Tag Archives: Elementary School

Hi, my name is Shawn and I’m a mechanical pencil nerd…

A couple weeks ago I shared my love for the vintage Mead Trapper Keeper folder system.  Well, writing that post reminded me that I also wanted to expose my slightly geekier side by talking a little bit about my nerdy mechanical pencil memories.  Though I’d hesitate to say that I enjoyed my time in elementary, middle and high school, I can say without a doubt that I loved “gearing up” for the new school year with all new supplies.  Of all this stuff, folders, figural erasers, writing instruments, and lunch boxes, my all time favorite school supply had to be mechanical pencils.

I was given my first “mechanical” pencil (using air quotes because these barely qualify) by my sister as a hand-me-down.  It was a strawberry-scented push pencil (I wrote about these a few years ago) that no longer had a berry scent and was missing some of the pencil tip nibs, so I had to stuff little wads of paper inside the barrel to get the pencil to work.  A little later on I remember getting my hands on a new one, Transformers branded that was light purple and covered in little Megatrons and Decepticon logos.  I was constantly losing the nibs though (they made great darts for my rubber-band slingshot), and had to make the leap to something a little more utilitarian for actual writing.  My mom bought me a package of Papermate Sharpwriters, those ugly yellow pencils where you’d twist the point to advance the lead inside…

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Though the bland “useful” design kept me from wanting to tear it apart and play with it, I never really liked these Sharpwriters because the tips aren’t tight (by design) and therefore they’re a little awkward to write with.  Well, even though I didn’t want to play with it, as you can see in the picture above, I do have a predilection for taking these kinds of things apart, though as a kid it was so that I could try and figure out a way to make it feel a little more solid.  I remember that I was supremely frustrated when I discovered that once you remove the tip, the pencil is basically dead.  These are ultimately the most disposable mechanical pencils anyway, but after breaking it trying to fix it I knew I was going to begging my mom for something better and studier.  So sometime during the 2nd grade I got my hands on my first Pentel Sharplet-2…

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This is truly where my mechanical pencil fetish began.  How can I adequately explain this discovery?  I think what really got me hooked on these Pentel pencils was the bright colors and the fact that they were built to be somewhat dismantled.  You could unscrew the tip to get to the lead-advancing mechanism inside, as well as remove the eraser cover to get at or replace both the erasers and lead.  It didn’t take me very long to find a couple colors I really liked that I could swap out the tips and eraser caps to make my own designer pencil creations.  In fact I seem to remember a bunch of kids in my class doing this and personalizing their pencils…

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These Sharplet-2′s were a revelation and a lot of fun, but as far as I know they were only available with two lead sizes, 0.5 and 0.7.  During elementary school 0.5 was what I loved because the lead was thin enough to always feel sharp and ready.  But by the time I got to middle and high school, I was yearning for something a little more versatile.  For one, the erasers were so thin that they’d wear out really quick and before I knew it all I had was the little aluminum eraser holder on the end.  Again, I’d have to wad up a piece of paper to keep the extra lead from falling out when the cap was off.  So by the time I entered the 5th grade I was upgrading yet again, this time to my favorite mechanical pencil, the Quicker Clicker!

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Though I’m certain there are “better” pencils on the market, once I received my first few quicker clickers I was done searching.  Design, color, customizability, multiple lead sizes, these suckers had it all.  Not only that, but for the first time I had access to pencils that had super cool translucent plastic barrels, and much wider, more useful erasers.  The overall design of the quicker clicker, with its lead advancing button right at your finger tip, better erasers, and availability in a 0.9 lead thickness made then super useful for drawing (which I had taken up around that time.)  Also, I always thought the eraser cap looked a whole heck of a lot like Megatron’s head, which reminded me of my old push-pencil, so these sort of felt like a good replacement.

