RHYS BOWEN: My grandkids in Arizona go back to school this week. And while I was signing books at Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale on Saturday I had a chance to stop by for a visit. And they were busy getting all their back-to-school stuff in order. It ranged from laptops to scientific calculators to iPads with all the year's text books already uploaded to them. The younger ones aren't allowed phones but many kids in their class already have smart phones.
So I'm thinking back to the start of school year when I was a child. No, we didn't exactly have slates, or quills on parchment, but the only thing we had to provide was our own pen and pencils.A fountain pen was a big ticket item in those days. Oh, and we had to bring a dictionary. And uniforms, of course. Very strict school uniform and PE uniform and house shoes to be worn on wet days. But books/paper/notebooks were all provided by the school. And so were our meals and our snacks.
And when my own kids went to school I remember lunch boxes were a big thing.
They had back packs in those days. Nothing on wheels. (And just to update you, my soon-to-be freshman at a private high school reported that NOBODY had a wheeled backpack. Absolutely NOBODY in spite of the fact that she'd be carrying around huge text books.) In the lower grades the important items was the box of crayons.--at least 64. In higher grades items like a mirror for the locker. How simple life was (and relatively inexpensive). There were no iPhones or iPads to accidentally drop into swimming pools or down the school stairs. Okay, so those lunch boxes occasionally got battered or run over by the car, but all in all it wasn't a bank-breaking experience.
So what do you remember about back-to-school? Trauma or excitement? And what new item did you have to have?
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, golly, Rhys (as Georgie would say), you beat me to it! But I have the last week in August, which used to be back-to-school back in the paleolithic era when I was in school. Now everyone starts the beginning of August. And so funny about the Calvin Klein jeans. I wish I'd been that smart. (Also wish my daughter had had to wear uniforms!)
I LOVED shopping for school supplies when I was a kid. New tablets, pencils, notebooks, and of course, CRAYONS. I still love Crayons.
HALLIE EPHRON: My favorite thing about back to school was putting together a 3-ring notebook with dividers. Remember the different color tinted tabs that you slipped labels into? And I had reinforcements for the holes in the filler pages, as if they needed to be preserved for posterity. I felt SO organized. For about thirty seconds. Until my natural messiness kicked in. Within a week my neat notebook was a disaster.
Yes, fountain pens! The ones with cartridges. I loved them. And they made me slow down and write legibly. Being a lefty, I was forever smearing what I'd just written. Very annoying.
LUCY BURDETTE: I loved, loved, loved going back to school every year--everything about it, from the new outfits to the pencil boxes and notebooks to finding out who the teacher would be and which friends would be in which classes. (Wouldn't you just know we are all school nerds here at JRW.) The only bad years I had were the two when my family moved, at the beginning of sixth grade from New Jersey to Michigan, and then back, at the beginning of ninth grade. It was hard making new friends and figuring out the dress code all over again. Phew, junior high school years are rough anyway--never mind starting over completely!
Rhys, you have me laughing--I can totally picture you in the car taking the clothing survey and then presenting the results to your daughter.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oooh, I loved the dividers for each subject. Black vinyl covered three-ring notebooks. And cartridge fountain pens. I loved protractors, and rulers, and anything that could make perfect lines. Reinforcements that were webby, that you had to lick.
Some years, you had to cover your textbooks with brown paper. Some years that was--what did we call it? Gross.
We had to wait until the first day to see if the new year was going to be tennis shoes that you kept white with show polish, or that you had to get instantly grimy. And whether you put pennies, or dimes, in your loafers. Or nothing at all. The rules were VERY STRICT. Linda Katzenberger and Sue Marling set them.
Now, lunch boxes? Never. It was incredibly uncool to take your lunch.
I remember heather-colored cardigan sweaters with grosgrain ribbon down the front, and matching heather a-line skirts. Circle pins!
And I still have dreams that I am missing the school bus, and that I forgot my locker combination.
RHYS: So do share your back to school memories. Lunch boxes? Star Trek? Partridge Family?