Rusty Mitchum

Rusty Mitchum

I was asked by a teacher to rerun this. It seems like teachers like this one for some reason. Anywho, here it is.

I can’t believe school’s fixin’ to start already. Man, when I was a kid you got a full three month vacation; or I should say, the teachers got a full three month vacation. Oh well, at least I don’t have to go back to school. That’s one of the advantages of gettin’ old; you don’t have to do what you don’t want to. Well, most of the time.

A few days ago, I was in the store standin’ in the checkout line. I was behind a woman that had a basket full of school supplies.

“Man,” I said. “You must have a bunch of kids.” She smiled, and it wasn’t a happy smile either.

“I only have one,” she informed me.

“Wow! All of that for just one kid? What grade is he in?”

“He’ll be in the first,” she answered.

“The first grade? Heck, I didn’t have that much stuff when I was in junior college.”

“Here’s the list,” she said, and handed me a paper. On the paper was a whole bunch of stuff.

“So much for free education,” I said.

“Tell me about it,” she sighed

On the way home, I got to thinkin’ about what my mom got for me when I went to the first grade. Yes, I remember the first day of school when I was in the first grade. I can’t tell you what I did yesterday, but I can remember what happened 40 some-odd years ago.

Now to be honest with you, I didn’t have anything with me the first day, but my sack lunch, and my mom. You see, I was a little young to be in the first grade. Back then, you could pay, and they’d let you start school a year early. Mom said it was worth every penny to get me out of the house.

Anywho, my mom wasn’t the only mom there. All of the moms talked with the teacher, and she told them what supplies we’d need. My mom already knew, because my sister was already in school.

Anywho, when I got home, Mom had already gone to Skillern’s Drug Store, and picked up what I needed. It consisted of the following.

A Big Chief tablet, a couple of pencils the size of a small fence post, a jar of paste, a pair of scissors that had the tips rounded off, so you couldn’t stab yourself, and a box of Crayolas. I didn’t get the big box that had the sharpener in it. I just got the box that had two rows of colors. We weren’t rich, you know. Anywho, that was it.

We didn’t have a backpack to put any of this stuff in, neither. We had a cigar box. In fact, all through the school includin’ college, I never had a backpack. I did have a belt that I would put around my books to carry them home, but that was it. There were some boys when I got to high school that carried briefcases. I think the only reason they did that was because they had to use their belts to hold the holsters that held their slide rules. If you’re not old enough to know what a slide rule is, then you probably had a backpack. And if you are wonderin’; no, I did not have a slide rule. I wouldn’t have known how to work it if I did have one. Anyway, slide rules were for the smart kids; what they call nerds now-a-days. Anywho, back to the first grade.

That Big Chief tablet I told you about was what we learned to write on. And it wasn’t easy writin’ on it, either. Heck, it was the roughest paper you’ve ever seen. It had little chunks of wood in it that didn’t get melted down, or whatever it is they do to make paper. If you’ve ever seen what a first graders handwritin’ looks like on a Big Chief Tablet, you’d think the kid had palsy or somethin’. They didn’t. They were just writin’ around those big chunks of wood. And what they gave us to write with wasn’t any bargain either. It was that big pencil I was tellin’ you about. How come they give a kid with little bitty fingers a great ol’ big pencil, and when you get big they give you a little bitty pencil. It just doesn’t make sense. I mean, you had to hold your shoulder under the eraser end of the pencil just to keep it up.

The jar of paste was just a mess waitin’ to happen. It was a glass jar, with a big mouth, and it had a screw on lid that had a brush stickin’ in the middle. When you opened the lid, the brush came out with paste all over it. The only thing was that you couldn’t just get a little paste out. You could either get none, or half the jar. And it wasn’t worth a hoot gluin’ anything together, either. The only thing I know paste was good for, was watchin’ kids eat it. I, myself, never acquired a taste for paste (ooo, that rhymed), but a lot of kids did. Oh sure, I tried it, but it didn’t taste all that good to me. We had a couple of real paste connoisseurs in our class though. They’d be diggin’ it out with their pencils or fingers and such. It wasn’t really pretty to watch. Of course they were usually the same ones who ate boogers, too.

The scissors we had were really a joke. You couldn’t cut doodlely squat with them. Not that we had a lot of cuttin’ to do, except before the holidays. I mean, you’d have to cut out jack o’lanterns and ghosts and stuff at Halloween. That was back when it was okay to say Halloween instead of Fall Festival. I still haven’t figured that one out yet. You also used the scissors to cut out stuff for Christmas, before that holiday became politically incorrect and you had to say the Holiday Season or some ridiculous thing like that. Heck, they’re gonna make it where it’s not gonna be fun to be a kid anymore.

Oh yeah, the colors. You see, we didn’t call them Crayolas back then. They were known as “your colors.”

“Everyone take out your colors,” the teacher would say, and you knew she was talkin’ about the Crayolas. Back then, the colors had the name of the color on the paper that went around the crayon. No, I’m not talkin’ about that foo foo language they put on them now-a-days. They had the real name like, green, instead of emerald, or red instead of rose petal, and junk like that. Man, how do they expect a kid to learn his colors if they’ve got kooky stuff like that on them?

Anywho, all of this stuff we got for the first grade probably didn’t set our parents back more than a couple of dollars at the most. That way, they had more money to spend on us at Christmas. That’s right, I said Christmas. If you don’t like it, tough toenails.

Man, it’s great to be old.

Rusty Mitchum lives in New Harmony, Texas, where he writes a regular column for The Lindale News and Times. He says the only reason he writes is to keep the voices away.