Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Postcard from the Pines: Back To School—Some Things Never Change

Marion Twp Unit School abt 1950

They sneak up on you. First one, then two and before you know it, television and the print media have fired up a frenzy. Yes indeed, we’re all being hit with the dreaded Back to School blitz, inevitable as the changing of the leaves. Back to school shopping sure didn’t look like it does now when I was the one going back to school or for my kids either. Marionites read the local advertising and shopped accordingly in Marion first, then to the local big city, Cadillac. For my kids it was all about shopping at the Mall.  These days we have the internet, where we shop for things we can’t touch or see well and UPS delivers it all to our door.  Once upon a time, there were plenty of places to shop in Marion. The Ben Franklin 5 & 10 served just about every need. They had all the school supplies, new lunchboxes, and that sweater you wore the first day of school, even if it was 80 degrees.   Down the block at Van’s Rexall Drug Store, (Friends Thrift today) they closed down the soda fountain and stacked the counter and the stools high with all of the school supplies and items we would need to get spiffed up and supplied for school. That is, as long as it came in a Rexall brand. Just like today, shoppers wanted something as good as, for less money.   Flemming’s Clothing has been a Main Street staple since before I ever thought of going to school. The folks there could outfit us all in some new duds for school. The manikins in the big front window showed us the latest thing in elementary fashions. Flemming’s carried shirts and jeans, skirts and blouses; sweaters, saddle shoes and galoshes.    The grocery stores did their fair share to feed the back to school frenzy. Bernie’s IGA maintained a mountain of school supplies. They built it right next to the displays of essential school time foods; peanut butter by the pail, jelly and jam in jars which became drinking glasses when empty, cereals, canned spaghetti, chips, tuna and catsup. Bread would be on sale for weeks at five loaves for one dollar. That was a lot of sandwiches.  I loved the gear of school. The notebooks, loose-leaf and spiral, narrow ruled paper, graph paper, typing paper, ink pens with blue ink, and number two pencils.  And I liked all of the stuff to go with the stuff. A kid had to have something to hold the erasers, colored pencils, ruler, pencil sharpener, protractors and compasses. In grade school we used pencil boxes; by high school we stashed those pencils in a plastic zippered pouch in the front of a three-ring binder. The humble clip board enjoyed some favor when I was in high school. A good one held an entire large package of notebook paper and the backside was a handy place to put your Marion Eagles stickers or to elaborately inscribe the name of your current steady.  Fundamentally, getting ready to head back to school really hasn’t changed so much. The basic principles remain the same.  Realize summer is over, get prepared and go to school. It’s the stuff that’s changed and most definitely the cost. The list of things kids need has grown so much longer and prices have skyrocketed. These items include things which previously were taken for granted as school supplied items or simply hadn’t been invented yet. Tissues, hand sanitizer, wipes and the aforementioned flash drive, are all new to the list. Even my kids didn’t need a flash drive.  Also new since my school days are many of the things kids use and do when they get to school and the computer will always be the future. The practice of cursive handwriting is endangered. Kids print, or type. It is hard to believe that the written word, as we’ve known it for centuries, appears endangered. Good penmanship doesn’t count for much these days. Apparently putting pen to paper does not hold the appeal it once did. The computer is king. Typing class is gone. It’s been replaced by Keyboarding which is essentially the same thing and a necessary class for computer use. Keyboarding is a grade school class. Typing was high school. The days of timed typing and form letters banged out on 28 Royal typewriters by 28 less than energetic students are long gone. I’ve wondered what the late Ava Johnson, Marion’s long time typing and business teacher, would think about computers and their place in today’s business world. It’s a whole new game out there. Don’t get me wrong. I love my computer. I also have great and high regard for good old fashioned writing tools and paper.       That brings us to the e-reader. I’m firmly entrenched in the real book camp on this one. There’s nothing like a real book and a real Library. The smell, the feel, the pleasure of turning a real page; you can’t get that from an e-reader, and I don’t care what the commercials tell you. I won’t be getting excited over one any time soon. I’m sure that the Back to School lists in the next twenty-five years will have an e-reader on it, maybe sooner.  But, ask yourself this, does it smell like paper? Feel like a notebook? Can you write your name on the fly page? I think not. Remember, they once declared vinyl dead too, and look at it now. 

Leave a Reply