• The Hammonton Gazette

Memories of heading back to school in September



It is back to school time once again. It was a season we looked forward to in our household. OK, maybe I was the only one but the first day of school could not come fast enough.


I think I liked shopping for the new back to school supplies the best. My mom and I would scour the Sunday sales circulars for the best prices on notebooks, pencils, folders, etc.


Now my family loves a bargain.  The cheaper the better. I always assumed it was cultural dating back to when their relatives immigrated to America from Italy and extreme frugality was needed to feed and house their families in the USA.


We never had the fancy book covers.  Only brown paper bags which I secretly loved because I was able to doodle on them. But it looked rather plain when compared to my friends with their stylish covers.


Thankfully we had Crayola crayons not some off brand. My mother liked to color with us and appreciated the smoothness of Crayola crayons that cheaper brands didn’t offer.


Our glue was always Elmer’s.  We never had paste at home as far as I can remember. And our pens were Blue Bic Cristal.


We had the most boring binders. They were the kind you bought at Jamesway or K-Mart for like 99 cents. I craved a Trapper Keeper.


This 1980s staple was my dream. Cool outside and even cooler inside. The folders had vertical pockets rather than horizontal.  Notes didn’t fall out.  Trapper Keepers could hold a vinyl pencil case. Plus the flap kept everything in. Whereas my standard binder would flip open if I dropped it on the ground.


But they cost more than $5 each and as far as my parents were concerned, they were frivolous.


They weren’t. They were a status symbol. And to a fourth-grader, they were life.


Overly dramatic? Yes.  But I was 9. So please forgive me.


And I wasn’t alone.


MentalFloss.com published an article about Trapper Keepers in 2017 featuring an article about the binder and its creator E. Bryant Crutchfield.


According to the article, “Launched in 1978 by Mead (now part of ACCO Brands), Trapper Keeper notebooks were a departure from the sterile, generic supplies that populated school lockers and desks. Brightly colored three-ring binders held folders called Trappers and closed with a satisfying button snap. From the start, they were an enormous success: For several years after their nationwide release, Mead sold over $100 million of the folders and notebooks a year. To date, more than 75 million Trapper Keepers have flown off store shelves.”


I was finally allowed to have one in middle school. Some of the luster had worn off and my work took up too much space and I needed larger binders.


Oh well.


You can still purchase Trapper Keepers on Amazon.com but the price is more than $20 each. And now my cheapness won’t allow me to buy one even though I still crave one.  


And that is life.


Do you have a story about growing up Italian, either in Hammonton or anywhere else? Send it to hammontongazette@yahoo.com.