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The 0.9 lead was a bit softer and would dull like a regular wooden pencil tip which made it really versatile for sketching and being able to vary the line width and contrast of the pencil work.  From 1987 until today, the Quicker Clickers have been my pencil of choice, with only a few road bumps along the way…

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I’m not sure when they changed, but sometime after the year 2000, Pentel decided to alter the design of the Quicker Clickers to add a rubberized grip around the front of the barrel (around the lead advance button), as well as changing out the tip a bit.  It’s not a huge deal, but part of me had become so accustomed to the feel of the non-rubberized grip that this addition actually affected my drawing for awhile.  Though I’m a pencil nerd, and this change did bug me, I tend to obsess a little over using the same pencil. I guess it’s sort of like ballplayers wearing the same jockstrap during a good season (or career if you’re Cal Ripken, Jr.), so when Pentel switched to the new design I never thought to stock up on some back-up pencils in the older style.  Well, in the ensuing years the value of vintage Quicker Clickers (without the rubber grip) has skyrocketed.  A 0.9 lead QC in the original solid red or brown can cost as much as $50 on eBay!  As for the more standard translucent 0.5 lead versions in blue and smoke are almost non-existent on the secondary market.  Apparently though, recently a few boxes of old overstock 0.5 translucent smoke pencils have made their way onto eBay and you can get a package for around $10 to $15.  It’s still much higher than a mechanical pencil should cost, but it’s a lot better than what the standard vintage pencil scalpers are asking.

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I couldn’t write about my favorite pencils without bringing up their constant companions, the Pentel Clic Erasers…

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As most pencil nerds will attest, the idea of using the included eraser on the pencils is sort of frowned upon.  The eraser is more of a last ditch, backup incase your eraser of choice is misplaced or used up.  Besides, though you could adjust the eraser on the Quicker Clickers as it wore down (by pulling out the eraser and the little metal clasp that surrounds it and then pulling it up and snapping it back in), it made the eraser unstable and a little fugly.  For me, the eraser of choice has always been the Pentel Clic because it was long and for all intents and purposes it’s the mechanical pencil of erasers.  The material of the eraser is great for drawing too, soft enough to not tear up the paper, yet sturdy enough to erase most pencil lines (unless you’re a heavy-handed penciler.)

So that’s my nerdly little secret obsession, 30 year old mechanical pencils.  Anyone out there also a closet pencil nerd?  If so, what’s your favorite brand, color or lead thickness?  Anyone ever drop some serious money to re-buy a pencil from your youth, or is that just me…?

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Of Trapper Keepers and childhood identity…

Life presents us with a lot of opportunities to experience a right of passage, and the first one I remember taking an active hand in was when I turned 10 years-old in 1987. Not only was I finally breaking into double digits on the birthday cake, but it was also mid-summer and around the time my mom would start thinking about all the crap I’d need for the next year at school. I was entering the 5th grade, becoming one of the head honchos of the elementary school, and for the first time I wanted to have a say in what sort of junk I’d need. Clothes-wise, there was no question that the wardrobe had to include a bunch of surf and skate shirts (preferably T&C and featuring Thrilla Gorilla, but I also dug Op, Powell Peralta, and Billabong), baggy shorts featuring loud prints (usually Maui brand if I recall), and Airwalk shoes (I ended up with a pair that were covered in purple and black bats.) The lunchbox? G.I. Joe. Backpack? Nope, this was the year I ditched the bag (for god knows what reason.) All these decisions seemed important, but the most important one was finally graduating away from a handful of flimsy pocket folders to the one school supply item I coveted over any other, the Mead Trapper Keeper…

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My sister had been using Trapper Keepers for a few years at this point, and though I’d wanted one earlier, my mom didn’t think I’d need it. This year though, I had a plan. Having broken my wrist a few weeks earlier in a front-yard no-holds-barred neighborhood wrestling match, I knew it would be difficult to carry my books and folders with my clunky cast. I’d already practiced my fumbling act with the previous year’s folders and a couple of encyclopedia volumes for a bit before I decided to put it on for my mom at the store. My argument was that the coveted all-in-one binder would make it so much easier for me between classes. Of course no mom who knew her son would buy that kind of act, but regardless, with the 5th grade looming (my final year in elementary school), I somehow convinced my mother that it was imperative that I had one. Flipping through the designs in the Woolworths, none of them were really speaking to me until I stumbled on the one above. By 1987 loud, obnoxious color schemes were becoming the norm in advertising and clothing, and something about the secondary color combination of orange, green, and purple really caught my eye. After pulling the binder off the shelf I was hit with the below design and I was in love. What could be cooler than sunglasses, palm trees and a Lamborghini? In 1987, nothing.

