Everyone's been so busy feeling sorry for high school and college kids lately and rightfully so. I get it. Nobody wants formative memories tarnished by incompetent governmental oversight and administrative mismanagement. Nobody wants to miss out on the Friday Night Lights or Saturday tailgates and all the social activities mixed between. Without reservation or hesitation, I firmly stand alongside these kids in recognizing that their lives completely fucking blow right now. And I know today's the 1st official day for a lot of you, but realistically speaking there's about a 99% chance you end up back at home in front of your dad's old work laptop streaming a zoom call with your chemistry class.
And no offense to anyone's parents but there are few things more agonizing than a calm and peaceful night with the family when you'd rather be ripping it up with your brothers, The Bros. That's the family you so desperately crave and it's entirely natural to have regular FOMO induced panic attacks at this stage in life.
But lost in the tragedies of young adults locked in their childhood bedrooms is the sympathy felt for the kids that are still appropriately housed in said childhood bedrooms. I'm talking about the middle schoolers. I'm talking about the kids who learn about the foundations of microeconomics through bartering & trading lunchroom snacks. The kids still organizing their social hierarchy around gym class results and video game collections. And more specifically I'm talking about the fact that these kids are likely getting robbed by COVID of yet another great activity from all normal childhoods: School Supply Shopping (SSS or S3).
I'm not sure if I got here as clearly as I hoped when starting the blog, but really I'm just looking for a chance to give SSS the appropriate shine it deserves. If that's confusing then you missed out. Just thinking about the smells is getting me emotional. Midas whale do a whole recap blog of the most notable items.
New Notebooks: This is my bread and butter so let's start here. Every new notebook is a new opportunity to start fresh. To get the notes correctly and write neatly and finally do better than a C+ in Social Studies because it upsets dad through his natural affinity for world interest. How the fuck does my kid not know the 50 capitals? He thinks, routinely, while discretely power ranking you several levels below your older brothers. You've had enough bad progress reports over the years and now 6th grade is going to be different. You're going to keep a clean notebook, and possibly color coordinate with your folders should 5-star decide to carry more colors than Navy, Black, Forest Green, Maroon and Slate Gray.
Then about 1 week after cracking the new notebook, you've already crossed Math homework in the Reading one. Your English one got smushed on the bottom of your backpack. One day you took notes on looseleaf paper and it's folded and crumpled in the back. You tell yourself you'll go back and copy the notes back into your original but you never do. That's because you've already given up because your notebook situation is a complete and total shit show. But that doesn't change the fact that shopping for those new notebooks is an all time thrill ride and you can't ever put a price on the related optimism that you'd one day figure out how to keep a clean book. You can't and the C+'s keep rolling in. Later in life you'll start your career in sales and none of this will fucking matter.
Dr. Grip: Not much to say here if you had a pulse in the 90's and early 2000's in an educational setting. The worst part of technology is getting rid of this All American Blue Chip recruit:
Nothing said class like a Dr. Grip pen. They were $5.99 each and you might get one all year for the pencil case. Best case scenario, you're a responsible adolescent who can keep track of nice writing utensils. In most cases though you were fucking around and taking it apart and then dropped the grip on the floor and it rolled around on the cheap carpet or tile then you picked it up and it looked like a lollipop rolled around on a barbershop floor. Absolutely disgusting so you take it to the water fountain to wash it off during break. Only problem is the water breaks down the composition of the grip, so it becomes softer and mushier and harder to reapply to the pen when properly assembled. You got cute and in the process ruined your Dr. Grip. Maybe dad will buy you a replacement?
The point is you probably have some kind of vivid memory specifically related to this fancy pen. That's why it's the GOAT of fancy pens. All other pens are inferior in design and execution.
Runner Up Best Pen - G2 Gel: I just pissed a lot of you off with that Dr. Grip blowjob so let me reel it in and say I also love a G2 Gel. Nothing better than getting a couple packs of the good stuff to back up your Dr. Grip in the pencil case. \
No surprise they're made by the same great pen company, Pilot. Not trying to start a pen war but they're miles ahead of their contemporaries. Just stating facts.
Shiny Metallic Gel Pens: Oh boy was there some controversy in the late 90's when the girls started turning homework in with a metallic green pen or some pink sparkly bullshit.
Teachers didn't know what to do. On the one hand, it was cool and fancy and looked real sweet. On the other hand you knew that metallic gel pens provided too much power and responsibility for a 12-year old's hands. Like at some point we have to accept that we're just doing math homework and not freehanding hieroglyphics for centuries of introspective enjoyment. That and the whole idea of writing in purple bedazzled ink just seems pretty fucking stupid to the Archdiocese of Chicago. Ipso facto those things lasted all of one year before making it on our banned list. Shoutout 1998.
