Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Remembering My School Years

Back in the day when I was in school, this was the week we always started a new school year. Up north, starting back to school in August was completely unheard of. Of course, most schools were not air-conditioned then, unless one had the good fortune to go to school in a brand-new building, so starting that early wouldn't have made sense.

During my elementary years, I'd go to school on the first day in brand new clothes and shoes. Back then, you weren't allowed to wear jeans or t-shirts to school, nor were sneakers permitted. Both boys and girls had to wear "hard shoes", saving your sneakers for gym. And in the 1960s, they didn't have the wide variety of athletic shoes we have today -- kids generally wore black high-top canvas Converse sneakers with the big white rubber toe or low Keds which came in black, red, white, blue, and denim. Girls had to wear dresses and boys had to wear collared shirts and pants in something other than denim. By the time I started the 7th grade in the fall of 1970, they'd relaxed these rules and I was able to wear t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers from then on -- which I did. By the mid-70s, you began to see more variety in sneakers, closer to what we have today. I can remember my first pair of Adidas suede basketball sneakers that I paid $35 dollars for around 1974 or so -- and thought it was a lot of money.

You didn't have to buy your own school supplies then, either, unless you wanted to. The schools provided everything that a kid might need and didn't have. No kid carried a backpack to school at that time. In elementary school, you kept your books inside your desk, and you were in the same classroom all day long. They didn't give out much homework before the fourth grade, so you didn't have to lug every book and notebook you had home with you every night. Starting in the 7th grade, we got lockers so we continued not to have to lug everything we had around all the time. If you'd brought a backpack to school at any time during my 12 years of public school, people would have looked at you funny and asked if you were going camping or hiking after school. It also would have been seen as a seriously nerdy thing to do as well.

Most kids brought their lunch to school in a square metal lunch box with a thermos with a glass lining. The lunch boxes came with all sorts of themes, usually relating to a TV show. I had a Hogan's Heroes lunch box in the third grade, for example. The thermoses in these lunch boxes were rather fragile -- several times, I'd open mine to find a broken pile of glass on the bottom. I eventually ended up giving up thermoses altogether and just buying my milk at school. And I mean milk. You didn't get any other choice in elementary school then. Even in high school, you got milk or orange juice. If you wanted a soda, you had to bring your own from home. In high school, I usually bought my entire lunch -- for 40 cents a day by my senior year.

Back then, from the first year onwards, kids either rode the school bus or they were "walkers". You didn't see parents ferrying their kids to school each and every day like you do now, even though many more kids had stay at home mothers then. You were a walker if you lived within a certain radius of the school, and even the youngest kids did this on their own -- there weren't very many hovering or "helicopter" parents in those days.

I could go on, but this has almost turned into a novel already, so I'll leave it at this. Feel free to share memories of your own school years in the comment box.

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