I remember the day I bought this (not the date, but the day). It was August 1984, and I was back-to-school shopping – starting-university shopping to be precise. School was just a few weeks away, and I had very little concept of what was to come.
Having come from a Catholic all-girls school, it was the clothes I was having the hardest time with. What did one wear to school? School with boys? School with grown-up boys? (At least, I imagined there would be grown-up boys…)
I was at St. Vital Centre – THE mall in my neighbourhood in Winnipeg, and shopping at The Bay. I wasn’t looking for school supplies – the three-ring binders, loose leaf paper, and multicoloured pens were already bought – but for clothes and accessories. I wasn’t interested in being cool (or at least I’d accepted that that was not part of my destiny), just in not being silly. So, of course, the best thing to get – a big purple pencil case.
I’m sure the purpose of this case was not for pencils and pens and calculator, but for make-up and other related stuff – hence it’s store location: somewhere between purses and cosmetics for teenagers. Regardless, once spotted it was a must-have item.
I remember standing at the rack in the store mulling it over for a while. It was pricey for its time – ~$10 was more than 3 hours wages back then – so it wasn’t a purchase to be taken lightly. I had to convince myself that I could and would use it. Mental hurdles hurdled, I bought it.
As evidenced by the picture, the case has survived all these years, and has served me well. Up until a few years ago, it was as ubiquitous an accessory at work as my black notebook. Its voluminous space and little pockets allow for multiple pens and implements, note paper, cards, and other ephemera. Back in its early days, it also accommodated a calculator, a ruler and those enormous highlighters so in vogue in the 80s. It also accommodated my burgeoning pen and pencil collections – in university, I was an avid collector of writing implements, a life long habit unusual in a person with such wretched handwriting (perhaps I’m seeking that one pen that will bring me legibility).
Lately, the case has been relegated to be part of my toolkit for teaching and presentations. Bringing it out for this story has led me to resurrect it for more everyday use. An object gets a new lease on life. But first it gets a bath…