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Essential School Supplies

Rick Ryckeley's picture

This time of year, you can find every parent dragging their kids all around our fair town for those back-to-school specials. They’ll spend hours scurrying from one store to the next searching for that must-have pair of jeans, the latest in shoe fashion, or the perfect hair style that will guarantee that the younger set will be in with the in-crowd.
But the most important store is often overlooked – the school supply store. It’s the one store that can keep kids safe and secure all school year long. Confused?  Well, there’s no need to don that dunce cap just yet. Pull up your desk; take out a number 2 pencil and a sheet of paper. The teacher has arrived, and class starts at an all too familiar place: 110 Flamingo Street.

With five kids you’d think my Mom would’ve left us all home when she went shopping for school supplies. Nope, after long summers on Flamingo Street, us kids had exhausted every available babysitter for miles around. Mom had two options. She could leave us home alone or drag us along. After our last trip to the hospital for the removal of a board full of nails from Twin Brother Mark’s foot, she really had no other choice but to drag us along with her to the store. Good thing she did. Otherwise none of us would have gotten the most essential school supplies.

Shopping with Mom, we always got what we wanted. After all, she only had two hands putting things in the shopping cart. When she turned around, ten hands were taking things out. We replaced items such as pencils, paper, and markers with more necessary supplies. Our list is below. Kids, feel free to print it out and take it with you when you go with your mom on that back-to-school shopping trip.

One large box of thumbtacks - it helped us kids get that much-needed exercise during gym class. My brothers and me, we lined the bottom of our tennis shoes with tacks, then tapped around the gym. Coach Reeves wasn’t too happy about us tapping on his freshly sealed floor, but there really wasn’t a lot he could do. We had handed out tacks to all the boys in class. Coach Reeves couldn’t send us all to the principal’s office.

The Rubber Band Ball – it kept us safe on many occasions. About a gazillion rubber bands make up a rubber band ball, and growing up we need every one of them in school. Dad always said the key to a good defense is a good offense. There’s nothing better to attack and then fend off a bully with than a rapid-fire barrage of rubber bands - unless, of course, it’s an endless supply of spitballs.

Paper straws (if they can still be found) and jumbo plastic drinking straws – yes, we had Mom buy both. Here’s why. The best spitballs are made from milk-soaked paper straws shot through large plastic straws. To this day, I don’t think Mom ever figured out why we used so many straws in school.

Glue and paste – they were a very sticky purchase. We had Mom buy both and the reason was simple. Back in the day, paste tasted much better than glue. Trust me, as a first grader, good tasting paste was an important purchase. After all, you didn’t want to be known as the only kid who didn’t try eating the stuff. Glue, however, had other uses, like hand-coating and glob-forming.  Trust me, it is an essential.

White-ring page reinforcers – we used these two different ways. First, we’d place them in a chair and wait until an unsuspecting student sat down.  The fun ensued when the unsuspecting victim ended up walking down the hall in newly decorated pants. Second, when the teacher cut off the lights to show a slide or film, white ring reinforces would fly around the room. “Lick ‘em and Flick ‘em” was our favorite way to entertain ourselves throughout a boring history film. After that lesson on the Middle Ages, Goofy Steve ended up with twenty adorning his strawberry red hair - a record that still stands.

Last but by no means least – a deck of playing cards and wood clothespins. Both of these items were must-haves for any kid riding their bike to Mount Olive Elementary School. Playing cards attached to the frames stuck in the spokes. As the wheels turned, bike riders would sound like an army of angry bees flying down the road. Do this and your child will also be way up on the cool scale.

Times have changed quite a bit since I walked the hallowed halls of Briarwood High, even more still since Old Mrs. Crabtree’s third grade class at Mt. Olive Elementary. But some things never change: kids, make sure you go with your Mom this year when she goes shopping for back to school. That way you can make sure she buys only essential school supplies.[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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