Colored Pencils: Nothing worse than doing a 3-hour coloring project with some dull and shitty colored pencils. The commitment to keep a sharp yet balanced point was astronomical. I'd take mine to the pencil sharpener and it would look like your one buddy who always turns the blunt into a canoe. One side flames up like the furnace of an early 11th century blacksmith while the bottom remains completely unaffected by the pull of your lungs. That was sharpening colored pencils for me and I fucking sucked at it.
Even so, getting a fresh box of 32 and knowing that you had all 32 in that box was a special feeling. Granted you had about 2 weeks before the cardboard completely falls away resulting in colored pencil anarchy at the bottom of the backpack. But for now, if only for a few moments, you enjoy a full inventory of colored pencils. You find strength in knowing where the baby blue is.
Hopefully though you weren't cheap and got 16 and even more hopeful is that you weren't the kid walking in with 64 or 128 like Leonardo Da Vinci's descendant or some shit. Nobody needs to try that hard in 6th grade. I'll play the golf course from 6500 yards today and take my 32 colored pencils.
Trapper Keeper: I wonder how many of you were outright nervous that I'd completely leave Trapper Keeper off the list? We're 5 items into it and I feel like that's too deep. Reminder: these aren't power rankings. I'm simply going through the list in my head and rehashing the best parts of SSS as a young man. On that front, Trapper Keeper is one of the most important purchases you'll make all year right next to your backpack and your gym shoes. For now though, let's talk Trapper Keeper.
This was a huge opportunity to flex your personality. If you were a Star Wars guy then you had Star Wars trapper keeper. If you liked robots or space ships or football or unicorns or whatever the fuck it is… you got it on your plastic trapper keeper. In today's world we call that a Statement Piece.
Multiple subjects. Multiple zippers and a pocket for the calculator. Maybe some subdividers if you really wanted to get aggressive but probably the most important thing is that the Trapper Keeper could take a beating throughout the school year and wouldn't deteriorate in the least. The Chevy Suburban of school supplies, this was make or break when you were school supply shopping. Get in there too late and you get stuck with those weird geometric shape designs. Too early and you might get a cheap one because Mom wants to make a deal. Either way the important thing is that you couldn't just go to Amazon and get exactly what you wanted. You had to hunt and you had to want it. That's why getting the perfect trapper keeper was so special. The effort. The grind. Kids these days just don't get it.
Backpack: I grew up in Oak Lawn and went to Catholic school my whole life so it should come as no surprise I had a rotation of about 3 JanSports for the majority of my academic career. That was as much of the uniform as the brown shoes and the navy slacks and the white dress shirt. Just ingrained into your brain that every backpack comes with a JanSport label.
Even so, shopping for that backpack was such an exhilarating experience. It's one of the biggest purchases you make. Your brothers have similar bags. You know it's time to get away from the shitty plastic race car bag you had in kindergarten or 1st grade. Now you're a man and you take your own JanSport on family vacations and fill it with books you won't read and a GameBoy that runs out of batteries before you even cross state lines. Even so, that backpack is fundamentally apart of your childhood and this is usually the point in the year you get to break it in. Like getting a real baseball glove for the 1st time, expect to keep this one for a while and get some quality use.
Btw my high school didn't let students carry backpacks to class. Had to carry all your books in your hands. I understand that to be different than most high schools and obviously college. I don't understand the reasoning behind it but my gut says the coaches (generally) loved a good book check or watching some kid face plant down two flights of stairs. Papers everywhere as a 106 pound freshman tries to corral 4-straight periods worth of educational materials into his extremely frail arms. As someone who regularly drops things, I can confidently categorize that personal aspect of high school backpack policy as unfair.
Folders: Arguably the #1 item on the list was picking out different folders. Getting your own brand or style of folders was HUGE as a kid. Especially at the height of your WWF fandom…
Tell me it gets better than having Degeneration X as your Religion folder. It doesn't. Getting a grouping of folders was so critical to your confidence as a pre-teen that I'm having trouble searching for hyperbole here. Some girls would show up with cartoon cats or real life horses or FRIENDS related merch. Shit like that helped you identify with each other as to what was important. On that front you really couldn't do better than a Bears/Bulls/Blackhawks/Cubs combination for me. Letting the boys you know business with the sports teams was so huge.
On the other side of this though is the really shitty, loose, cheap folders that sold for like $.49 a piece at KMART or an equally low grade retail outlet. They couldn't hold more than 20 sheets of wide-ruled looseleaf on either side and routinely fell apart when put to the test. Also you couldn't get them to properly stand up any time the teacher would have you put folders up on your desk to prevent cheating on a fucking 5th grade vocab quiz or some bullshit. That would be embarrassing because the teacher would be like ALL RIGHT LETS WAIT FOR CARL WHILE HE GETS HIS FOLDERS UP.
