School Supplies

In Springfield, Mo. where I grew up, our school started in September, right after Labor Day, if I recall correctly, and since our family never had an abundance of money, I suspect it was probably not August when we bought our school supplies, but more likely, it was the days just before the opening bell that we went to the store to buy these treasured items. That jaunt was one of the highlights of my year, for I loved school and everything that went with it, and I recall my delight when I became the owner of such precious items. It’s probably accurate to say a kind of euphoria overtook me at these times.

A couple of days ago when I went into our new Super WalMart here in Lake Havasu and passed through the school section, I spied a Pink Pearl eraser tucked in the company of scissors and paper clips and glue. I stopped, fingered the eraser package, and my thoughts flared and carried me to those long-gone days when, with my mother, I stood by such shelves, and made my selections. Pink Pearl was my brand. I bought one on Monday–actually two–for that’s how they were packaged.

Clearly, I think of Big Indian Chief tablets, and though I don’t recall seeing any in stores in recent years, I do find they are still manufactured, at least in limited form. Covers of dark red with an Indian chief in full dress feathers protected the wide-ruled sheets beneath. They weren’t of the spiral ring style, but were glued at the top with a black band. There was a line to write the name of the owner of this fine pad of paper. Maybe I bought other tablets, but I don’t remember any of those, just red Big Chiefs.

School supplies have a unique scent, especially school paste, which emits a savor of peppermint–and to tell the truth–a taste of peppermint. I know, for in our school, we all occasionally took a nip of the white, smooth stuff. Distinctly adding to the school aroma is that of a newly opened box of crayons, pristine and unbroken, their sharp points a flare of blended colors. So careful would we be of our new crayons, and what a sad moment when the first one broke, or became so worn down, we had to peel away the paper covering, and finally they weren’t even kept in their own container, but were dumped helterskelter in the pencil box.

I racked around in my brain this morning, trying to remember my  pencil boxes, but I just couldn’t bring up any images. I bobbed around on the internet, looking at pencil box images, and despite my extended surfing, I did not find a pencil box that seemed familiar.

Until…I recalled cigar boxes. Now, I’m not at all sure where I would have come to possess a cigar box, for neither my dad, and certainly not my mother, smoked cigars, but that’s what I used to store my school supplies; cigar boxes.

I realize now that I love cigar boxes–love the way they look, and the slightly wicked aroma that accompanies them, and the fact that for all my years in elementary school, I stored my school supplies in a cigar box. It’s strange, I have no recollection of how I came to possess such an item…and how about the other kids who also used cigar boxes?  Where did we get them? Maybe we went to the drug store or the grocery store and asked if we could have the empties. I don’t remember.

Once I visited in the home of my friend Barbra Day; she opened a drawer, and several pencils were there.

“Whose pencils are those?” I recall asking her.

Nonchalantly, she replied. “Oh, anybody who wants them.”

I was impressed with that, for in our home, there weren’t pens or pencils just laying around, or a supply stash somewhere. We had our own items, carefully tucked away in our boxes.

The pencils we used gave a strong scent of cedar when we sharpened them at school, and if our lead broke while we were at home, we used a kitchen knife to fashion a point. Often my pencil eraser would wear out before the pencil was used up, and the metal ring that clasped the eraser would dig into the paper where I was attempting to annihilate my errors.

Watercolor sets were furnished by the school, and when they handed to each of us a metal pan with pats of color, and sheets of paper, and little brushes, we budding artists (and non-artists, such as I) enthusiastically began our work. On very special occasions would the teachers bring out the easels, pots of poster paint and big floppy brushes to accommodate our artistic bent. I remember yet how fine it was to dip my brush into a jar of brilliant paint, and blaze it over the eager white paper.

Impossible for me to explain is my fascination with Dorothy Lynch’s (whom I don’t recall seeing since 6th grade in Bailey School) notebook paper. I probably have never mentioned this to a soul until this moment, for it can’t be explained, but there was something about her paper that I liked. It had a certain “tooth,” I guess one would say. It was a little rough–not like newsprint–but not slick like ordinary notebook paper. Strange memory.

There is much to be said for Big Box Stores and WalMart and KMart and Target where one can buy bundles of Bic pens and cartons of yellow pencils and bags of assorted-color plastic paper clips and made in China pencil boxes. There is much to be said for affording the finest watermarked paper and Montblanc pens, and Fahrney Pelikan pens which can be purchased at a discount rate of $1,418.00. There is certainly much to be said for being able to easily buy school supplies for one’s children.

But there also is much to recommend striving, and for the cherishing of materials which is brought about by the understanding of their limited supply.

22 thoughts on “School Supplies

  1. Pingback: Slate Chalkboards | Furninishingunit

  2. sfrack

    Delightful! I am a teacher. I think the children at school should hear your blog. Going “back to school shopping” is timeless. My children loved it and so did I as a kid. My favorite was the new box of crayons. They were all sharp and lined up like little soldiers. And I loved each of their colorful names.

    Hi! Welcome to my blog. Hope you’re here often.

