Guadalupe Aballe

The boy Gardés at school

he lack of an adequate information and further research about education in the late years of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century has brought as consequence the spreading of a series of mistaken data, confusing or completely ridiculous versions about Carlos Gardel’s school record. To be serious about the issue, it is necessary to set aside all oral tradition and stick only to documents and publications of the period (1897-1904).

The first certificate belonging to Carlos Gardés was issued in 1897 by the Escuela Superior de Niñas (Superior School for Girls) on 678 Talcahuano Street (now school 8, Distrito Escolar 1, Talcahuano 680) and can be seen at the Museo Carlos Gardel (museum) of the Casa del Teatro. This certificate bears the signatures of the director of the school Miss Juana Casinelli, of Dr. Juan Girondo and of Alberto Austerlitz, authorities of then 6th district, which had nothing to do with the present District 6, as far as school jurisdiction is concerned. Carlos attended this school for girls in his first year of studies, even though Elementary and Superior schools were meant for only one sex, the school legislation of the time allowed the attendance of male pupils under ten years old.

About a peculiar event that happened that year we can mention that during 1897 the so-called «Practical Lectures of the 6th School district» were held in this school. They were opened in March and ended in October, with a total of fifteen lectures on varied subjects with the purpose of improving the quality of teaching. Probably Carlos may have been present in many of them.

The other certificate of Carlos we know about it is in the Instituto Nacional de Estudios de Teatro and was issued in 1899 by the elementary school nº2 of the 6th district. It is acknowledged in it that Carlos was approved of his 2nd grade. This school was located on 455 Libertad Street and the certificate is signed by its director: Mr. Ángel Custodio Bustos and authorities of the district: doctor Lorenzo Anadón and Alberto Austerlitz (the same one who signed the certificate in 1897).

We have no record of Carlos’s attending school in 1900, but we know that he had to quit the school of Libertad Street. He was not the only one forced to leave, also his classmates and those who had passed from 3rd. grade to 4th. Why? By a decision of the National Board of Education in its 10th meeting, section 11, items a and b, among other things, the then Elementary School nº 2 of the 6th district was declared School for Children.

It is worthwhile to remember that schools were for Children, Elementary and Superior schools. Schools for children comprised only the first two grades, Elementary schools had the first four grades and Superior schools, the six grades of grammar school.

In 1900 the Elementary school nº 2 on Libertad Street was a school for Children, many children had to leave it. It was a very serious problem, because, though strange as it seems, there was no other school for boys in that district. In 1900 there were only five fiscal schools (today we call them public or state schools): the Superior school for girls, the Elementary school for girls, the School for Children and two military schools. Carlos was unable to attend any of them having passed to 3rd. grade. During 1900 337 boys and 875 girls studied in public schools, see the difference.

There was the alternative of a private school but maybe the schools of the area were expensive for the humble budget of the self-abnegating doña Berta and perhaps because of that Carlos entered in 1901 as pupil in the Colegio Pío IX.

Before analyzing Carlitos’s stay there is necessary to make a short comment about the little school on Libertad 455. Why never had it been correctly identified?

In the nomenclature of schools of 1901 that appeared in El monitor de la Educación Común, either the school or its director were listed in February, March, May... but in June the school appeared under a different address: Uruguay 751 and with other director: Margarita Laprade. Ángel Bustos, the director, had been suspended. The 49th session of the National Board of Education on June 21, 1901 referenced to the file 5650 that said that there was not enough evidence to exonerate Angel Bustos. Possibly a serious problem caused the replacement of director in the school and due to that early change of domicile (1901) it was difficult to locate it later.

Carlos's passing through the prestigious Colegio Pío IX is well-known, but probably there were fancy stories about this period, and quite many.

In 1901 he attended the Artisans 2nd. grade. It is not a repetition in the strict sense of the word, the curricula in fiscal and particular (private) schools were quite different and there is scarce relationship between both second grades.

There were malicious speculations about the statement «Fatherland: unknown» that appears in the registration book, but in the period between 1901 and 1902 there are over 120 children that bear the infamous «unknown», which indicates that Carlos was not the exception to any strange rule.

He was in the following workshops: Printer's shop (April); Bookbinding (May, June, July); Blacksmith's shop (August, September, October) and Shoemaker's shop (November). On November 3, 1901 he received the Sacrament of Confirmation alongside other children. In the documents of 1901 (Ledger of Artisans) there are neither observations as for bad behavior (it was expressly acknowledged that), nor comments as for financial problems (children in poor situation paid nothing or were granted scholarships), nor about diseases, nor about mysterious irregularities connected with his origin (that was as well annotated, about Carlos it is only indicated that he was the natural son of Berta Gardes).

Possibly, from July 25 to August 1 he had to go home because the school was closed and children were sent back to their domiciles. (On July 9 Tomás Frangi had died of scarlet fever at school and outbreaks of diseases kept on appearing, so the authorities wisely decided to close the school for a thorough cleaning of the premises).

In 1902 Carlos was in the Students section in 3rd. grade. Of his artisan companions of 2nd. grade, Vicente Olavarría had also passed and was in the same section with him. He was a brilliant student that had been awarded the first prize in Typography, among other distinctions. Carlos, alongside other children shared with Ceferino Nanuncurá the María Auxiliadora bedroom. We have to clear out that the "Digno de Alabanza" award given to Carlos at the end of the year was for his studies and not for his singing, as it is wrongly said. I was also said that at a contest for singers Ceferino was awarded the first prize and Carlos, the second. But there is no attesting document of the epoch that, up to now, certifies this and it is quite probable that that contest never existed. And it is also untrue that when the remains of the Venerable Namuncurá were repatriated Carlos was there.

We have the certificate issued by San Estanislao school in 1904. This school was on 2646 Tucumán Street and Carlos graduated there with the best marks. Sometimes it was at issue the fact that he had got those marks and that he made some mistakes or wrongly spelled some words when adult. In the first place, we must have in mind that those marks were from 1904 and the known letters written by Gardel are of many years later. Second, he probably forgot many things, as a matter of fact he neither had high school nor university instruction. The teachers of that time were worried about the fact that children graduated without knowing how to write correctly. Several testimonies of school authorities allow us to know their concern and their complaints because kids were not properly trained and they emphasized the problem of the short duration of the school day.

Carlos Gardel was not so bad student after all...