Category Archives: Back to School

’80s Back to School Accessories

Here is an article I wrote a few years ago. I try to repost it at this time every year. There are many new readers since I last posted this. I had a lot of fun writing this, so I would like to share it again. Enjoy!

Well, it’s getting to be the time of year most of us used to dread – Back to School season! It’s not such a big deal now. Actually, for those of you who are parents of school-age children, it’s probably the most wonderful time of year! So, now it’s safe to reminisce about the accessories that we had to start the new school year.

The Multi-colored pen by Bic

Amazing! You had 4 different colors in 1 pen! Teachers usually made you write in black or blue ink. You didn’t need different pens to do this now! And you could be a rebel and use red or green. And how many of you tried to squeeze as many colors out of the tip as you could, and try to write that way?! And of those people, how many of us used to have to unscrew the pen to get the tips unstuck? Maybe that’s why my grades weren’t so good.

Metal TV or Movie Lunchboxes


I’m sure we have all rocked the metal lunchboxes that usually had a TV show or movie theme at one time before we became to old for it and started brown-bagging it. There were usually scenes from the show all around the lunch box, and even on the sites and the bottom.

And don’t forget the thermos! It was awesome to have one that had even more scenes all around it instead to the cheesy ones that only had a picture on one side. My favorites were the Six Million Dollar Man and Star Wars. I can’t remember off the top of my head what other ones I had.

Digital Watch (with Calculator)

I probably could have used one of these. Before there were cell phones with calculators, and now iPhones, there was the digital watch with the calculator built in. Not only was it awesome for somebody to have a digital watch, but it was even better if it included the calculator. I’m sure that if the teachers were smart, they would make those people take off their watches before a math test.

Paper Bag Book Cover

cca24acd882d898f4dc7dc0514053508One of the most annoying parts of going back to school – making your book covers! Some kids had theirs nice and tight. But, kids like me had theirs covered so that the bag went way too far past the book. And then you would have to fold the loose ends back over. I know there’s some people who know what I mean! The best part about these, though, was that you could draw your favorite rock band logo. I used to love drawing the V and H for the Van Halen logo, or the ZZ Top logo, or the symbols for Led Zeppelin. OK, maybe messing around with the multi-colored pen wasn’t the only reason why I didn’t have better grades in school!

The Trapper Keeper

And the Granddaddy of them all – The Trapper Keeper! Oh, the Trapper Keeper and I had such high hopes at the beginning of the school year. I could keep all my subjects organized into their own folders. There was even a pad in the back. You could use the binder to put in your loose leaf paper. Then by the end of the first quarter of school, some of the folders would be bulging and bursting. The paper on the pad in the back of the Trapper Keeper would be gone because each top piece would rip out each time I closed the folder. The Trapper Keeper would be bulging, and the Velcro would wear out or rip off. Ah, those were the days! Here’s the Trapper Keeper commercial that I remember:

So, do you have any favorite memories/headaches from Back to School accessories?

My Love/Hate Relationship with Snack Pack Pudding

It’s been a long, boring morning of school. Well, maybe it wasn’t too boring. I gave myself an adrenalin rush by not doing my homework the night before, forcing me to quietly and quickly do it as the teacher was talking. Ah, there’s nothing like giving yourself stress in the 2nd grade! Yay, it’s lunchtime!! One of the best parts of the day – second to actually leaving school at the end of the day. Let’s see what we got. I’m sure it’s some kind of lunchmeat sandwich. If I’m lucky, it’s the chicken lunchmeat that I like. Hopefully it’s not ham with that disgusting fat dangling from it. Nope, it’s Bologna. And it has a first name, it’s O-s-c-a-r. And my bologna has a second name, it’s M-a-y-e-r. I don’t love to eat it every day, but today it will have to do.
And looky what we have with dessert! Chocolate Fudge Snack Pack Pudding!! My favorite!! Alright, I’ll take this can. Let’s see. I know there’s a trick to this. I lift the tab up. Ah, nothing like that popping sound. Now, I just have to pull the tab up without….DAMMIT!!!!! I’m over here holding a tab, and the lid is still on the pudding with a little tiny crack where the tab broke the seal! DAMN YOU TO HELL, SNACK PACK!!!! Now what am I supposed to do?!? Oh, let’s see. I can stick the plastic spoon in the hole and start to pry it op…SNAP!!! DAMMIT!!!! Now I have a broken spoon!