    You’re so right about the crayons. There is just nothing quite like a new box, pristine, with each crayon pointy and unbroken. The scent…and yes, the wondrous names.

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  3. Pingback: A Friend and Cigar Boxes « Shirley Buxton

  4. Rebecca

    oh mom you bring back such cherished memories. What fun we all had getting ready for the new school year. Thank you for the joy you brought and the love for learning you gave us. And yes, absolutely new shoes always run faster. Love you

    You know, Bek, I do believe new shoes run faster. New, fresh paper makes you work harder on your math problems, and new crayons draw better pictures. 🙂 That’s just the way things work.

    Wish I were there and could go with you and Nathaniel to buy things.

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  5. heartwhispers

    Oh yes, I remember those days. It was almost like January 1st… a time of new beginnings and days to come and knowing you were going to learn new things…
    I loved the new pens, pencils, and paper!!! Those were the best!
    Thanks Sis Buxton for bringing those feelings and memories to the front of my mind. 😀

    Memories are priceless, for they enable us to experience anew the years gone by.

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  6. Through the college. It is a TRIO program that helps at-risk students by supplying them with things they might need to be a successful student. Service range from offering students school supplies (as needed) to tutoring, counseling services to grant aid, cultural events to a fully outfitted computer lab/study area and more. All free of charge to students as long as they qualify. It’s a great program!

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  7. Beautiful, beautiful article.
    I never thought about it that way.
    A few days ago Jessica (SS kid) and I went shopping for “girl things” – shoes, bath and shower gift set – as a surprise, just because. Now I will see it all different and do it for lots more kids (with them instead of for them as before).
    Next week I’m hoping to take my grand sons 🙂 Even Crystal will need “stuff” for “back to college” 🙂 Last time I went alone, I found this pink fake-snake planner – she loves it!

    Of course I went down memory lane for my own children and further back, myself.

    Thank you.

    Catherine, I hear it in your remarks that giving is in your nature. The scripture is so true that says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

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  8. Sis. Buxton,

    I had a pink pearl eraser just like that many times, and oh…how I remember practicing my letters and numbers so carefully in my Big Indian Chief Tablet. Crayons, markers and paint were always also some of my favorites…I think they connected to my artsy side.

    This post brought back such fond memories. I have always loved school and learning, although not always the rigors of the process. Even though I’m an adult now and a college student, I still get excited when it comes time to go get school supplies. All of the pretty pens, notebooks, and folders…. I guess I will never completely grow up.

    I still get to enjoy it though because I get to buy supplies for the students that we serve in our program. (Last week I stood in Wal-Mart and counted out 500 pocket folders in all sorts of fun colors!:D) I just buy for them all of the things I would enjoy buying for me, plus some. 🙂 It is so much fun buying for someone else. Love you!

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  9. Sister Buxton:
    The slate that fell from the school roof were ashingles. I used them for a clalkboard. Back then we called them a black board becaose the chalk boards in the school then were black. I started drawing when I waas 4. I have a picture that my mother saved from the time I was 4 that I copied from the comics of Mickey Mouse.
    Bro. Webb

    I would love to see a copy of your Mickey Mouse drawing. Maybe you can take a picture of it with your new camera and email it to me.

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  10. You took me back in time to my school days. Strange how I had forgotten the “smells” of our supplies. Buying school supplies was a big deal, as was buying our school clothes (and a coat for when the weather turned). My mother would put my clothes on “lay-away”, pay a few dollars each week, and the excitement would build when there was only one payment left. Great post!

    Karen, I well remember “lay-aways” and the excitement that surrounded paying the last payment.

    I don’t know the answer, (maybe there is none) but in our world of excesses and wealth, I believe there is a loss of appreciation for our possessions.

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  11. Sis. Buxton:
    Thanks for the memories. The school I went to was the Hazelwood school in my home town – Anderson, Indiana. When I passed from kindergarten into the first grade I was told my teacher was named Miss Apple. I thought Miss Apple??? I kept wondering if she was going to look like an apple. (That was me at 5 or 6) But when I saw her she didn’t look like that at all. The first reader I got was to teach the kids how to read. The first story was “Run Mary Run! Run Mary run! See Mary run? See Mary run.?” The next one was “Monkey see Monkey do. Monkey try to act like you” The school house had a slate roof. Once in a while some slate would fall off onto the ground and we picked them up and used them for a slate board and we could write on them with pieces of chalk from the class room. This is just some of my memories
    Bro. Webb

    Children take things so literally, and I can just see you as a black-haired little boy, puzzled, and eagerly looking to see your new teacher who might look like an apple.

    The slate that fell from the roof, you used as a chalk board? Am I understanding correctly? Such a story points again to the ingenuity of the human being. Were you drawing by then?

