Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, November 8, 2012


from 21 Jump Street
The other night, surfing cable after reading Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, I watched a little of 21 Jump Street ... okay, I lied.  I watched it all.  Again.  No Shakespeare beforehand, either.

One of the amusing moments is when Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, incompetent cops going undercover in a high school to break up a drug ring, are dressing for their first day of school and debating how to carry a backpack.  Hill is a "two-strapper"; Tatum insists that's not cool (see photo).  And when they get to the school, they see everyone is two-strapping.  Tatum refuses to adapt; Hill realizes he could've been cool if he'd grown up in the current generation.  (BTW: At the Kent Starbucks last night I noticed that everyone was two-strapping.)

Anyway, the film got me ... thinking.  (Hard to believe.)  And I realized I could not remember when I first noticed that my middle school students were carrying backpacks.  I do remember that I nearly killed myself when I tripped on one the size of an Appalachian mountain when I was returning papers, up and down and aisle, not noticing ... and wondering who's going camping?

When I was in junior high and high school (1956-1962), no one carried a backpack.  Backpacks were for Boy Scouts.  Period.  Or for a family of singers escaping Nazis by warbling their way over the Alps.  The protocols in those years were simple: Guys carried their books at their side, under an arm, notebook on the bottom, textbooks in ascending order (largest on the bottom).  One problem: Big kids (aka bullies) could easily knock books to the floor when they walked by.  Just to show you.

Girls made the same sort of pile (notebook-on-bottom, etc.)--but carried them, two hands, cradled against their bosoms.  (And I will resist, fiercely, the temptation to tell you how, as a lecherous adolescent male (a bit redundant, I know), I sometimes wanted to be a math book.)  I just looked through the two yearbooks I have from Hiram High School (1961, 1962) but found no candid shots of kids in hallways going to class.  Everything is non-academic in a yearbook, I think--photos of sports and activities and parties and kids doing goofy stuff.  On many pages of our yearbook, you'd have a hard time telling that all of this was going on in a school.

Anyway, at some point in school history, just about everyone was carrying a backpack.  I could not believe some of the monstrous ones I saw later in my career, at Western Reserve Academy.  Some were so large they looked as if they'd require a front-end loader to lift from the ground.  Kids got a workout just walking to classes.

And what about teachers?  When I first began teaching (1966), many of my colleagues used briefcases.  I remember my old high school English teacher Mr. Brunelle had an scuffed leather one--the kind with the flap and brass fasteners (see photo)--that he would leave open by his desk all day.  My parents gave me a high-tech, high-impact one (almost James-Bondian) when I graduated from college and got my first job in Aurora, Ohio.  I used it for quite a few years, then gradually abandoned it for ... a backpack.

Moment of emotion: My last day of public school teaching (16 January 1997), I took that old briefcase to school, one last time.  Thinking of my parents ...

I can't remember exactly when I started being a Backpack Guy, but by the time I was teaching at WRA (2001-2010), I was carrying one everywhere--and not just to school.  To the coffee shops to read, etc.  On airplanes.  Car trips.  Barber shop.  Just about everywhere.  And I was a very cool one-strapper--except, of course, when I was on my bike.

rip in old backpack
I bought a new one the summer before the last year I taught (2009-10), but in recent weeks, I've noticed that it's starting to split at a couple of seams.  And starting to look a little ... tacky.

So last night--off we went to OfficeMax for a new one.  Which, later today, I will be one-strapping when I walk into Starbucks.  Looking cool, as ever.

the new one!

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