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My original Trapper Keeper managed to last me a good three years before falling apart at the seams. I’m pretty sure I had a couple others before the end of high school, but this first one was the “one”. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a replacement to pop up on eBay for years now, but I never found one that I was happy with. They were either too beat up from years of use, or priced in the range where only Scrooge McDuck could afford them. But then recently I managed to find this one and the stars just sort of aligned. Not only was it the design I wanted, but it was also brand new, old store stock that never found its way into the hands of a loving kid. It still had its original label on the back, though a little worse for ware due to storage issues. I couldn’t resist, and now I finally have another one…

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Something else that was kind of cool about getting a hold of a brand new Trapper Keeper, was that I got a chance to be irritated with removing the above label just as much as from when I was a kid. There are two little metal tacks that punch though the back of the binder and hold the note pad clip in place inside. The label is held in place by these tacks, but because it’s made of a light weight paperboard, it doesn’t easily come off. You have to rip at it, and inevitably there is always some leftover label under the tacks that is impossible to remove. I hated this design flaw then, and even more now!

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When you stop and think about it, it’s not like these binders were all that revolutionary. Sure, they had folders that would lock into the rings, and there was a clip for a pad of paper in the back, but that’s about it. At the end of the day there was just something super appealing about the overall, all-in-one design that was intoxicating. By the time in the mid to late 80s when Mead starting covering the folders with all sorts of outrageous airbrushed graphics, these binders became the equivalent of how we use internet avatars these days. You picked the folder that best represented “you”. Heck, I can distinctly remember referring to other students who I didn’t know by what their Trapper Keeper looked like. I don’t know, at the time they just seemed important.

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Though I was addicted to my TK back in the day, there were a couple of things that I had completely forgotten about over the years. For one, I didn’t remember just how awkward the 3-ring binder clip mechanism was. There’s a colored tap at the bottom of the binder that you pull down to slide open the rings. Not nearly as secure as your standard binder clips, and containing way too many parts made out of plastic to really last the test of time, this was sort of a weirdly deflating revelation. Looking back on it, I wonder if this was a clever purposeful design flourish meant to break so that kids would have to buy a new Trapper Keeper each year…

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I’d also forgotten about the interesting design of the interior subject folders. Not only were the pockets designed into the long sides (so that loose papers wouldn’t fall out of the top of the Trapper Keeper), but each folder also featured rulers, and a crap load of metric conversions and math tidbits. I’m also a fan of these color-schemes, in particular the pink lemonade of the folder to the left…

The one last thing I wanted to point out represents probably the most visceral memories people have for Trapper Keepers, the patented Velcro ripping noise you heard when opening the main flap. After opening up the package and pulling this out to show my wife, she immediately ripped it from my hands and proceeded to open and close it repeatedly, to which we both replied with a satisfied sigh. Sounds like some of the best memories from school.

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So, what did your Trapper Keeper look like?

Vintage Book Club Flyers Part 3, Scholastic’s Arrow, TAB, and Honeybee clubs…

This week brings yet another set of vintage book club flyers from the 80s, though sadly it’s also the last.  So far I’ve covered the Troll and Weekly Reader flyers, and for this last installment I’m going to take a look at the largest of the various clubs, Scholastic.  As I mentioned last week Scholastic was the last book club company standing after the various mergers and acquisitions over the past decade, most likely because they’re not just a book distributor, but also a publishing house as well.  Another way that the Scholastic book club set itself apart was by really developing its branding.  Though both Weekly Reader and Toll had different catalog flyers aimed at the various grade and age groups in public school, Scholastic differentiated these flyers by issuing them under unique brand names.  For instance, the grades 4-6 received the Arrow book club flyers, while middle school and high school students received copies of the TAB club flyer.   This splintering of the main brand was just one of the ways that Scholastic tried to stay relevant to students, who would quickly outgrow the various clubs and would be looking for stuff that appeal to them and seemed more tailored.

