Happy Back To School time!
Shareable new materials have been in rather short supply here for a spell while I stepped aside to attend to some pressing personal health (non-COVID related) issues. In the interim though, I have nevertheless been working on background items and new features to be revealed in the near future, so please do stay tuned, as they say.
We will talk about some of those issues that kept me away along with some other things in a coming post soon. But for now, although while still not fully back in the writing saddle quite yet, with it being “Back To School” time and my favorite season of Autumn on the horizon, let’s get it all rolling again with one of those new features I mentioned, shall we?
Now at age 71, “Back to School” in my day many years ago was special. It was almost a season in itself. An abbreviated period as compared with the traditional four seasons, no doubt, but with the exception of the still-hot and humid readings on the thermometer each afternoon, “Summer” had officially been declared “over with” by my Mother, and school preparation activities dominated each day.
There were new school clothes to shop for, along with new shoes and required gym outfits to acquire. (I missed the memo when they stopped calling it “Gym” and began referring to it as “P.E.”, short for “Physical Education.” I simply kept calling it “gym class”, but digress.) In addition to clothing items, there were notebooks, pens, and Number 2 pencils to stock up on, along with erasers, scissors, crayons, rulers, Elmer’s School Glue, and who knows what else.
And not to leave out the mandatory end-of-summer haircut, of course. My best friend Rick lived down the hill in a corner lot about two houses down in the back. Rick, the oldest, came from a family of five kids consisting of four boys and one severely outnumbered sister. The night before school restarted each year, we would watch Rick and the other kids all line up in the backyard as their mother gave one after another the annual Start of School Haircut. Then in for a bath and off to bed for an early rise in the morning.
We had strict dress codes back in the day, even in the public schools I attended. Girls were required to wear a dress or skirt, the shortest of which could reach no higher than mid-knee. Tee shirts, sweatshirts, and sweat pants were not allowed for anyone. For boys, all shirts had to have collars and buttons. Hair on boys was not allowed to touch the shirt collar. Socks were mandatory and gym-type shoes were only allowed in Gym class. At the same time, no soled shoes were allowed anywhere near the pristine wooden gym flooring.
All pants were required to have belt loops and be held at the waist by a belt. Failure to wear a belt resulted in being sent to “The Office” for a visit and attitude adjustment session with the Assistant Principal, or as we kids mockingly referred to him as — the “Enforcer In Chief.” After a stern lecture about how flaunting the rules and not wearing a belt could negatively impact the remainder of a ten-year-old’s life, the beltless boy would be given a length of rope to wear around the waist for the remainder of the day, a clearly visible (and embarrassing) signal and dire warning to every other boy not to forget a belt in the morning rush out the door.
And of course, one could not hide the fact they had forgotten to wear a belt that day, because all shirttails had to be tucked in. The belt omission was clearly obvious to anyone paying attention. A rather trivial issue it seemed to me at the time, although all the teachers seemed inordinately obsessed with it, in my opinion.
Personally, I was never apprehended without a belt, neither wanting to risk a visit with the Enforcer In Chief nor suffer the embarrassment of wearing a long rope around my waist. Always careful to obey the rules and do my best to stay out of trouble back then, I do admit to having contemplated the possibility of wearing overalls one day to challenge the belt rule but lacked the courage to act upon the urge, not having yet transitioned into the independently-minded “Rule-Challenger-For-The-Fun-Of-It” I became later in life and remain today.
Getting back to it then, our Back to School feelings were always kind of a mixed bag. The excitement of seeing school friends we had lost contact with over the summer was mixed with the uncertainty of what new teachers might be like. Everyone seemed to have an ingredient to add to the simmering pot of New Teacher Trepidation —
- “I hear Mr. Townsend is a real beast with math homework and has never given anyone an ‘A’ grade. He assigns homework every night. And every weekend!”
- “Miss Burns always makes the girls in her English class get down on their knees at the start of every class to make sure their skirts touch the floor.”
