Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Think I’ll do me some back to school shopping

As a decidedly nerdly child, I always looked forward to heading back to school in September.

There was always the possibility of a new nun being transferred in. There was the fun of covering your books with brown paper bags or cool “college” covers. (At one point, I had a four pack that included Penn State, Villanova, and Kentucky, I think. Quite a random assortment. I bought it because it had a Holy Cross purple and white cover in it.) And by the end of summer, I was actually getting a bit bored with lolling around playing Monopoly and making gimp lanyards at Bennett Field.

For all the anticipation there was not much actual preparation for going back to school, not all that much back-to-school shopping to be done. Other than a new pair of Stride-Rites (grammar school) or Weejuns (high school), there wasn’t much by way of clothing purchase. Throughout grammar school and high school, I wore a green jumper and white shirt.

In grammar school, these were handed down from my sister Kath. In high school, you got your jumper and shirts freshman year, and that’s pretty much what you wore for the next four years.

You also carried your school bag until it fell apart, so that wasn’t an annual buy. For part of grammar school, I carried a hideous bright green fake suede-ish bag with the school name and logo in bright yellow. Then I graduated to what was called a Harvard book bag: a dark green rubber lined canvas bag that you slung over your shoulder.

Until seventh grade, I went home for lunch so – oh, boo-hoo – I never had the pleasure of a lunch box. What I wouldn’t have given for a red plaid lunch box with Thermos. Or a Cinderella one. Or any sort of lunch box, since that was what all the kids on TV carried. Maybe it was a suburb thing, but why didn’t any of those TV kids come home for lunch? It’s not as if their mothers did anything but hang around in crisp housedresses, heels, and pearls. Surely, they had time to heat up some Campbell’s Vegetable Beef and slap a piece of baloney on white bread.

From seventh grade on, I ate lunch at school. In seventh and eighth grade, the nuns wanted us to have something of a junior high experience, so we “ate in”, sitting at our desks, which we covered with sheets of clear plastic. There was a lunch room in our school, and not that many kids in the younger grades ate at school. So there was certainly room for us to eat there. But for some reason, we weren’t allowed to eat at the cool fold down tables in the lunch room. Maybe it would have been too much effort to pull down the tablews for us.

In high school, Catholic school became more normal, and we ate at school. In the caf. In any case, school was too far away to go home. I don’t even remember the Whelan girls, whose house was practically on the school property, going home for lunch. Anyway, from seventh through high school. I carried my lunch in a brown paper lunch bag. No back to school shopping required.

But in grammar school, there was always the new pencil case to look forward to. And a couple of black and white marble notebooks. In the later grades, a loose-leaf binder and paper was a requirement.

All this was available at Woolworth’s.

So, as exciting as going back to school was, back to school shopping was not a big deal in my world.

These days, of course, it is a big deal – lots of advertising, back to school sales, etc. And Walmart, of course, understandably wants to take advantage of the seasonal splurge.

But in one store, Guns at Walmartthey combined back to school with something of a Guns of August theme, with a sign reading “own the school year like a hero” hung over a display case full of guns.

I don’t know what – if anything - the person who hung this sign was thinking.But what comes to my mind is Columbine and Newtown.

Guns and back to school shopping don’t seem to go hand in hand. Not even at Walmart.

The sign appears to be part of an ongoing superhero-themed marketing campaign that is not related to guns. (Source: Boston Globe)

Walmart investigated the unfortunate sign, and now says that the entire matter is a prank. Not clear whether the store was pranked by an employee, a shopper, or a Photoshopper. But whatever the circumstances, Walmart is saying ‘not us.’

It’s not, of course, much of a surprise that folks jumped to a conclusion that it was something of a serious promo on the part of Walmart. After all, just last month there was the incident in which a third-party seller offering their wares on walmart.com described a wig’s color as “n***** brown. And there are those who believe teachers should be armed. So why not the school kids, too?

How do the PR folks at Walmart keep up with all this? Especially when they have to be doing all that back to school shopping that didn’t even exist back in days of yore.

Me, while I don’t use a pencil box, I do enjoy shopping for office supplies. I think I need some pens. Maybe I can take advantage of the back to school sales at Staples.

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