Let's Talk with Nancy J. Cohen

Let’s Talk About School Memories

August 25, 2016

Back to School Memories

Memories plus a giveaway! What could be better? Sit back and enjoy our recollections, and then be sure to chime in to tell us yours.dreamstime_xs_56339996

I went to elementary school in the 50s. Back in the day, the school system provided all supplies. You were allowed to bring your own crayons which you kept in your desk. I recall going from the 8 count box, to 16, and the joy when my parents bought me the 64 colors. First day of school meant wearing the new outfit, and especially the new shoes. It was meeting the new teacher, and seeing how many of your friends were in the same class, since our year was big enough (all those post-war babies) to warrant two classes. And the lunch box. This was important. They were metal in those days, and thermos bottles were glass lined. It was a rare year that at least one didn’t break.

dreamstime_xs_55654524Another thing I remember from my school years… back to school was always HOT. In California, schools started the Monday after Admissions Day, which is Sept. 9th and it seemed we’d start school in the midst of a heat wave. In high school, there were dress codes. Girls had to wear skirts or dresses AND nylons. Times have changed. More freedom for the kids, more expenses for the parents.

Now that I’m retired, my kids are all grown, I’m hardly aware of the school calendar. Hitting the stores with the huge displays of back to school supplies always catches me by surprise. – Terry Odell
ice-cream-coneIt’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with back-to-school, so I’m reaching into some of my favorite memories of years gone by. When I had little ones, I liked to take them to Dairy Queen after their first day of school. The weather was generally still hot, and it was a special way to sit and talk about how that first day went, what they were looking forward to, how they liked their new teachers, etc. – Karla Brandenburg

dreamstime_xs_57377476I enjoyed the concept of school, even though in grade school I was often bored and spent many an hour at the blackboard writing “I will not talk in class.” School started after Labor Day, and as August dragged its hot body toward the finish line, I looked forward to seeing friends who lived too far away to play with over the summer. I hated the annual clothes-shopping expedition, but as my reward I could choose new notebooks—my annual tabula rasa, in which I anticipated to recording exciting new knowledge. – James M Jackson
I used to look forward to the start of school each year. New teachers, new textbooks, new assignments. My mind was ready for the challenge by summer’s end. I also have to admit being one of the nerdy kids who liked homework. Well, maybe not math but other subjects. I don’t recall shopping for new outfits like kids do today or even lunchboxes. I did get school supplies like notebooks, paper, and tab dividers. I either walked home from school for lunch (elementary) or ate in the school cafeteria.

dreamstime_xs_26316369Speaking of walking, I always walked to school unless the weather was hazardous, in which case my mother drove me. It must have been a couple of miles to high school. We didn’t have backpacks that I recall and just carried the books. Maybe the books are why I liked the beginning of school. Even then, I had a book addiction. But it was exciting to face a new term and wonder what topics we’d study and what new things we’d learn.

Nancy KindergartenHere’s my old Kindergarten photo. Note the girl in front with pigtails and her eyes closed. For some reason, I didn’t like getting my picture taken in the early days. I’m not shy now! I’ll be happy to smile for you anytime. At this stage in my life, I am glad to choose my own books to read and to learn what I want at the pace I choose. – Nancy J Cohen

dreamstime_xs_41183959Like the other authors, I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of that first back to school day, of the thrill of being spiffed up in new clothes and new shoes. Penny loafers were the rage when I was in grade school, saddle shoes in high school. When I was a child, girls weren’t allowed to wear pants to school. It was dresses or nothing. I always managed to tear my dress on the old metal merry-go-round that squeaked as it spun in laughter-producing circles.

In middle school, hemlines went up, so that teachers began measuring distances of the hemline from your kneecap (I kid you not). Too short and home you went. In high school, everything was okay. This was the early 70s, so we had miniskirts, maxi dresses, elephant leg pants, and a different vest for every occasion.

dreamstime_xs_41429769I loved the smell of high school. The aroma of art gum erasers. Umm. The girls with their grown up colognes and toilet waters. Fun, but eye watering. The boys with their aftershave in the Driver’s Ed car. Interesting. Sneaking off campus for a cheeseburger and a coke from McDonalds. Yum. Our gym lockers. Faintly sour, so thank you, Coach, for making us take our gym uniform home every Friday. – Maggie Toussaint
web nov 007For me, it’s all about the change in the light. Even now, when back to school isn’t really the calendar that controls my life, the light of late August and early September stirs the sense of renewal, of a fresh slate wiped clean. It feels like beginnings and possibility and movement. Even though the thermometer is still in the nineties, the light promises that autumn is really and truly on the way. – Tina Whittle


We’ve shared our memories, and we hope you’ll share some of yours. Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter contest to win our custom tote bag. A winner will be selected on September 1.