Very important to get the high glossy finish on your folders. Those would keep them crips an extra couple months longer and give you a chance to go into January with at least 4 of your 5/6 starting folders. Probably not good advice now seeing as we're all adults and crossed this bridge. But I just want to be clear that you should be proud if you found value in a high gloss finish in your folder. You're probably very successful.
Ticonderoga #2's: Benedict Arnold may be the biggest yellow belly traitor in civilized history but let there be no doubt that the fort he captured with Ethan Allen in 1775 is named after some BOMB number 2 pencils. The metallic finishing on the green lettering is nothing to overlook. I'm talking ALL CLASS:
Big for standardized testing and math class. The point held sharp for much longer than others. The eraser is easily the top of the pencil food chain. The yellow gold paint holds the longest. The wood is felled and logged from some of the finest lumber operations in the northeast. And not to be overlooked is that a Ticonderoga #2 holds quite well in your mouth for those of us that enjoyed chewing on pencils in a time before ADHD medicine. Ticonderoga #2 did it all from 1st grade through the Bar Exam for a lot of people and it's important we collectively recognize that body of work. The Cal Ripken of school supplies. If your parents loved you, they paid extra for a box of TC2s. Everyone else, hopefully you at least got some team sponsored number twos:
Back in the day when NFL licensed merch actually MEANT something. Don't even make me get the bed sheets out. This is when dad took you school supply shopping because mom was getting her hair done or playing Bunco at Aunt Nancy's.
Pencil Case: Not the sexiest item on the list but a complete difference maker if you were willing to put in the time and get the right piece of equipment. And let me be clear: a pencil case is absolutely a bonafide piece of equipment. It's an essential. Arguably the most important container of a young man's life. If you're rich, you have two: one for writing utensils and the other for art supplies. Most of us though had to rough it with a single bag or container. And in that case, I hope your parents loved you and got you the requisite square footage. For most of us, that meant one of those leather deposit style bags:
Then you'd mix in 8 crayola markets, maybe a shitty solar powered calculator and one of those metal compasses that was a complete liability and you'd see the zipper ready to burst like the 8th round of a Jada Stevens Only Wank Battle. That's why I said it's important to get 2 cases.
Other things to consider were material and if you had 3 holes to fit the 3-ring binder or trapper keeper. From material perspective, last thing you ever wanted or needed was a plastic pencil box with the cheap snapdown function that always breaks so then you end up wrapping it with a rubber band. Fuck that. Nobody needs that level of inconvenience.
If you had a 3-ring pencil case then you're just the most organized kid in class:
Probably kept a protractor in the front pouch with a couple spare erasers too. Loser. Same time though, super jealous of the kids who could keep a clean 3-ring situation. Those kids are now working for NASA and explaining Bitcoin to their cousins at Thanksgiving.
3-Subject Notebook (120-Pages): Actually a very overrated and terrible school supply but for whatever reason they still stocked the shelves with these with absurd frequency. Any time you needed to replace a notebook in the middle of the school year and the pile's been picked over a bunch, you're destined to land on the 3-subject. For anyone that shows up Day 1 then you're an absolute psychopath. Who can possibly rely on the cardboard dividers to keep 3-different subjects appropriately organized? Maybe it's a nice touch if they have the perforated edges that pull the papers out so you can use it as a homework notebook. That's a useful touch but generally speaking these are just an absolute disaster. Emergency purposes only.
Mr. Sketch Scented
I'm sure there's a bunch more but I want to end on Mr. Sketch. To me it just wouldn't be appropriate to keep rattling off school supplies after Mr. Sketch. This was such a big time move to use a wide-mouth water color scented marker. The ink was notably inferior to Crayola and Roseart but you get yourself an empty sandwich bag and box of the good stuff and I promise you the nontoxic huffing is A-plus. At least I don't think there's any long-term harm from cramming the watermelon up your nose? Maybe some brain damage but with respect to the rest of the destructive shit you'll probably do, cranking a 12-pack of Mr. Sketch throughout an afternoon is nothing. When they say "The Fragrance Hits" they fucking mean it.
Negatives were that you'd run out of ink instantly and that it would bleed through and very difficult to control. But the positives is that your art homework smelled awesome and everybody wanted to suck your face in truth or dare, which was nice.
Honorable Mention For Something That Wasn't A School Supply But Was Still Awesome Anyways:
Chips Challenge. I played a shitload of Chips Challenge through computer class so in a sense it's kind of a school supply. I miss this game a lot.
What School Supplies did I miss? Tell me in the comment section below: