September is always witness to the "new school stuff" that was brilliantly advertised all summer, the "must-haves" of every successful student. Guess what? This is not a new phenomenon!
Talking to people of all ages, I asked what was new for them at the start of one of their past school years. In no particular order, we have the advent of coloured ink for inkwells — not just the black — a postwar boon. Then when the ballpoint pen (with its disposable refill) made its debut, the classroom became a much safer place against spills and stains from the dreaded fountain pen. As the years moved on, even the ballpoint evolved into a pen with no clicker, just a removable top. Next came the coloured ink again; in fact, you could have a pen with from three to eight coloured refills in it (a bit chunky to write with, but one never questions status symbols).
Any self-respecting high school student of the ‘50s could not be seen without the new three-ring binders, complete with cloth or faux leather cover and a tough zipper all around. For the next 30 years, binders morphed from half-inch rings to four-inch ones, with an unlimited variety of covers and gadgets inside to entice every level of student.
Wax crayons engendered a new cousin, the harder Crayola ones that could last longer and be sooo much brighter. On the heels of these so-smart crayons were the pencil-shaped ones, like the Laurentian box of eight, then 12 and so on. The next giant leap was the felt pen, and it has been stretched and pulled in all directions: the endless number of colours, the gel pen, the erasable ink, the washable ink, the disappearing ink, the minis, the maxis, the bendables, the stackables, the sparklies — companies have gone wild with that one.
Then of course, there’s the lowly pencil: wood with lead, mechanical, bits of lead in a plastic nub pushed down the tube etc.
For me, there was nothing like the smell of a new pink eraser!
Irene Gagne is a retired teacher who taught with Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools.
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