  
 With golden slippers on her feet.  
 Atmina ir maziya  
 Tä kä kalnu kazina  
 Dzivo eglu majinä  
 Zeita chibas käjinä.  
 (Inscription 1994)  

Indeed, even if the very word atmina ('memory') is not mentioned, it is present on every page.

Both names framing a communicative event reflected in a page of a memory album identify the participants of this event- an addressee and a writer. Usually both of them are classmates and girls. The survey, conducted in October, 1995 among the schoolchildren of the secondary school of Ligatne (a village about 50 km from Riga), confirms the statement. There are observations that:

1) the owners of the memory albums are mostly girls (on the countryside there are some boys, who also have memory albums), but inscriptions are made by both girls and boys usually of the age 10-14; Mr. Davidsons, once a prominent teacher in Riga and Cesis, now 89 years old, told me: "I also had a memory album, because I was such a girlish boy".

2) the writers are mostly classmates, but also schoolmates, friends and teachers. Parents' inscriptions are rare. (One girl said that her mother refused to write in her memory album, because the daughter would remember her anyway). The writer, making an inscription in somebody's memory album, provokes the addressee to conversation by the direct address e.g., Inära, Sanita, followed by dots (imitating a meaningful silence) or exclamation mark (demanding particular attention). Walter J. Ong notes: "In a text punctuation can signal tone minimally: a question mark or a comma, for example, generally calls for the voice to be raised a bit" (Ong 1982, 102). On the contrary, the application of the punctuation by schoolchildren in their memory albums shows real diversity. Punctuation marks are used in large number, in different combinations, colours, sometimes making the background of a page. (II. No. 2) Thus the use of punctuation in a child's interpretation comes close to ornamental design, contributing to the polyphony of intonations of the inscription. The same can be said about the design of the name of the addressee. In one inscription of 1993 it is coloured in the tones of the national flag of Latvia (the independence of Latvia was restored in 1991). The often used nicknames serve as markers indicating that both the writer and the addressee belong to the same community (usually form). The name of the addressee can be placed in the text of a rhyme as well. One popular example:

 Rose smells  
 Bee bites  
 Liena after  
 Boys runs.  
 Roze ozh  
 Bite kozh  
 Liena pakal  
 Puikäm jozh.  
 (Inscription 1994)  

As opposed to the name of the addressee the name of the writer usually is not made prominent in the text. Sometimes it remains somehow obscured, coded e.g., using only initials, scattered or upside down letters, being placed under drawing, etc. It may be, that the writer doesn't want to be recognised by the others as the author of the particular inscription, but mostly his/her purpose is as expressed in an often applied rhyme:

 I don't ask much of you  
 Only remember my name.  
 Neprasu no tevis daudz  
 Atceries, kä mani sauc.  

The detail characteristic for the countryside schools is that almost always a place name is added to the signature (in II. No. 1 place name Ligatne, in II. No. 3 place name leriki and house name Veclechi are mentioned).


So a page of a memory album resembles a personal letter to an addressee, peer, sharing the common problems and interests using colour, hand print, drawing, etc, as the expressive means. What are the main topics characteristic of the period of memory albums in schoolchildren's life? Here it is necessary to keep in mind, that memory albums belong mostly to girls' tradition, which plays a significant role regarding their form and contents There are three groups of most popular motifs, transmitted from generation to generation, from one memory album to another memory album 1) childhood and friendship, 2) youth and love, 3) notes of personal praise Dealing with these themes, a writer undertakes the role of an authority grouping the things into "good" and "bad" in his/her suggestions to an addressee So contrast becomes the means of evaluation

        1) childhood as opposed to adulthood,

        2) true friendship as opposed to betrayal of a friend,

        3) faithful, eternal love as opposed to short-term passion,

        4)honesty as opposed to hypocrisy, etc.x

Thus the owner of such memory album is rich in advice, how to find a true friend or a beloved person, how to choose the right way of life That is an ideal pattern opposite to children's real attitudes, which were described by lona and Peter Opie as following "In general children's friendship is far from placid Perhaps because of the greganousness of school life they make and break friends with rapidity disconcerting to the adult spectator" (Opie 1993, 175) As an apt example one inscription can be quoted The text is "It's better when a dog is a friend, than when a friend is a dog" and the comment follows (under a turned down comer of a page) - "That's revenge As you did to me, so I will do to you" (inscription 1995) In fact the psychological effect of memory albums is not rooted in solving the problems under discussion, but simply sharing them, moreover, m a quite standardised way Really, two thirds of the album texts are well known and they have been living in Latvian children tradition at least for a few decades These texts are mostly album rhymes, according to Virtanen's division, they belong to written rhymes (Virtanen 1978, 48) Album rhymes are rhythmical quatrains, anommous, variable, inherited from album to album Often they have the same meter as Latvian classical folksongs, and all these features allow Latvian classical folksongs to join with the more contemporary tradition and function as album rhymes in pupils' memory albums Some lines from well-known poetry have also begun their new life as album rhymes in schoolchildren's memory albums (e g , poetry of Latvian romantics of the beginning of the century Poruks, Aspazya, children poetry of Rainis, etc.). Frequently the same rhyme is used in one memory album for several times repeatedly, and one can easily find out the most popular rhymes of a concrete school in a concrete period.


