Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Bandlos (old post, new illustrations)
 


Bandlos (old post, new illustrations)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 21, 2011

Three and a half years ago, I posted the following article at Times and Seasons — see original comments there. I’m reposting it now because BHodges (of Life on Gold Plates and Faith Promoting Rumor, and also holder of a special title in Keepa’s Best Beards in Mormon History contest) came across his mother’s 1960s-era bandlo and sent me photographs. (Added 26 January:) Commenter Left Field has retrieved his own bandlo from his mother’s cedar chest and has sent photos of the boys’ bandlos, too. You’ll be able to better understand from these photographs why the children of my generation and earlier enjoyed them so much. I’ve added other illustrations and also made some corrections to dating and other details learned since the original post.

If you (man or woman), or your parents, were born before 1960 and grew up in an active LDS home, chances are that somewhere in your family – maybe in a cedar chest, maybe in a chest of drawers – you have one of these relics of Mormon childhood. This is most likely if you grew up in the Mormon corridor, but may also be true if you lived in western Europe.

The word bandlo is evidently a Mormon-invented word (some have suggested the word was inspired by bandoleer) for that band of felt worn around the neck like a long collar, to which were affixed symbols made of felt, plastic, or glass, representing participation and achievement in the last three years of Primary.

Primary was born in 1878 in Farmington, Utah, when Aurelia Spencer Rogers grew concerned over the behavior of young boys in her town: “Many of them were allowed to be out late at night; and certainly some of the larger ones well deserved the undesirable name of ‘hoodlum.” She was also concerned about the effect of this situation on young girls: “What will our girls do for good husbands, if this state of things continues? Could there not be an organization for little boys, and have them trained to make better men?”

Primary spread rapidly throughout the church, but each ward devised its own program within the general framework devised by Sister Rogers and her successors. Beginning in 1902, with the birth of the Children’s Friend magazine, lessons were published each month for use during the next month’s Primary activities. Children were not grouped by age, and the same lessons had to be adapted to suit children who could be anywhere from 3 to 14 years of age.

The division into classes based on children’s ages occurred during the 1920s, and by 1930 Primary had assumed the form familiar to us through 1980, when another radical change occurred with the advent of the block meeting schedule.

Before the block schedule, Primary was held on a weekday afternoon, most commonly Wednesday. The youngest boys and girls belonged to mixed-sex classes; boys and girls were segregated in the 1920s at age 7, and later at age 9. Bandlos were part of the program for both boys and girls during the classes for 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds.

From the late 1920s, the oldest boys’ classes were designated collectively as Trail Builders; 9-year-olds were called Blazers; 10-year-olds were Trekkers; and 11-year-olds were Guides. These class names were stable until the 1970s, when the Trail Builders program was dissolved, and 10- and 11-year-olds were designated as Blazer A and Blazer B.

The oldest girls’ classes were designated collectively as Home Builders until 1940 when the name was changed to Lihomas (meaning LIttle HOme MAkers. Class names were, beginning with the youngest, Larks, Bluebirds, and Seagulls until 1959 when they were renamed Gaynotes, Firelights, and Merrihands, until the 1970s when the Lihoma program was dissolved, and 10- and 11-year-olds were designated as Merrie Miss A and Merrie Miss B.

Class symbols were devised in the 1920s. The general Trail Builder symbol was a pine tree, with a hatchet representing the Blazers, a wagon wheel representing the Trekkers, and an arrow representing the Guides. The general Home Builder symbol was a house (with an updated model being adopted when the name was changed to Lihomas), with larks, bluebirds and seagulls representing their respective classes (a lighted candle represented the Lark class briefly at the beginning of the program); Gaynotes were symbolized by a musical note, Firelights by a blazing hearth, and Merrihands by a girl’s forearms embracing a New Testament.

The first use of these symbols was to decorate headgear. Boys wore beanies of green and brown felt, with the pine tree in front and the additional symbols being added as the boys moved through the program. Girls made paper or felt headbands with the appropriate symbol. The boys continued to wear their beanies into the 1940s; girls abandoned their headbands as their flapper style ceased to be at all fashionable.

These boys of the Provo 4th Ward are wearing their class beanies in 1926 (along with their as-yet-barely-begun bandlos):


The boys’ classes began using bandlos in about 1926, with felt symbols in various colors glued or sewn onto a band of green felt; I am still working to identify the significance of the various symbols shown here (left). The colors of the symbols represented the areas of focus of the boys’ Primary work: purple denoted spirituality, red meant health, orange signified service, and brown indicated knowledge.

