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September 3, 2004

Starting school was different in the old days

The other day, I saw some Perry youngsters getting ready for the start of another school term by visiting the Presbyterian church, where a number of free services were made available to them. Included were haircuts and backpacks loaded with essential items. All of these services were free, which is commendable, but this is not a piece to call attention to the service. Rather, it helps draw a contrast between the way things are done today as opposed to the old way. In other words, how it was when I was the age of those boys and girls.

First of all, I think our hair cuts were only 35 cents so getting a free one might not have meant that much in terms of the economy. Just getting the job done for the start of school was a notable accomplishment, however.

Also, in the "old" days we never started the fall school term until after Labor Day. That was before air conditioning was readily available and before the need to coordinate terms with the schedule at technical training centers.

Someone reminded me of another point. Crayons were required in most of the lower grades, but in those depression-era days most kids only had packs of eight crayons. Rich kids had more, but most of us were not in that category. Nowadays the 24-stick pack is pretty common.

The big thing that set today's youngsters apart from our generation, however, was the textbooks themselves. We had to buy every one of ours and now most of them are furnished. We got our list of required books and marched down to Foster's Corner Drug to buy them. The regular clerks, including pharmacists, at that store were usually frazzled by the time we got there, but they always tried to be helpful. As I remember, the books were kept on shelves in what is now the prescription department of Foster's, which is still in the same location, but under new ownership.

So now boys and girls get their stuff in brand new backpacks, courtesy adults who want them to remember the start of another term with good feelings. I hope they also remember it as fondly as my contemporaries remember ours.