Most participants of the surveys, when asked about their attitude towards memory albums, answered that they always made their inscriptions carefully: "I wrote the rhymes I liked myself and tried to find a corresponding drawing to them" (student, form 11, age 16, survey 1995). "Everything that I wrote had to be well presented because I was doing it specially for that person, so that they could have an affectionate inscription from me" (first year student, survey 1994). Nevertheless, the illustrations of memory albums are quite similar as well. They almost never correspond to the texts, e.g., in one inscription under a classical folksong about the God (deity of Latvian folk religion) there is a picture of Disney's dog Pluto (II. No. 3). Illustrations of memory albums can be divided into two general groups:

        1) drawings and stickers on "permanent themes" - flowers, hearts, girls, lovely animals, etc.;

        2) drawings and stickers of recent appearances of children popular culture. That is: a) cartoon heroes. Pink Panther, turtles. Disney heroes are the most popular among them (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Snow White, Gummy Bears, etc.); b) chewing gum and candy wrappers; c) copies of children's books illustrations - the books can be also not so recent, e.g., the book "The Most Beautiful Fairy Tales" (published in 1989)) or books of our famous children illustrator Margarita Staraste, very popular from the 1950s and 1970s up to this day, probably because of the sweetness and good-humoured character of her images; d) ornaments (probably thanks to the squared paper of the notebooks used for memory albums in the 1980s-l 990s).

In the memory albums of the 1990s, a special popularity has been gained by Auseklitis - morning star - the romantic symbol of the last period of the Latvian national movement (II. No. 4. Here Auseklitis is drawn among Margarita Staraste's heroes, sticked of Christmas greeting cards). The illustrations of memory albums more obviously express the principles of selection and hierarchy of values prevailing in school-children's community. Collectively recognised taste dictates the rules of making inscriptions, thus limiting children's creativity and their thirst for originality. Tendency to follow the pattern comes out in every memory album. In his/her inscriptions a child consciously or unconsciously repeats the design of the previous pages. Leea Virtanen states: "What is required is atypical album verse, in which the sense of the words is not of great significance. If the album has attractive covers and good pictures, a child is pleased to contribute something since this is a sign of comradeship and an indication of trust" (Virtanen 1978, 49).

Some functions of memory albums as a means of communication among classmates are mentioned in the surveys conducted in the secondary school of Ligatne (1995) and in the Faculty of Philology, Latvia University (Riga, 1995).

1) "There was an obscure competition of whose memory album will be better" (a first year student). "Theoretically, it was to keep a memory of classmates, practically, in my class it was simply fashionable and also a question of one's prestige "(a first year student). "In some sense it was self-expression" (a first year student). Thus memory albums promote a competition of whose inscription will be the best. Besides that, having the most interesting memory album, containing also inscriptions of teachers and older schoolmates, is a thing of prestige, influencing one's social position in a schoolchildren's community, usually among classmates.

2) "Memory albums made the monotonous school life more interesting" (student, form 11, age 16).

In surveys the word "interesting" has become a formula itself. In the school of Ligatne, 5 participants of 12 used it describing the functions of memory albums. Obviously, they meant enjoyment and pleasure the children share, making inscriptions and their delight in reading and rereading memory albums. One first year student states: "When these albums were filled in it was more of a joke, a hobby, than collecting memories." And another thinks that memory albums are necessary "to keep something as a memory of that person. Now I can look them through and laugh." Thus memory albums could be made for entertainment as well and as such they present the very specific sense of humour, which is so characteristic of children. One inscription (1994) suggests the addressee to be hanged on a bean and to be shot with a pea, and a comment in brackets follows: "That's a joke", expressing fear of the writer to be misunderstood. This sense of humour appears in funny rhymes as well as in bright illustrations, sometimes both being combined. One sample (II. No. 5). The text is:

 In the morning at about eight o'clock  
 Somebody rattles pots  
 There Sanco boils an egg (Sanco - a nickname of a girl)  
 To take it to school tomorrow.  

The last word of every line of the rhyme is substituted by drawing. Thus a child turns the inscription making itself into a game.


Attending school makes a child to obtain new experiences, opposite to those he/she had while living with his/her parents. At school he/she joins the schoolchildren's community - an autonomous society, having a vivid internal life along with formal school life run by the school administration and teachers. Memory albums besides other notebooks serve as a special means of informal communication among schoolchildren. In order to examine memory albums as a written means of communication the structure of a page as a miniature symbol of the whole album has been analysed, finding out, that a page of any memory album has a constant structure, framing members, topic and form of a complete communicative event. Thus the term "communicative routines" (based on Saville-Troike's term "language routines") seems to be applicable. The functional meaning of memory albums as the traditional means of communication transmitted by schoolchildren from generation to generation can be characterised as follows: memory albums, although being quite standardised as regards their form and contents, have a great significance in strengthening the sense of togetherness and the feeling of shoulder among schoolmates. They allow children to share their problems and needs as well as to enjoy a bit of good humour, competition, play and, definitely, colourful self-expression.


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