I Grew Up in a World Without Book bags!

School’s been back in session now for over a month. I still think, “Yippee,” even though my kids are well past school age. We lived in a small town north of New York City when they were little.

On the first day of school, a small clutch of parents gathered at the bus stop. It was mostly mothers, but a few of us fathers went to work late so we could join in the celebration. We came equipped for the event, with pots, pans, metal soupspoons and noisemakers. Anything that would make a racket.

The kids clustered together as far from us as they could, embarrassed that their parents were acting like crazy fools. We banged the pots with our spoons as soon as the bus pulled up. Whistles and party noisemakers rounded out the symphony. One by one the kids stepped onto the bus and slunk down the aisle to their seats.

It was the best “first day of school” celebration I ever experienced. It was back in prehistoric times, when it was still politically correct to delight in the fact that the “little darlings” were out of your hair for a few hours a day. Freedom was at hand!

I’m sure my mother and father would have joined the parade had there been one when I went off to school, but they didn’t need a celebration in those days, parents ruled the roost, not the kids.

Yet, in spite of being at the bottom of the pecking order, we had a better deal than the kids do today. We didn’t have homework! Not until Junior High (7th grade). When the dismissal bell rang, we were free. Not today. Kids lug schoolwork home in their backpacks every day. Even toddlers in nursery school come and go with a book bag strapped to their back. We were spared the misery. We did our schoolwork in the classroom.

Book bags didn’t even exist back then. They hadn’t been invented. There was something similar, knapsacks. Brought home from the war, the big one, WWII, by our fathers, uncles and cousins, or purchased at one of the numerous Army and Navy surplus stores that dotted the countryside. We used them for hikes in the woods, to carry food, water and matches for a campfire. We weren’t smart enough to use them for hauling books back and forth to school when we reached the grade where homework was the order of the day.

We didn’t give the knapsacks a thought. Instead, we stacked up our books and carried them under our arm, resting the bottom of the pile on our hip. Girls used a different technique. They used two hands to carry their books, clutching them to their chests as though holding a newborn baby. Every other day or so, somebody would come along and shove the stack of books out of your grasp, and then laugh and say, “Drop a few subjects, did you?”

A few brave souls totted their books and papers in a brief case. It was nerdish, but the term, “nerd” hadn’t been invented yet. We just called these guys, “The weird guys with briefcases.” Us “cool” guys wouldn’t’ think of toting a briefcase through the halls. We’d rather suffer with an eighteen-inch stack of books balanced awkwardly on our hip.

It messed up our alignment, and is the reason old coots like me can’t walk in a straight line. We sidle down the sidewalk like drunken sailors. And, it explains why so many of us need hip replacement surgery as we get older. That’s what happens when you grow up in a world without book-bags!

Comments, complaints can be left at mlessler7@gmail.com.

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