‘Back to school’ not same animal it once was

BY BOB WACHS, News + Record Staff
Posted 8/22/19

It wasn’t so long ago youngsters were getting out of school for the summer and singing such favorite ditties as “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks,” which is, of …

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‘Back to school’ not same animal it once was

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Posted

It wasn’t so long ago youngsters were getting out of school for the summer and singing such favorite ditties as “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks,” which is, of course, one of the all-time hit tunes in the world of juveniles.

There is another favorite homemade made-up juvenile tune that has to do with “My country’s tired of me, I’m going to Germany to see the king.” It goes on to note that “the king is Mickey Mouse, the queen is Minnie Mouse, they run a boarding house” and so forth but that’s another story for later.

Anyway, the line of reasoning on the part of students about teachers ignores the fact that teachers have a similar ditty that runs something like, “No more students, no more mess, this is better, I confess.”

Now as August winds its way toward autumn (the season, not the girl) it seems so long ago that both sides were just starting their vacations. Now it’s back to class time — teachers have reported within the past few days and students are close behind. I wonder if both sides are ready.

In the dark ages when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a lad, getting ready for “back to school” was an exciting time. For me the event was usually compressed into one day and covered several areas: clothing, school supplies and the lunch Mama would get me if I didn’t drive her insane during the other two parts.

As a slightly rotund and a bit round (I know that’s a surprise to you) youth, my wardrobe, until I got to the enlightened (read “aware of girls”) age of 15, consisted of several pair (or is it “pairs”?) of stiff Blue Bell jeans, some really ugly long-sleeve shirts I buttoned to the top collar button, white socks and shiny black loafers, sometimes with a penny in them and sometimes not, especially if there wasn’t a slot for the pennies.

The bulk of those clothes came from the annual trip to the bargain basement of Belk in downtown Raleigh, a place I hated because it was full of other boys being tortured the same way I was. It was only the promise of the toasted ham and cheese sandwich — with a slice of dill pickle — and all the Coke I could drink waiting at the lunch counter that kept me going.

In time as I celebrated a few birthdays between 7 and 15, I realized my wardrobe left something to be desired if I were going to make it in the world of school success. So I morphed over to Sammy Griffin’s Shoe Shop and William Ray Arthurs and his Men’s Store in downtown Pittsboro. Today I realize that those two gentlemen spoiled me with $5 shirts, $8 pants and $10 shoes, which is what I think those garments still should cost even today.

The supply part Mama pretty much left to me: a new loose-leaf binder, a humongous pack of Blue Horse paper (the one with the big coupon around the picture of the horse), some (as in a couple or three) packs of unsharpened number two pencils, a pencil sharpener (the little kind you could hold in your hand) and other assorted items, all age-appropriate. For instance, it wasn’t until high school that I’d get a new compass (the math kind, not the Boy Scout one) and a protractor and ruler and such, not that I could ever put them to good use in geometry class.

Later, in the 11th grade, I think, I wore my brother’s slide rule on my belt. Couldn’t do a thing with it except find Pi (whatever that is) and then I didn’t know what to do with that but, boy, did I look sharp, even if I accidentally wore white socks.

I’m not sure what youngsters want for back to school these days since I’m not in it and neither are the two 40-somethings who used to be teenagers who lived at my house. I don’t know if youngsters still use pencils; seems like most everything today is “press this key” on some sort of electronic device.

Reminds me of the young lady who called computer service one day and asked, “Where’s the ‘any’ key?”

“Where’s the what?” her helper asked.

“The ‘any’ key,” she said. “The message on my screen said that to continue, I should press any key and I can’t find it.”

So, if there are any youngsters out there who need some pencils, I’ve got a bunch of them.

Now if only I could find some shirts for $5...

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