What was in your school bag?
When I was a child in the 1950s, I loved going back to school after our Christmas holidays. Given the fact that I hung up a big home- knit woolen stocking, Santa Claus had to fill it with something. Because he only had so many toys and apples and candies to go around, St. Nick turned to everyday necessities. Hence, when school reopened after the 12th day of Christmas, I returned to my classroom with all kinds of new stuff. One year, I even sported a brand-new school bag with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans galloping across the flap.
Is there anyone of my generation who does not remember those rectangular shaped wooden pencil cases with a sliding door, which may have been a ruler? The year I was in grade four, I was so proud to display the one that Santa had left in my stocking. I felt so cool (although we didn’t call it cool back then) with my pencil case sitting on my desk. I couldn’t wait for one of my classmates to ask to borrow my eraser (which we called a rubber) or pencil sharpener just so I could manoeuvre the slider to reveal what was inside. I felt like Dick Tracy or Nancy Drew using a secret compartment.
In January, everyone had a new box of perfectly pointed crayons in the eight basic colours and a new colouring book. One year Santa got mixed up and brought almost ever y k id in Branch the same colouring book, one with two kittens and a reindeer on the cover. Come to think about it, he even put some of them in the local shop where they sold for 10 cents each.
In my time, everyone knew that exercises were way better than scribblers for working out your Caribou Arithmetic problems or doing your Friday spelling test. Hence, exercises were more expensive, meaning that most of us were relegated to scribblers. One year I was delighted when my stocking had a half dozen or so beautiful blue exercises with a picture of a youthful Queen Elizabeth II on the front and multiplication tables on the back. I never touched a bit of scribbler paper until I had every scrap of exercise used. The same was true for the good HB Canadian pencils as compared to the inferior “Made in China” brand.
A new box of chalk with six shades was a staple because most girls had received one of those small blackboards for Christmas. Unfortunately, chalk got all used up in a few days because we would go flat out writing our own brand of graffiti on any surface that was receptive to the little coloured sticks.
I will never forget the year I was in grade two and the storybook “The Runaway Bunny” was stuffed down in my stocking. I couldn’t wait to show my teacher, Marie (Power) Roche. She read it out loud for us and all the children wanted to look at the pictures. Years later when I was teaching primary children, I would delight in sharing that story with my class as well as an account of my childhood experience.
Ah! My Christmases long ago were simple but memorable. I’m sure the children of today return to school in January with very different items of interest in their school bags or more correctly, in their backpacks. Happy New Year, dear readers.