Sat. Sep 24th, 2022

Retro back-to-school supplies: Nostalgic items that’ll make you relive the good old classroom days

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Back-to-school 2022 is upon us — and as families and kids shop for classroom supplies, you may be reminiscing about your own back-to-school shopping experience with Mom and Dad.

Take a trip down memory lane with these back-to-school items that scream “nostalgia!”

From scented markers to Trapper Keepers, cranking pencil sharpeners and far beyond — here are the stationary and classroom staples that we remember fondly. 

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(We might even still have a few of these stashed around the house, garage or storage compartments.)

Marble composition notebook

The marble composition notebook has been a school supply staple for decades.

The marble composition notebook has been a school supply staple for decades.
(AP)

The sewn binding and familiar black-and-white marble print on composition notebooks is a back-to-school supply classic. 

The book comes in other colors such as red, green, blue, and yellow — and is useful for journaling, note-taking and more. Don’t forget the handy multiplication tables that can be found within!

Pencil case

Pencil cases and boxes were a must for storing grade-school items.

Pencil cases and boxes were a must for storing grade-school items.
(iStock)

Pencil boxes or pencil cases are still necessary for storing glue, erasers, scissors, sharpeners and pencils, of course. 

If you’re a parent still shopping for back-to-school supplies and want to go the retro route, some sites are selling cardboard-made pencil boxes online.

Multicolor pen

Multicolor pens allow you to choose any of the 10 colors for writing.

Multicolor pens allow you to choose any of the 10 colors for writing.
(iStock)

This novelty offers the capability to write with any of the 10 colors. To change color options, all you had to do was press the top to reset. 

The pen is still sold on Amazon and brands like BIC sell four-color pens.

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Lisa Frank flare

For the ’90s kids at heart, the bright-colored animal designs graced folders, Trapper Keepers, pencils, notebooks and beyond. 

Lisa Frank still has items available for purchase, though the nostalgic school supplies appear to be listed only on consumer-to-consumer sites such as eBay.

Metal pencil sharpener

A pencil sharpener sits in an empty cabinet in the classroom of Denisse Broussard at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School on May 23, 2014, in New Orleans. 

A pencil sharpener sits in an empty cabinet in the classroom of Denisse Broussard at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School on May 23, 2014, in New Orleans. 
(Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

It may not be listed on a school supply list, though the metal pencil sharpener is an iconic classroom tool. 

It was a bit noisy, but if the teacher gave the green light to leave your desk and sharpen your pencil, it was a nice excuse to stretch your legs.

Pink erasers

For decades, pink erasers have been a school-supply staple used to eliminate errors on classwork and homework.

For decades, pink erasers have been a school-supply staple used to eliminate errors on classwork and homework.
(iStock)

Pink erasers were a pencil-box must. One type that sticks out in our minds is Pink Pearl, which remains on school supply lists across the country.

Book strap

A smiling boy wears a wool newsboy cap, a leather bomber jacket and a necktie while holding a book strap. 

A smiling boy wears a wool newsboy cap, a leather bomber jacket and a necktie while holding a book strap. 
(H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

Before the backpack was born, book straps secured school books to make it easier for students to carry their stack to and from class. 

Kids used straps in the early 1900s-1930s and on, according to Lands’ End. 

Backpacks were invented in 1938 and eventually became a go-to — thus replacing the leather strap, the company noted on its website.

Lunchbox with matching Thermos

Seen in this photo is a vintage metal lunch box and Thermos.

Seen in this photo is a vintage metal lunch box and Thermos.
(iStock)

Pack your bologna sandwich and pudding cup. 

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With the ability to choose a tin featuring your favorite TV show or character (honorable mentions: Superman, The Jetsons), metal lunchboxes were once a back-to-school must. 

At one point, plastic boxes reigned supreme or students had paper sacks in tow — especially if Mom forgot to wash your Thermos.

Scented markers

Mr. Sketch’s scented markers was introduced in 1965, according to Trademarkia, the law-firm operated online database of trademarks and logos. 