Well, I learned my lesson. From now on I bring a metal spoon to school. I still tried to challenge myself to peel the lid off the right way. More often than not, the tab would snap off. But, I would be able to pry it off with the metal spoon. I was finally able to take it off the right way take it off the right way without a problem.  And just when I had it figured out, Snack Pack comes out with a plastic container whose lid easily peeled off. Figures.

I don’t know if it was the lack of the challenge of opening the pudding anymore, or if the quality went down, but my Snack Pack pudding didn’t taste as good anymore.  Oh, don’t get me wrong. I still loved the pudding – as long as it was chocolate. But, I think it tasted better out of the can, even though it could be maddeningly frustrating trying to open it.

Troll and Scholastic Book Forms

Growing up in the ’80s, if there was anything I liked as much as writing stories, it was reading books. With my love of reading and writing, you would think that I would have enjoyed school. However, this was not the case. The only class I enjoyed was gym. I suppose the problem was that I wanted to read and write what I wanted to and when I wanted to, and not be told what to do.

Anyway, the only thing I liked about school was gym, and the last day before summer vacation. Oh, and there was one I other thing I liked. My heart leaped with joy once a month when the teacher passed one of these out:

I would love reading each book description, and then decide which ones I wanted. And then I would get excited on the day that the teacher gave us the books we ordered. I built up a nice sized bookshelf with these books. Here are a couple that I remember getting (that has pictures online):

I could not get enough of The Empire Strikes Back when it came out. I can’t even begin to count how many times I saw the movie. I also collected The Empire Strikes Back Topps Trading Cards. I also bought this book as soon as I saw it. There were great color pictures throughout the book to go along with the story itself. Later on I got a magazine from the order form, and there was an article in it debating whether Darth Vader was really Luke’s father or not. And this article was the first time that I heard about the possibility that Luke and Princess Leia were brother and sister. Oh yeah, when Luke cut out of his training early, and Yoda told Obi-Wan that “there is another”, I would never have guessed that he was talking about Leia. I mean they freakin’ made out, so it couldn’t possibly be true! That’s impossible! But, after searching my feelings (and seeing Return of the Jedi), I knew this to be true.

Barney and the UFO was another book I really enjoyed. I read this many, many times. Here is a description of the book:

Barney has been moved around so much, he doesn’t want to get close to his new foster family because he’ll probably just have to leave again. His younger brother fits right in, and it’s clear their “parents” like him better than Barney anyway. Then, on a foggy night, Barney meets Tibbo, an alien boy from another planet. He and Barney become friends, and when Tibbo offers to take Barney back to his homeworld with him, at first it sounds like a good idea. But Barney is putting down roots without even knowing it, and soon he will have to choose between his new friend and his new family.

It was a great story, had some great humor in it, as well as action. If I still had it, I would probably read through it again to see if I still like it.

So, do any of you remember ordering these Scholastic/Troll books? Do you remember what you ordered?

Back to School: Music Edition

We will wrap up the ‘Back to School’ series with songs about school. I have a list of 3 songs, in no particular order. I’m sure I have to be missing something. So if you know of any other ’80s songs about school or teachers, let me know.

We’ll start with .38 Special’s “Teacher, Teacher” from the movie Teachers, that starred Nick Nolte, JoBeth Williams, Ralph Macchio, and Richard Mulligan:

Next is Motley Crue’s “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”. I couldn’t get the original video, but here is a live version of it, with the band in their prime:

“Sit down, Waldo!” Let’s finish this off with Van Halen’s classic video, “Hot for Teacher”:

The Breakfast Club

Most schools are going back in session this week, with some even starting today. In that spirit, here is another entry to the Back to School series. We will talk about the greatest school movie of the ’80s, and maybe of all time – The Breakfast Club:

In 8 hours and 54 minutes, students from different high school social groups, struggled then bonded with each other, as they spent a Saturday in detention together. Did schools really have detentions on Saturdays?
Anyway, the five students at fictional Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois were to spend their detention in the school library and ordered not to speak or move from their seats by the antagonistic principal, Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason). He assigns a 1,000 word essay in which each student must write about who he or she thinks he or she is.

