Meriç Alkan

Meriç Alkan

There are numerous events, experiences that we do not care about. But there are some memoirs which stay in our memory and which get into full light with all their clarity when the opportunity arises. They are such powerful marks. The women of Mersin in my memoirs have left such deep marks in my memory. I know those events before 1950s, from what is told to me. I have observed the rest, up to now, on my own.


Mersin in the 1950s was a city starting from Train Station and ending at the Muftu Rivulet. Its population was forty thousand. Small but a modern city with its outlook and social life…

Modernity has taken its place in Mersin, just after the establishment of the Republic. Modernity was seen apparently through the outlook of the women. It was the years when there was no ready wear. Due to this, people did not have many clothes. But they were able to wear in a meticulous way, with hand-made clothes. They would stitch the clothes or make them stitched; they would knit the pullovers and cardigans themselves.


Majority of them were not using head-scarfs. Those who used head-scarfs were using it mostly in a triangle shape and by tying under the chin.

National Days were celebrated with great enthusiasm and those who filled the Republic Square and the Stadium were mostly the women.

Some of them could not help crying, due to the happiness they felt while the flag was passing next to them in the official parades.

They would go to open-air cinema together with their children or to the parks, which was hit by the waves of the shore. In the winter months, to go to the cinema was their sole enjoyment. Especially, the six matinees of Gunes Cinema was in so much demand and they would wear their best clothes while going there.


In the evenings, the girls would wander in Ataturk Street in groups of two or three, hand in hand.

In that era, when there were very few telephones in homes, there were even the rules of “visiting”. Generally, they would visit each other in “gün” in every fifteen days. It was known previously that on which day, at whose house the meeting would be. In the visits, that was done, every now and then, a child from the house was sent in order to ask: “If you are suitable, today my mother wants to visit you.” They were so respectful for one another.


The maidens of 1930s were able to attend school until secondary school, because until 1945 there was no high school in Mersin. In this secondary school, co-education was done. Very few of the female graduates of secondary school, were able to attend high school outside the city. The “Halkevi” which was opened in 1933 for those who could not attend high school, served as an education institution with all of its courses in all fields.


In 1945, with the initiative of Governor Tevfik Sirri Gur, a high school was opened and the secondary school was added to the high school. Although at that time, the education in such cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir – was done in separate schools for the male and the female; the Mersin High School had co-education. Since then, the children in Mersin got a chance to get educated in the High School. In fact, those maidens who graduated from High School could lead their Higher Education. Thus, many of them got the opportunity of being accepted to the universities in Istanbul and Ankara upon passing their exams and they finalized their education by bearing the difficulties.

Alongside this general outlook, there are memoirs in my memory regarding Mersin women who exerted a lot of efforts, in order to make their children get educated. Initially, my mother – because I know her personally… A maiden, who was interested in music, who made paintings and who was raised as the single child of the family… And later on, a woman who abandoned her life desires, in order to make her five children study, with meticulous efforts… There was only one thing that she did not quit: to read the books.


Later on, another mother…  Aunt Fethiye, who invited me to the meals whenever she cooked “Sıkma”, since she knew I loved it. The Mersin woman who did her best to actualize her daughter’s dreams to be a doctor, who attended school at high school level. That girl is now Dr. Ayse Vural who is a member of Icel Soroptimist Club, who has served her nation, for forty years as a doctor.


Memoirs follow one another: a mother who made her daughter enroll secondary school after primary school, by concealing the enrolment news from the father for weeks… That one made our country attain an English teacher for this country.


Another mother of my friends exerted much effort, in order to send her daughter to Ankara State Conservatoire, who was so talented in terms of music, while she was at high school. That friend of mine finished the conservatoire and until her retirement, she worked as a violinist in Ankara State Opera and Ballet Orchestra.


This Mersin woman whom I commemorate with loyalty is the representative of modernity, the French teacher of the high school named Zeynep Arikan.


Without any exception, all of her students mention her as a very competent teacher. But I remember her as a Mersin woman who was running in the heat of July, in order to notify a girl student about the application news of a foreign scholarship exam which was annexed onto the noticeboard of the high school. There are, of course, myriad meticulous Mersin women whom I do not know. I salute them all…