Much Ado About Backpacks/Remembering the Olden Days

This blog has been on my mind for quite some time, and I decided to write it now when I need to just write about fluff— because I cannot write about what is swirling around me in the real world.

I love to reminisce anyway, anytime, any place, etc, so it is not unexpected that I want to go back to the school days of my youth with this blog.

I will never forget losing patience, one year shopping for back to school items with my daughter (this is 20 years plus ago) and her having to find the PERFECT backpack – stylish but good to hold a lot of books and stuff. In my son and daughter’s era, it was important to make a style statement with the backpack and it was often taken to expensive and ridiculous lengths.

The backpack was always the main piece of equipment for back to school and it was given great importance to my children’s generation.

There was one year in particular, where I caved in and allowed my daughter to get a Kipling backpack even though it was ridiculously expensive, because it was the cool thing to have then. They came with a gorilla key chain dangling from it and you could stick the gorilla’s thumb in his mouth for entertainment.

One day, while watching them stress on picking out the perfect backpack, when I was losing patience with them, I blurted out that I never had a backpack growing up.

I then described to my kids what my generation did, as part of my never ending series of lectures about what it was like when I was growing up, which seemed like the dark ages to them. (read this entertaining blog on technology) I emphasized the fact that we did NOT have backpacks in school, through my high school years. Unless you were talking about boy scouts, or camping, or hiking, or traveling, backpacks were not an every day thing, especially in school.

When I explained this, my kids looked at me like I was an alien. “What do you mean by that?” they asked with incredulous faces, because they were unaware of a society without backpacks in a school setting.

I patiently explained that no one had backpacks for school books back in my day. No one. Some types had book bags that hung from the shoulder, or large purses to help carry books, but for the most part, we just carried our books in our arms without any type of carrier. I am attaching lots of photos here from my yearbook and from a TV show of that era to demonstrate how we carried the books.

For many, the technique was to get a loose leaf binder, and use that as the base, and load all the other books on top of it and carry them against your chest if you were a girl, and off to the side if you were a boy.

We also used our loose leaf binders, because they were displayed across our chests like a billboard, to “advertise” peace, love, artwork, or our latest boyfriend. “I love Stuart,” read one, and my own said “Howard and Arlene” with hearts, as can be seen in the photo from our yearbook. I was standing behind cute Linda Grobman and you can spy a piece of my little walking loose leaf binder billboard behind her. (My high school boyfriend, much written about, was named Howard, though I mostly called him Howie.)

To show my own kids what we did, as they were incredulous that we did not have backpacks for books, I showed them some of the photos below from my high school yearbook. The nice thing about the photos I am including are that I am still in touch with most pictured, mostly through Facebook.

Note Roberta, was carryng books AND an umbrella
This is exactly how we dressed and what we looked like, though this is a random photo from the Internet

My children could not imagine a world that existed before backpacks for school books. So it became my job to describe it for them.

Due to their utter shock about this topic, I tend to notice in older movies and TV shows that feature the fifties and sixties and how kids carried their books. Whenever I am watching with my kids and this happens, I remind them of the education I gave them on the dark ages of carrying books without a backpack. I bet I am one of the few moms that point out how our lives as teens were very different from our children’s lives, but maybe I am wrong about that. I have a feeling though, that I am the ONLY backpack discussion mom in the universe. It is a trivial piece of nostalgia, but that did not stop me.

This is part of another never ending series of my nostalgic walks back into the past. We are fond of saying it was a simpler and gentler time, even though when you look at history books, there was plenty of discord and turmoil especially when I was coming up in the mid to late sixties. There just wasn’t social media and 24/7 news media blasting all the horror for all of us to see. And that’s why during times like these, I like to retreat back into those times of long ago.

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