The first girls’ bandlo (right) – although it was first called a “necklace” – came into being in about 1930. It, too, was made of green felt, on which felt “charms” were glued or sewn. The colors of each charm signified progress on one of the class “quests”: lavender denoted spirituality, pink meant health, blue signified service, and green indicated knowledge. Charms won by Larks were round, those earned by Bluebirds were diamonds, and those acquired by Seagulls were triangles. Rose-colored “honor links” could be earned by completing extra projects related to the quests, and were sewn on the necklace between the charms.

Although the “quests” were similar, the requirements for boys and girls to earn the symbols were different (boys’ requirements were more generally turned toward school and community, while the girls’ requirements tended to emphasize home).


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Girls’ and boys’ bandlos in 1942. (The color of the boys’ bandlos is not true to life, but a result of the two-color printing process.)

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Girls’ bandlos of the late 1930s and 1940s were made of maroon felt while the boys’ bandlos apparently remained green.

In the 1940s a felt or plastic house attached near the point of the bandlo was added to represent the girls’ focus on home. Plastic birds representing each class were likewise added as the girls moved through the program. The girls could also earn additional plastic symbols: the east face of the Salt Lake Temple represented progress on spiritual goals; a winged foot symbolized the Word of Wisdom and other health goals; a lighted lamp represented service; an open book indicated knowledge. In addition, the girls could earn bars of felt in ivory, red, yellow, and blue, representing completion of projects related to spirit, health, service, and knowledge, respectively. Similarly, plastic symbols representing the boys’ classes were added to their bandlos.  A scroll representing graduation from Primary was earned by both boys and girls when all graduation requirements were met.

Beginning in the 1950s, numerals were added to the boys’ bandlo to represent each Article of Faith memorized; these numerals were clustered around the class symbol of the year the boy memorized the Article. A diamond (called a “bowline”) mounted below the pine tree could be earned by a boy who passed the Tenderfoot requirements in the Boy Scouting program. The boys’ bandlo remained the same through the 1960s.

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(Added 26 January 2011: Photos of 1960s-era boy’s bandlo courtesy of Left Field.)

The girls’ bandlo retained the same symbols through the 1950s, except that rhinestone “jewels” replaced the bars of felt.

The girls’ bandlos of the 1960s were similar in spirit but somewhat different in design from earlier versions. Of pale green felt, they bore a more modern house near the point. Class symbols appropriate to the new names of classes were awarded at the beginning of each year. Round photographs a little smaller than an American nickle and covered with glass depicted a girl praying (earned when a girl learned to open and close a meeting using an appropriate prayer format and prayer language), a girl reading the New Testament (earned when a girl could meet requirements for locating scripture verses in the New Testament), wheat (symbolizing the Word of Wisdom) and the priesthood monument on Temple Square (representing the priesthood), after the girl met requirements related to those subjects. Plastic numbers 1-4, 5-9, and 10-13 represented memorization of the Articles of Faith. Rows of rhinestones represented attendance at Primary and memorization of scripture verses. Jewels attached to each class symbol indicated the girl had attended Primary at least 40 times during the year. Jewels glued to the windows of the house represented completion of an article of cross stitch, knitting, and crocheting. Jewels descending from the house represented memorization of the books of the New Testament; recitation of facts about the eight men who wrote the books of the New Testament; and recitation of a story in a girl’s own words about someone in the New Testament who “served gladly.” A white plastic scroll symbolized graduation from Primary.


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(Photos courtesy of BHodges. This bandlo appears complete except for a jewel in the middle window of the house,  and a third jewel that should appear between the house and the picture of the New Testament-reading girl.)

Bandlos were vastly more plentiful along the Mormon corridor than elsewhere, obviously. Nevertheless, there are indications that bandlos were used by Primary children elsewhere in the world. The Church Archives hold Primary manuals from the late 1950s and early 1960s which contain instructions and diagrams for bandlos. These non-English manuals appear to have been translated by Americans working in mission offices; they are mimeographed, and appear to be direct translations without cultural adaptations – the boys’ lesson manuals, for example, contain stories of Daniel Boone and Kit Carson. Nevertheless, they indicate that there may very well be bandlos hidden away in the souvenirs of long-time church members outside the United States – a nauha in Finland, a sjerp in Holland, a banda in Mexico, a Band in Germany, a Banderollen in Sweden.