The felt tips smelled so good that Mr. Sketch had schoolkids craving cherries, blueberries, bananas and more.

Trapper Keeper

The loose-leaf binder that students loved in the ‘80s and ’90s is back on store shelves and is available to purchase on parent company Mead’s website.

Overhead projector 

You may recall your teacher wheeling out the classroom projector to review math equations or grammar. 

What may be even more memorable is the exciting moment you were called on to assist — having a turn writing on the transparent projector sheet with a marker.

Elmer’s Glue

A bin full of Elmer's Glue at Michaels craft store in Queens, New York.

A bin full of Elmer’s Glue at Michaels craft store in Queens, New York.
(Lindsey Nicholson/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Nothing arguably smells more like back-to-school season than a tube of Elmer’s glue.

Introduced in 1947, according to career site Zippia, Inc., the white adhesive has since been re-imagined into glitter glue, glow-in-the-dark glue and other products.

Crayola crayons

Close-up of a large pile of Crayola crayons in assorted colors, Pleasant Hill, California, March 27, 2022.

Close-up of a large pile of Crayola crayons in assorted colors, Pleasant Hill, California, March 27, 2022.
(Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Remember the box with the sharpener embedded in back? It still exists. 

On the first day of school, your Crayola crayons were likely sharp, fresh and assorted to perfection. On the last, some may have been broken, missing and worn to the nub. 

Still, nothing feels as nostalgic as the waxy scent of a new box of crayons.

Metal compass

Compasses, Pallavicino Castle, Varano de' Melegari, Parma, Italy, 13th century. Historical reenactment.

Compasses, Pallavicino Castle, Varano de’ Melegari, Parma, Italy, 13th century. Historical reenactment.
(C. Balossini / De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images)

This mathematical tool was used in to mark lengths, draw circles and more. 

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While useful in geometry class, the sharp object also was known to leave scratches on desks and tabletops amid the teachers’ lessons.

White correction fluid

Before the digital age, liquid correction fluid was often used after a person made an error by ink or typewriter that could not be removed with an eraser.

Before the digital age, liquid correction fluid was often used after a person made an error by ink or typewriter that could not be removed with an eraser.
(iStock)

Made a mistake? White it out. 

Correction fluid, also trademarked as Liquid Paper, was reportedly invented in 1958 by American secretary and typist Bette Nesmith Graham, according to the blog, Famous Women Inventors. (She was the mother of Monkee Mike Nesmith.)

The BIC corporation has its own correction products named Wite-Out, which also includes correction tape and pens.

Safety scissors

A pair of safety scissors is seen near pencils, erasers and spiral notebooks. Small children typically use safety scissors to practice cutting safely.

A pair of safety scissors is seen near pencils, erasers and spiral notebooks. Small children typically use safety scissors to practice cutting safely.
(iStock)

Scissor practice was key in kindergarten in order to craft paper snowflakes or a paper doll chain with friends.

Safety scissors or craft scissors had a less-sharp end. 

While some of them didn’t cut too well, they were easier for tinier hands to hold and operate.

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Glue sticks

Elmer's Products Inc. school glue sticks are displayed for sale at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in Burbank, California, on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017.

Elmer’s Products Inc. school glue sticks are displayed for sale at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in Burbank, California, on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017.
(Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

This easy-to-use adhesive was a little less messy than white, liquid glue.

Many of us kept them in our pencil case or on hand for arts and crafts time.

JanSport backpack

A guest wears a leopard print JanSport backpack bag, outside the Elie Saab show, during Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2017/2018, on March 4, 2017, in Paris, France.

A guest wears a leopard print JanSport backpack bag, outside the Elie Saab show, during Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2017/2018, on March 4, 2017, in Paris, France.
(Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

Many of us recall our first backpack. 

In 1967, JanSport came to life, according to company’s website. 

In addition to quite a few color options, customers can now choose special features for their JanSport backpack including laptop sleeves, a water bottle pocket and more.

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Do you remember the back-to-school supplies you used as a child? Share your memories and thoughts in the comments section below!





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