The students were:
John Bender (Judd Nelson) – The Rebel
Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) – The Snob
Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) – The Jock
Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) – The Geek
Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) – The Outcast

Bender stirred up trouble with the other students, but managed to get them to open up about themselves. Brian and Andrew had a lot of pressure on them to be a great student and athlete, respectively. And Bender was abused by his father, with a cigar burn to prove it.

They were in detention for the following reasons:

Andrew taped a students buttocks together
Claire ditched class to go to the mall
Brian brought a flare gun to school and it went off in his locker
Bender pulled the fire alarm
and the best one:
Allison had nothing better to do

John Hughes wrote this great movie in just 2 days. He also had a cameo as he played Brian’s father.

And who could forget the great song for the movie – “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds? You can’t think of this song without thinking of the movie and vice versa.

Here are some other facts about the movie:
Emilio Estevez was originally going to play Bender, but Hughes couldn’t find someone to play Andrew Clark so Emilio agreed to play Clark.

Molly Ringwald really wanted to play Allison but Ally Sheedy had already been promised the part.

Nicolas Cage was originally considered for the role of John Bender but the production couldn’t afford his salary at the time. John Cusack was originally cast as John Bender, but John Hughes decided to replace him with Judd Nelson before shooting began.

The scene in which all characters sit in a circle on the floor in the library and tell stories about why they were in detention was not scripted. John Hughes told them all to ad-lib.

Other proposed titles were “The Lunch Bunch” and “Library Revolution”.

The switchblade used in the movie actually belonged to Judd Nelson. He explained that he had it for protection purposes.

At the time of shooting, Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall were the only Breakfast Club members of high school age, both being 17. Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy both were 23, and Judd Nelson was 26.

Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy played high school students in this film, the same year that they would portray college graduates in St. Elmo’s Fire (1985).

And here are some quotes from the movie:

[Claire is doing Allison’s make-up.]
Claire: You know, you look a lot better without all that black shit under your eyes.
Allison: Hey, I like all that black shit… Why are you being so nice to me?
Claire: Because you’re letting me.

Allison Reynolds: Your middle name is Ralph, as in puke, your birthdate’s March 12th, you’re 5’9 and a half, you weigh 130 pounds and your social security number is 049380913.
Andrew Clark: Wow! Are you psychic?
Allison Reynolds: No.
Brian Johnson: Well, would you mind telling me how you know all this about me?
Allison Reynolds: I stole your wallet.

John Bender (to the principal): Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?

Bender: I just wanna know how one becomes a janitor because Andrew here is very interested in pursuing a career in the custodial arts.

John Bender: Brian, this is a very nutritious lunch. All the food groups are represented. Did your mom marry Mr. Rogers?
Brian Johnson: Uh, no. Mr. Johnson.

Andrew Clark: You don’t have any goals.
John Bender: Oh but I do.
Andrew Clark: Yeah?
John Bender: I wanna be just like you. I figure all I need, is a lobotomy and some tights.
Brian Johnson: You wear tights?
Andrew Clark: No I don’t wear tights. I wear the required uniform.
Brian Johnson: Tights.
Andrew Clark: Shut up.

John Bender: Sporto.
Andrew Clark: What?
John Bender: You get along with your parents?
Andrew Clark: Well, if I say yes I’m an idiot, right?
John Bender: You’re an idiot anyway. But if you say you get along with your parents, well, you’re a liar too.

Brian Johnson: Dear Mr. Vernon: We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.

So, what social group were you in. This is anonymous, so don’t be shy!
You can even be in more than one.

Did you have any favorite parts of the movie that you would like to bring up? Let us know.