- “Mr. Grimharsh had a friend of mine in gym class who would not stop chewing bubblegum last year, so after telling him twice to get rid of it made him spit out the gum and then stuck it in his hair. Johnny Jones had to go to the barber and get a crewcut after school. A crewcut!”
- “Miss Hendricks only accepts writing assignments and homework in blue ink. She will give you an “F” if your paper is written in pencil because she wants to see all the changes you make and not be able to erase them. Always remember to take a blue ink pen with you to her class.”
- “Mr. Miller told the kids in his Science class last year that the word ‘Fire’ begins and ends with an ‘F’. If you set anything on fire in his class it will end in an ‘F’ grade for the quarter. And if you break something you have to pay for it! My weekly allowance won’t cover the cost of a microscope!”
- “Why do I have to choose between French and Spanish this year? Miss Burns told me last year it was clearly evident that I hadn’t mastered the English language yet. And now they expect me to learn a second language, too?!?”
- Mr. Newchance lets you take any History test you fail over again, but the best grade you can get then is a “C”, even if you get everything correct.”
- “My Dad said that if I have over a ‘B’ average at Thanksgiving that he would buy me a new electric guitar for Christmas. But I can’t even spell Triggernumery, much less do it! I am going to start saving up for a new set of strings for my old guitar, just in case.”
On and on the gossip and info-dumps went over the last few weeks leading up to the start of school each fall. Of course, in my time, school always restarted with a half-day on the day after Labor Day each year. Never in early or mid-August as so many do now. And it goes without saying that nobody went to a school with air-conditioning in those days, and school was never called off due to excessive heat.
For us boys sitting in school with long pants on after spending the summer in shorts and swim trunks, we were just hot, plain and simple. Desk papers stuck to our forearms from the sweat running down our arms, and wasps buzzed around our heads, having flown in thru open windows. One large and very loud fan in the front corner tried to cool the classroom but caused us to simply not be able to hear the teacher who no one was paying attention to in all the heat, anyway.
And don’t even get me started about the mile-and-a-quarter walk to and from school every morning and afternoon, regardless of the weather, — rain, snow, or shine. And yes, sure enough in our case, it truly was more or less uphill both ways because there was a big valley between home and school regardless of which way we were heading.
Looking back on it now, it is fair to say we had generally pleasant while at the same time somewhat queasy feelings about the whole “Back to School” thing each year. A goodly bit of eagerness and excitement over new school clothes and the prospect of reuniting with friends was more than tempered by a healthy dose of general apprehension and miserably hot 90-degree temperatures lasting thru mid-to-late-September in our neck of the woods. It is probably fair to say that in my circle of friends, anyway, when it came to the “Back-To-School” thing each year, we could generally take it or leave it. In our minds, there were still too many perfect days on the calendar for baseball and bike riding to waste them all shopping and trying on endless changes of clothes in a hot department store.
But, in the end, mixed feelings or not, we always seemed to find our way back on the first day of school each autumn, didn’t we? Maybe we were a little more excited about the whole “Back-to-School” thing than we were willing to admit or let on in public, after all.
What are your “Back to School” memories? Good? Bad? Or mixed, like ours? Please don’t be shy. Feel free to share them with us in the Comments Section.
To help ease the annual End-of-Summer and Back-To-School transition for older kids and build excitement about the new experience for younger ones, my story friend Little Red Bear has assembled a collection of Back-to-School-themed coloring images with varying degrees of complexity for all ages.
Coloring images are available for unlimited Free downloads simply by ‘Right Clicking’ on an image, choosing ‘Save Image As’ in the dropdown menu to save a local copy on your computer or device, and then printing out as many as you want.
It is our hope that these pages, made possible thru the kind assistance and support of our Patreon Community, provide a means for not only preparing and generating excitement for going back to school, but also for spending quality family time together — reading, coloring, and learning. Simply Tap Here to view them all and get started!
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