Looking back on it all, I guess the idea of that first day back in school after a long summer vacation was strangely exciting. As a guy who'd spent the previous summer months seeking fabulous flights of fantasy and adventure, the last thing I wanted was to step inside a classroom and resign myself for another long and dreary year of school. But school was inevitable, so it was best to just make the most of it. Even though it meant classes and homework, there was a plus side; all my friends would be there, and we'd be gathered in one place.
I used to stick straight pins in my Pink Pearl erasers to make cool space cruisers and landing vehicles. Straight pins made great antennas and landing gear. Artgum erasers were fun and smelled weird, but they were far too crumbly and fell apart easily. One fun thing was to hang a plastic ruler over the edge of the desk, hold it with one hand, then pull down on the other end like a diving board. It made a really cool, but annoying rattling sound. Ah, the things I learned in school.
Protractors; What the heck were these things for? We had to have them for class around fifth and sixth grades, but never used them. They were great for drawing the sunrise coming up over the horizon. Perfect half circles always came in handy for large scale drawings. Other than that, the only angles I ever figured out were more ingenius excuses for not having all of my homework completed.
Shopping for new clothes in the heat of August is something that we can all relate too. Back to school shopping always guaranteed the most scorching days for shopping and trying on new clothes. Actually, it was always fun and exciting to get new things. Endless battling over the types of clothes I wanted vs. the types my Mom thought I should have kept me busy enough come shopping day.
My tireless arguments with her over my clothes choices were always a fight to the finish, and often I feared that I wouldn't come home with the "cool" stuff, even though I almost always did. I hadn't quite acquired the knack of positive reinforcement ("Oh look, brown desert boots; you won't see the dirt.") when it came to my closing arguments over the functionality of cool clothes.
Mom: "Those clothes won't last a month."
Me: "Oh yes they will, I know because everyone's wearing them and they haven't worn out yet!"
Mom: "Everyone's wearing these long sleeve shirts and jeans in summer?"
I loved desert boots. Everybody was wearing them, and they were the hottest thing. Turtle necks were also very cool, but the black ones were the best. Worn under a shirt, they were ultimate. I pretty much liked wearing jeans, but corduroy pants were the thing. Tan cords, plaid shirts, desert boots, and the belt worn with the buckle at the side of the hip bring back great memories.
Sneaking candy into school was one of my most dedicated efforts. The candy had to be easily accessible as there wasn't much time in between the intervals when the teacher turned her back to us to write on the board. School supplies were great, and some were downright necessary. Those old slide top pencil boxes were essential for me, and sometimes even held pencils. Smuggling candy into school was a tricky proposition, and a guy had to be innovative to stay one step ahead of the teacher.
Luden's Wild Cherry Drops were more or less acceptable candy in school as long as they weren't eaten to excess. Us kids were always sick with one thing or another. Genius that I was, I always thought they had true medicinal powers since they were, after all, cough drops. Little did I know that they were just candy designed to keep the throat from being dry. The Smith Bros. black licorice drops worked as well, but nothing really beat the Luden's Cherry drops.
Sudden illnesses were great for milking, especially after dinner when a poor ailing kid like myself suddenly "took a turn for the worst." Sick days could be played out pretty well, and I could literally "will" myself into having a slight fever. Of course, one had to be careful with such performances as to not warrant a trip to the doctor.
My Pee Chee was just about my favorite canvas for enduring self-expression. It was usually rendered with army drawings, tarzan cartoons, wise crack balloons next to all the figures on the front, and of course, my own personal messages including the girls I hated in class.
Just about the only good thing about these things were the times tables on the backside. In our school, we were instructed not to use those on the back, but to learn them ourselves; a ludicrous idea. However, I did mostly learn them, but to this day that learned knowledge has mostly escaped me. As for homework, using the excuse "I accidentally grabbed the wrong Pee Chee" never worked. One mistake commonly made by students was to think that they could outsmart the teacher. Teachers were three steps ahead of us at all times, and whatever treachery we'd learned over summer vacation, it was assured that teachers learned their own.
The Pee Chee was probably the most beloved of all school supplies, and they bring back wonderful memories. My Pee Chees held all of my memories, thoughts, feelings, and artistic renderings, and I used them for as long as possible. What a great diary mine would make for me today. Each year brought a different one, full of vintage graffiti and captures of a time gone by.