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  12. This post brought back an old song, “memories flowing through the pages of my mind” . I distinctly remember getting my cigar boxes from Warrens Drug store in Oil City, LA. Filling it was the most fun and twice a year we were allowed to order clothes from Spiegel catalog. What fun! My grandsons big thrill last week was showing me his new backpack for 4-K. I am inclined after Tracie’s post to inquire at school if possibly I could buy a backpack for several that are not fortunate enough to have them. I am sitting here counting my blessings to have been raised in such a loving home with two parents that adored and protected me. Thank you for this post. We need to be reminded of the past sometimes in order to do better in the future. Love you, Nita

    Hi, Nita. I am sure it is not possible to have a more loving mother, than you did. She adores her children.

    Thank you for making the decision to help some child who is less fortunate than yours.

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  13. Tracie’s words touched my heart too. Last year our church gave away 200 backpacks filled with school supplies. So many people came (over 500, including children and adults) that we ran out of back packs. How sad we were that some didn’t get them.

    Sometimes we take for granted things that we can so easily get.

    We aren’t going to be doing a Back-to-School Bash this year (which is unfortunate) due to the fact that we are having a Soul-Winner’s Boot Camp (which is VERY fortunate). But, I have just now made the decision to take the neighborhood kids, we bring to Sunday School, school-supply shopping. Thank you, Tracie and Sis. Buxton, for nudging me in this direction.

    Tena, you giving heart never closes down.

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  14. I love this post……in fact, just these past few days Chloe has been making her “back to school” list. All of my school aged kids eagerly look forward to this shopping experience. And now Brady gets to join in the fun…….there’s nothing like it. I hope I am bringing to my children the same feelings & memories that you have had. Love you a lot.

    It seems impossible that Brady will now be going to school…such a sweet little boy. I know his teacher will love him.

    …wish I were there with you.

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  15. I enjoyed when we went on that annual trip to purchase school supplies. I remember my children enjoying the same trip. The past two years our church has purchased school supplies for at risk children. Sis. Buxton, it amazes me the parents who can drink, smoke, & abuse drugs yet can not afford their children’s school supplies. Though we ensure their needs are meet these children are missing the shopping experience. Thanks for sharing . You have caused me to think.

    Tracie, this subject is so close to my heart, that I felt myself tearing up when I read your comment. It is impossible to calculate the ordinary life experiences these children miss, and it breaks my heart. When you and I bought school supplies, we didn’t recognize that what seems so simple, is really quite profound. Think of all the ramifications: time with parents, selections to be made, budgets to consider, the educational significance, the raw feel of paper and cardboard and wood and steel; the sharp edge of a ruler and the smoothness of a plastic glue bottle.

    Overarching is perhaps the safe, secure feeling of I’m important, someone is looking out for me, someone loves me, someone is spending their money on me, and giving me their time. Although children can’t articulate those thoughts, the impression is there and remains with them.

    …sadly, so does the loss.

    Thanks for your caring ways. You have caused me to think.

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  16. dean

    Well, it wasn’t school supplies that fired me up, it was the new shoes. They were wonderful. I could run faster and farther than ever!!! Wonder if I could find a pair of them, today?

    Dean, thank you for bringing up the delightful subject of school shoes. Your comment reminds me of one of my youngsters–think it may have been Michael–who would nearly always say when we bought him new tennis shoes: “Look, Mom, they run fast!”

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  17. Beautiful, Shirley. Just like my school days. I found a box of 24 crayons in a drawer at my Mom’s house with Helen Jones in ink. They must have been mine in about the fourth grade – just about the time that we realized (in youthful rebellion) that we could form our letters in unorthodox ways that irritated our teachers (and parents) but only mildly so – because the “J” had triangular corners rather than being written smoothly. I brought those back home with me.

    Helen, isn’t it amazing how feeble was youthful rebellion in those years.

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  18. Esther

    Sis. Buxton, you have discribed my school days exactly. Guess that’s because we are from the same era. We were poor also. But, Mom always found some money to take all 4 of her kids to Woolworths down town. No Walmart back then. I loved getting all that new stuff.
    We also got some new choths. Not much and especially not much for we 3 girls for Mom made most of our cloths. But we got new undies and socks. My one brother got new jeans, etc. It was just like Christmas.
    Then my Mom carried on this same tradition when she was done raising her 4 kids. She took on my oldest Sister’s 5 kids (long story) and raised them. Of course Dad helped but my Mom was the school supplyer. She got S.S. checks for the care of the kids. She would take them all down to “the Mall” (big woopie, not much of a mall). buy them all new school cloths. What a time they all had. She was a very good shopper. Guess that’s where I got the love of shopping. But, can’t do it anymore. Well, here I am taking up all the blog space. This happens when I start thinking of the past. Sorry………….

    Esther, don’t be sorry. Blog space is unlimited! We can gab for hours about the past, the present, and even the future. 🙂

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  19. HG

    I love you Sis. Buxton, and I love your words. I’m so grateful that you share this incredible talent with us. I’m not allowed to start my daily work on the computer until I’ve read your blog, it’s just not allowed.

    Miss you too!
    HG

    Holly, you are an extremely loyal and dear friend. Thank you. It means more than you can know, especially during these particular days.

    Like

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