Childhood Memories Friday: Back to School Memories

Childhood Memories Friday

Around here, it’s three weeks until school starts. Some kids are already starting back. So this made me think about back to school when I was a child.


These days, schools put out papers with large listings of supplies kids need to purchase and bring to school. I don’t remember these lists in my childhood; we just brought pencils, and at a certain age (junior high?), notebooks. Teachers seemed to hand out paper as needed in elementary school, and I think they also gave us a box of crayons each fall (maybe a new one halfway through the year? I can’t remember). In the lower grades, I remember the teacher going around the classroom with a big container of that icky white “paste.” She’d put some into a small container for each of us, which we’d store at our desks.

Speaking of desks, in elementary school there were two types: One, where the lid lifted up to store our things inside. For the other, the front was open, meaning that we had to bend over to put our things inside or pull them out.

Nobody that I remember had the backpacks that are so ubiquitous these days. In elementary school, I carried a “satchel,” which was basically a plastic bag with handles. I carried my papers to and from school in this.

walking to school 1970

Me — along with my sister — walking to school. See the satchel?

Whose Class Am I In?

I remember heading nervously to school on the first day. I wouldn’t know who my teacher was; I’d have to walk to each classroom of the grade I’d be in, and search for my name on a sheet of paper hung outside the door. Once I’d found my own name, I’d scan again for my classmates. Would I have friends in the class? What troublemakers was I going to spend the year with?


We didn’t really do back to school clothes shopping. I’m not sure if my peers did or not. I do remember once in high school, my dad told me I could choose some new clothes for a school year beginning. I chose two tops at J.C. Penney, and felt quite extravagant in spending that amount of money.

When I was in elementary school, I remember that I wore dresses most days. I’m kind of thinking that all the girls did (rather from preference or because it was a rule), at least during the first few years. In my class pictures, all girls are wearing dresses up until about 4th grade. Fourth grade was also the year P. E. (physical education) began at our school, and the less said about that, the better.

What back to school memories do you have?







6 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: Back to School Memories

  1. We always had to have our own supplies with our names on them–no communist shared supplies, lol. If I carried a bag it was like yours, but in high school I was the first person in our school to use a back pack. Only time I’ve ever been a “trend setter”–I’d bought it for riding my bike to places and with a bass clarinet and a stack of books it was handy. Until high school Mom made nearly all of my clothes except jeans. In high school we did go back to school shopping and the cool thing was to go to “The Village” right by Ball State –especially the Ball Store’s Collegiate Shop and a cool place I can’t recall that sold Washington Rapper Jeans (rap didn’t mean THAT back then) and Kensington shirts (i.e. what my big brother wanted). After the rules changed and we could wear what we wanted I just wore jeans and sneakers or other shoes and Mom was quite happy with that. My brother was 4 years older and expensive! Good post.

  2. As I remember everyone in my farm neighborhood was excited to go back to school! One good reason was that we had not seen our “city” friends since late April or early May. In Roanoke, the class lists were revealed ahead of arrival in our hometown newspaper, affectionately called “The Roanoke Blabber”, but it’s real name was Roanoke Review. So no surprise after that was published at least 2 weeks before the starting date.
    Loved your description of the desks, because we had the old fastened to the floor rows of desks with an inkwell until Junior High and High School. Yes, we did all 12 years at the same school where we started, minus kindergarten which didn’t even exist in country schools. They did have kindergarten in Huntington but no place else out in the county. The desks could not be moved around in anyway in elementary school, but the students had to change seats every once in awhile to get away from the troublemakers.
    They were usually placed very close to the teacher’s desk.
    New clothes were not the norm. We also wore dresses back then until 7th and 8th grade when we got to wear jeans. In high school I often wore skirts and sweaters sometimes with bobby socks and saddle shoes. What we often did get was a pair of new shoes, because we had outgrown the previous year’s model. Like you, I was never a fan of P.E. (Physical Education) classes. The only things that I was accomplished in was running, climbing the big rope in the gym (which hardly anyone could do), and bowling. I also loved to roller skate as often as I possible could. Roanoke had its very own skating rink called Oak Park Rink where The Event Center now stands along US 24. Later the rink was torn down and a bowling alley appeared in its place. That was fun as well.

  3. I carried a satchel, too! I don’t remember anyone else ever saying that! I don’t remember if the other kids did – probably so. I hadn’t noticed backpacks in schools until my own kids were in school.

    Getting my supplies for the new school year was always one of my favorite things, even through college. Choosing notebook covers was the biggest part, LOL! Until late high school when it became popular to have notebooks (my husband calls them binders) with the clear plastic covers like they have now that you could slide photos or writings or drawings into. People usually put multiple little things (we’d call it a collage now) rather than one big sheet of something. I do remember that white paste.

    We did usually get a few new clothing items for school, but not a whole wardrobe.

    I loved those desks where the top opened up. I hated the ones in high school where the books went underneath the seat and the desk was sort of spoon-shaped with barely enough room for the textbook and paper.

  4. Your post today brought back so many memories for me. The girls in my town wore dresses or skirts and blouses to school. No pants allowed until high school and then it was only Friday. I guess it was kinda like a “dress down” day!! All pictures of me during grade school are in a dress/skirt. When the weather got cold, we wore slacks under our dresses and took the slacks off during class. There would be a list in the local paper telling what books and supplies were needed for each grade. We had to buy our own books so we always tried to buy a used book from someone who was a year ahead of us. Then the next year, it was easy to sell it to someone coming into your grade. There were a couple of wealthy girls in my class who bought only new books and I was so envious. We always had our own paper, pencils, erasers, crayons, glue, etc. I used to get irritated at kids who didn’t have what they needed and wanted to “borrow” from me. I usually helped them out knowing full well that I’d never get paid back. Our desks were the lift-top type and had an inkwell in the upper right corner. I carried my books/stuff in something called a satchel which was a bag with a shoulder strap. There were no backpacks then.

  5. I always counted the days until I could return to school! I do recall when THE day arrived, I did feel uneasy inside. It seems many kids today keep getting new backpacks – sometimes more than once per school year, and lunch boxes as the spirit moves them. It was not that way in the Norman Schulte household. I still remember the sheer thrill when Mother & Daddy ordered me a book satchel from Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward. It was a plaid on the outside and had somewhat of a flannel feel to it. I still have maybe my ONLY dinner bucket sitting on my kitchen plate rack. After I graduated Daddy kept some fishing tackle inside it, in his damp Huntingburg basement. It is now in pretty bad shape but I used it in the 40s and 50s! A grandchild said yesterday they needed to bring in 42 pencils and I replied, “I’ve not used 42 pencils in 75 years!”

  6. My mother made most of my school clothes, which were skirts, blouses and dresses. We usually got to choose an outfit from a catalog — Alden’s had the best styles, as I remember. I carried a plaid satchel. Of elementary years I remember my rectangular lunchbox with cheese sandwiches, potato chips, apples and Twinkies. I think a carton of milk cost three cents. I always loved getting supplies to put in those desks with the hinged, slanted tops. When I went to college, I thought the Ball State bookstore was heaven! So many different kinds of notebooks! P.S. I didn’t have time to read last Friday’s post until this Friday, because I was hosting my grandkids. I took my granddaughter school shopping!

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