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Posted in Let's Talk, with James M. Jackson, with Karla Brandenburg, with Maggie Toussaint, with Nancy J. Cohen, with Terry Odell, with Tina Whittle, zed: Former Authors • Tags: , , , , , , , , |  18 Comments


18 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About School Memories

  1. I always enjoyed shopping for new school supplies. Back then, we got to pretty much pick what we wanted in terms of color or design. Now (with my kids) it’s much harder. Virtually NO choice, and you’re scrambling all over town for an orange 2-pocket cardboard (no plastic or vinyl) folder with NO brads. I have yet to figure out what a “pack of red marking pencils” is…

    1. isn’t it crazy the things they want? Looking back at Terry’s post, I can’t even imagine the school providing supplies. It’s a far piece to remember, but I think I had to take supplies when I went. Deodorant comes to mind in my middle school years, because it was still a new concept for me (for after gym classes).

    2. Kim, Those school supply lists used to give me fits. The kids always had to have a certain kind of calculator for math class. We’d have to go from store to store to find the danged thing. These days all you have to do is search online for most hard-to-find things. Times have changed!

  2. Have always loved the start of the new school year…new supplies, books! Even when my children were growing up, beginning of school meant I also got new crayons (for at home of course), notebooks and pens

    1. Johnna, I love it when notebooks, pens, pencils, and art supplies go on sale. Even though I’m no longer in school, I stock up on the good stuff!

  3. It always took me a few days to adjust to school… everything new scared me a bit… had to get into the routine. I remember in elementary school, my go to sandwich was a butter and peanut butter sandwich… never liked jelly, LOL.

    1. Colleen, I was a PBJ gal myself. Don’t worry that you didn’t like jelly because I probably ate your share! My PBJ “samiches” t traveled well and you didn’t have to worry about them spoiling. Maggie

  4. I went to a one room schoolhouse in the country which was built from the local stone from Silverdale, Kansas. I always enjoyed the first day of school as there was always something new to learn.

  5. Things have really changed from when I went to school. When I see the required supplies my grandbabies need I ‘m in shock. I didn’t have or use a backpack and carried my books as they were. I actually loved starting school.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  6. We sure didn’t have to worry about electronics back in the day. Didn’t even have calculators then, just pencils and a notebook. Penmanship was important, and I took touch typing in high school. What taught me useful skills was home economics, which is gone today.

    1. I think the typing class I took in high school has probably served me better than any other class. I couldn’t type as fast as the kids on a secretarial track and got my only high school C in typing. Yikes! But I can mostly type everything but numbers these days without looking at my fingers because of all that repetition.

  7. When we went to school things were so different. We had actual books and learned how to write our names in cursive. My friend’s daughter is 16 and got her first job and she wasn’t comfortable signing her name on the paperwork for her debit card. She said she hadn’t written in cursive since second grade. My parents used to make us practice our handwriting.

    1. I remember being middle schoolish and practicing how my signature would look. I took great care to stylize some letters, letting the tails for the “g”s in my name to hang low. Come to find out a few years later that not connecting the “g”s to the next letter is considered a sign of a lazy person. Who knew, right? So I learned quickly to connect my “g”s.

  8. I loved school. My chance to see my friends everyday. Also love seeing the boys. Loved the smell of school. The art room, yearbook and newspaper, the Photography room, and the halls. I graduated in 1990 and now my kids are in middle school and things sure have changed. My kids have their own computers that the school supplies and they bring home. Everything is electronic and expensive.

    1. Wow. That is a change, Chris. I don’t know if I’d know how to manage in that situation!

  9. Congratulations to Taryn Lee, the winner of our Booklover’s Bench tote. From all of us here, we hope you will enjoy using this tote bag.

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