When the Trail Builder and Lihoma programs were discontinued in about 1970, to be replaced by the Blazer A and B and Merrie Miss A and B classes, bandlos were discontinued. 10- and 11-year-old Primary children were given printed wall hangings – called “Blazer Banners” and “Merrie Markers” – to which symbols representing lessons learned were glued. All such trappings were discontinued by the time weekday Primary was merged into Sunday School with the block meeting schedule.

My own bandlo from the 1960s, moth-eaten though it is, but proudly complete down to the last jewel, is a treasured souvenir of my Mormon childhood.



26 Comments »

  1. Great trip done memory lane. I don’t want happen to mine but completed everything. I was pretty proud of that bandlo. Thanks.

    Comment by Mex Davis — January 21, 2011 @ 10:29 am

  2. Yup, I remember mine. Thanks for the pics!

    Comment by Kevin Barney — January 21, 2011 @ 10:58 am

  3. On a completely different subject I hope Ardis wasn’t inconvienced by the fire scare at the Church History Library yesterday.

    I saw Inglorius Bsaterds (It was rated R for violence not sex so that means it was o.k. to see) and I know how dangerous old nitrate film can be.

    I too remember my bandlo.

    Comment by john willis — January 21, 2011 @ 11:05 am

  4. Thanks, Mex and Kevin. John, your tongue is planted so firmly in your cheek with that one …

    I learned about nitrate film from my dad, the old-time photographer. He collected old family photos and negatives for years, and I remember when he suddenly realized that one of his stored negatives was nitrate. He was visibly scared and couldn’t get rid of it fast enough. That’s also when I learned what “safety film” printed on all those Kodak-yellow boxes in the refrigerator meant.

    And to make this on-topic: A jewel on my bandlo dangerously near a moth hole succumbed this morning and fell off. *tears* — but I saved the jewel.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 21, 2011 @ 11:23 am

  5. Such a quality post on the culture of Mormonism, I love this! Great work, Ardis.

    Comment by BHodges — January 21, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

  6. Great to see some real photos of these mysterious objects. Thanks!

    Comment by David Y. — January 21, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  7. Best post ever. I date my apostasy to the removal of the MIA bandlo.

    Comment by Mina — January 21, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

  8. I’m not so sure that discontinuing bandlos wasn’t an apostate action in itself, Mina. :P

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 21, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

  9. I still have my bandlo which brings back a lot of memories.

    I wonder what was on the film they destroyed. Most archives copy nitrate films on to safe film before they destroy it.

    Comment by Jeffery Johnson — January 21, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

  10. I hope they had time to do it — if you don’t notice it until it gets sticky, it could be too late. Hope we hear more about it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 22, 2011 @ 2:44 am

  11. BTW, Ardis, re: your comment about the prevalence of this practice in the Mormon corridor, I attended Primary in a small branch in northern Illinois in the 1960s, and we had the bandlo program in full force there.

    I do remember feeling that it was a big deal to get the new little things to add to your bandlo. It really was a motivating force for me.

    This was a simply outstanding post. There’s really nowhere else one can go to readily get this kind of information.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — January 22, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

  12. Thanks, Kevin. I’ve had some good response to the first version in the past couple of years, from people who found it by Googling after they’d come across their own or their parents’ bandlos and wanted to know what the emblems meant. It seems to fill a need.

    About bandlos away from the Mormon corridor, I also found this picture of Trailbuilders in Queens, NY, in 1944:

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 22, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

  13. Very cool. And better with pictures. Thanks.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — January 22, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

  14. I am just a little too young to have participated in this program, but my older siblings did when we lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Waterbury, Connecticut. Both well outside the Mormon Corridor. My mother still had one sister’s bandelo and gave it to her during a recent visit.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — January 24, 2011 @ 9:55 am

  15. Thank you! My bandlo was soaked in a flood and the plastic thingies disconnected. I had no idea where they went. Thank you for being of assistance. I remember how much I loved earning each of those.

    Comment by jaye binkerd — August 7, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

  16. I found a picture of me wearing my Bandlo from 1965. It looks exactly like the one in the post. I wish I had the real thing but at least I have a photo.

