School supplies feelings | The Stokes News

I had spent the evening organizing a list of school supplies to donate to a local family. Seeing all the things kids have to buy for school these days made me realize how lucky we were back in the Stone Age when I was a student.

Glue stick? Why, they weren’t even invented when I started first year at Walnut Cove Primary! In our old classrooms, we just had Elmer’s glue in the white bottle with the orange cap with that too-small hole that we had to scrape the old glue out of before the new glue could flow freely. I loved how the glue dried on my fingers like mud flats in an old lake bed and how it felt to try and scrape it off my grade school fingers.

On special occasions, our teacher would pull out the glass bottle of rubber cement. Oh, the joy of holding that metal top that was attached to a brush needed to handle the goo on whatever you were trying to “cement” to something else! And while we were sniffing the rubber cement, we had no idea it could be toxic, especially to young children.

Whiteboards? Who ever heard of such a thing at London Grammar School?! Although whiteboards were invented in the 1950s and slowly introduced to offices and schools in the 1960s, they didn’t catch on in most schools until the 1990s. who is credited with inventing the whiteboard did so by accident. This photographer was developing his prints in the darkroom and mistakenly wrote on a negative with a permanent marker. When he quickly tried to erase what was supposed to be immovable – hence the name “permanent” – writing came right away. Eureka! The whiteboard idea was born!)

Dry erase markers? Not even invented until the mid 70’s. Whiteboard markers before that had to be erased with a damp cloth (wet erase I guess). By the time dry erase markers became popular in schools (about the time the whiteboard did), my student days were already in my rear view mirror.

All my life as a student (that really should be a word, Mr. Webster) we had these old-fashioned things called blackboards and chalk. When I taught at Guilford County Public High School, some of our boards were actually green. This color change appeared in the 1960s when someone realized that it was easier and cheaper to transport lighter green enamel.

coated steel plate than the old black slate boards that schools have been using for years.

You readers who went to school in rural areas before the 1970s probably had real blackboards, but those green boards quickly caught on. Although most of us started calling them “blackboards” around this time, the old name blackboard persists to this day. When I read aloud Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House’ books, my children were always fascinated by the fact that Laura and Mary brought their own miniature blackboard – called a slate at the time – to their schools. border.

As my favorite TV character, Jed Clampett, would have said of the transition from blackboards to whiteboards: “Once you taste turkey, you won’t be satisfied with guts.”

(Another fascinating aside: As early as the 1930s, some people were trying to change the color of blackboards to white to make classrooms a more cheerful environment. They advocated the use of black chalk which they said was more easily seen by the children in the back rows. They also called these “whiteboards”, though clearly differentiated from what this panicked photographer came up with via his darkroom fluke.)

To this day, I love the sound a stick of chalk makes on a blackboard. (But spare me the agony of fingernails scratching that board!) And I remember the thrill of opening a brand new box of chalk when I was an English teacher – imagining all the fascinating vocabulary words and samples of poetry rhyme diagrams and sentence diagrams I would write on the board with those smooth white sticks!

(If that last sentence makes your heart race and gives you goosebumps, take a deep breath and remember that you’ll never need to outline sentences or come up with poetic rhyme patterns again. Relax and forgive to your former English teachers for this alleged torture. )

What if we moved on to happier memories? Like when the teacher picked you to pull the erasers off the blackboard and slam them together to remove the chalk dust! Oh, how I longed for Mrs. Mildred Cromer or Mrs. Nina Bailey Steele or Mrs. June Harris to call me when it was time to clean the gums on the old paths!

To this day, I mentally hear the sound of these two erasers slamming against each other. I can visualize chalk dust flying through the air (cough, sneeze, cough!) as I hit them repeatedly until very little dust comes out. One of the arguments in favor of replacing blackboards with whiteboards was that chalk dust is considered an allergen.

(Last rant aside: we probably didn’t use actual chalk – a rock formed from limestone and stuff – back in school days. the necessary particles that stick to the board. I mean , think about it – would you want to use a hard rock like granite that would just scratch the board What was mostly used during my school days was gypsum – not a rock like real chalk but more of a cheaper mineral and more efficient to use.)

So there I sat on my couch this week thinking about new school supply lists that would have felt alien to us as kids, due to the inclusion of items like headphones, which we kids at the time, could have guessed were things that were popping out of our ears. Truth be told, the list made me feel a bit old.

Then the ringing of my phone interrupted my thoughts. It was a text from one of the first friends I had in school, Donna Brown Craig. Suddenly the years rolled back and I was 15 again, sleeping over at Donna’s the day before our first day at South Stokes High School. Our brand new matching royal blue corduroy Levi’s (purchased at “Just Pants” or “County Seat” at the Hanes Mall) and light blue short sleeve tops with ties at the neckline were laid out for us to wear. the first day our new classmates from Chestnut Grove to King would watch over us. (Yes, I mean the boys we were hoping to impress.)

I smiled as I remembered, texted Donna, and thought about how our days of fitting into those skimpy first-day clothes had gone by in blackboard and chalk. But some things never change: Children across Stokes County will be heading back to school on Monday, wanting to make new friends like we did and carrying these state-of-the-art school supplies. May they all and their caring teachers be richly blessed with a wonderful and educational school year with just the right amount of snow days!

Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed to [email protected] His blog is at

Luz W. German