    Comment by John — June 20, 2012 @ 10:38 pm

  17. It has been so much fun reading all this and remembering primary days of the past. I am so happy to say that I still have my band(a)lo. We pronounced it with the ‘a’.
    In the original blog, someone was trying to remember the songs the girls sang as Gaynotes, Firelights, and Merrihands. I really loved singing those songs and am desperately trying to remember the lyrics. I have been scouring the internet to see if anyone else has posted the words and have come up empty. I wonder if the church archives somewhere has the songs.
    This is what I remember. Can anyone else remember the words and fill in my blanks or correct any words that are wrong?

    Gaynotes:(the original commentor had this correct)
    The The first thing in the morning and all day long,
    I will be a Gaynote and sing a happy song.
    I shall greet the new day and all it brings,
    With a cheerful face and a heart that sings.

    Firelights: (How I remember it)
    Like sunshine lifting shadows and firelight bright,
    I shall fill the home with radiance and light.
    Giving joy to others in all I do,
    I will be a Firelight the whole day through.

    Merrihands: (Scant memories of this one)
    Like blossoms in the springtime throughout the land,
    I will serve with gladness and be a Merrihand.

    (I just can’t come up with the last 2 lines.)
    This has been driving me crazy since I read the comment posts from the original blog. Help!

    Comment by Terri Potts — October 14, 2012 @ 11:42 pm

  18. Another cool thing I have never heard of! I am never sure if I am an explorer or simply pathetic. lol

    It is amazing how much has changed in the programs for Primary and Mutual over the years. I am excited about the curriculum changes for the YW/YM (my thoughts here) and I have hope that Primary is next!

    Comment by Julia — November 1, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

  19. Terri – I remember learning the song and loving it. I still remember my version of it. However, I was either taught it incorrectly, or it was changed, because when I learned it, there were only 2 verses. In my memory the first verse is exactly as you wrote it, except that I learned “will” instead of “shall”. “I will greet the new day”. Minor difference and probably due to whoever taught it to me. I remember the second verse being almost the same except that the first line combined part of the 2nd verse and part of the 3rd.

    “Like blossoms in springtime and firelight bright
    I shall fill my happy home with radiance and light.
    Etc. – the last two lines being the same that you had.

    I remember being a little irked that there wasn’t a third verse, because it didn’t make sense to me. My guess is that whatever leader I had in my tiny little branch just taught it to us as she remembered it and she didn’t have a copy of the actual song. I really hope someone out there remembers the rest of the third verse. I would love to finally know 3 verses, as I always thought it should be!

    Comment by Teri Snedegar — December 4, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

  20. i still remember all the words and sing regular the gaynote song but the firelight words some I remember but the merrihand words not at all as our family moved and I don’t think the new ward was as good at the music side of Primary. Then at 1 yrs old I was called as jnr Sunday School and Primary music leader…. As a 12 yr old Beehive me being the only one had to travel fro Luton to Hyde Park for Beehice class and activities and had the Blue beehive Bandlo….

    Comment by Mary-Anne Bell — December 30, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  21. Hi Teri and Mary-Anne,
    It’s been fun to read your comments and know that someone else out there remembers these wonderful songs. I have tried to contact a couple of people in the general music department and primary organization but with no luck. I haven’t given up yet. I love a good challenge andt this certainly is that. I WILL prevail.
    Terri Potts

    Comment by Terri Potts — December 31, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  22. @Terri Potts

    Have you succeeded in finding the words to the full song yet? My mother recently wanted to find them, but as you’ve learned… they aren’t available online! Wondered if you had any more luck then we have had.

    Thanks!

    Comment by Terra Fraiser — January 23, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

  23. I haven’t had any luck yet. Is is amazing how hard it is to get ahold of someone in the General Primary organization and the Music Department in SLC. I did send an email to a man who is like a liason to the music department, but he pretty much ignored my questions and referred me to the primary organization but didn’t tell me how to get someone. I haven’t been able to find a contact myself but haven’t given up yet. Thx

    Comment by Terri Potts — January 24, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

  24. Well if we find out anything on our end, we will post here. No real luck as of yet.

    Comment by Terra Fraiser — January 30, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

  25. Terri, Terra, and others who have wanted it: I’ve posted the words and music to the song you want as My Code today. I’m slow, but eventually I get around to answering questions …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 31, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

  26. Thanks to everyone for their wonderful comments. As a journalist covering nuances of General Conference this have given me some wonderful ideas and old memories. I now have my green bandlo or bandelo in hand, diamonds in tact. My daughters were entertained with my long lived devotion to the Lihoma program for Primary.

    Comment by Genelle Pugmire — August 29, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

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