Like Weekly Reader, the Scholastic book club flyers came bound inside a monthly educational newsletter.  This was where you got a chance to see the main company branding as the handout was called the Scholastic News…

   

Another way that Scholastic set itself apart from the other clubs was by offering back-issues of their entertainment magazines like Dynamite, Hot Dog, Maniac, and Bananas.  Actually, I didn’t see any full-on subscriptions for these magazines in the book club flyers below, so I wonder if this was the only way to get access to these magazines to begin with.  I don’t remember seeing any of them on the newsstands or spinner racks growing up.  Maybe Scholastic would hook you by offering up an issue each month and then you could get the exclusive subscription mailer inside of the actual magazine.  Anyone out there remember subscribing to any of these or finding them outside of the Scholastic book club flyers?

Anyway, for this last vintage book club article I have four more flyers to share from the collection of Esteban, who runs the awesome Roboplastic Apocalypse.  Three of them are from the Arrow club which was handed out to grades 4-6, and the last one is from the TAB club which was handed out to the 7th-12th grade students.   First up is the January 1985 issue of Arrow…

So after looking through a number of these book club flyers from the various companies I have to say that I am surprised by the gusto with which Heathcliff was advertised compared to Garfield.  In the battle of the little orange tabby cats, Heathcliff always comes out on top (front and center, page one) of these book club flyers.  I wonder if the various companies sold flyer space like ad space is sold in newspapers?   If so, Ace books sure were willing to shell out a shinier dime than Ballintine.  Either that or because Garfield was most likely much more popular in brick and mortar stores, the company didn’t feel the need to compete in these school book club flyers…

   

I also thought it was interesting, from a design standpoint, that the guys and gals that worked on these Arrow flyers chose to highlight the publisher imprint logos on a lot of these book listings.  So when you see a listing for a Twist-a-Plot book like the one on the 3rd page of the flyer above, the T-a-P logo was separated out and placed at the top of the blurb.  I know I was always on the lookout for specific branding when it came to books, as even at a young age I was responding to the various publisher and series logos.   Again, it’s another in a long line of examples in how Scholastic was trying harder to reach these kids (and in turn reaching into their parent’s wallets…)

There are a couple of cool books in this first flyer, in particular Robot Race which was part of the Micro Adventures series of paperbacks that were trying for a sense of interactivity back in the day.   Instead of letting the reader guide the story as in a Choose Your Own Adventure style book, the Micro Adventures stories featured BASIC style computer programs printed through out the book that he reader could program into their home computing systems to play games and solve problems from the story.  I’m amazed at just how many ways the writers and publishers of the 80s were trying to heighten the reading experience for kids.

As I mentioned above, there were a handful of entertainment magazines published by scholastic in the 70s and 80s, two of which were available in this flyer, Maniac (aimed at high school kids that were in tune with the MTV generation), and Dynamite (which I’ve written about before.)

The first thing that jumped out at me in this February 1985 flyer is the rock and roll themed poster/sticker sheet combo.  Stickers were typical of these flyers, but I’ve never seen a sheet that listed the artist and gag writer before.  Apparently R.L. Stine (of Goosebumps fame and who often whet by Jovial Bob Stine) got together with B.K. Taylor (the artist for the Awesome All*Stars! sticker cards as well as a regular feature artist in the pages of Hot Dog and Dynamite) and whipped up a sheet of rock inspired stickers.  I’m guessing that they were featured because they both worked at Scholastic on the various magazines, but it’s still a little weird…

  

This May 1985 flyer is also pretty interesting as it’s an example of the end of the school year edition.  Since the kids would be out of school in the first week or so of June, May was the last good chance Scholastic had to sell some swag, and I think it’s interesting that they eschewed the standard flyer for a two page blow-out sale…

  

Though I don’t remember the Arrow book club, or any of these end-of-the-year blowouts, being the bargain shopper that I am I think I would have flipped for the flyer in May of ’85.  In particular I would have really dug picking up multipacks of the Micro Adventures and Twist-a-Plot series all for the price of one book.  It even appears that there was some really old stock being pushed, as the 1983 Return of the Jedi storybook was bundled with a 1980 Empire era poster of Darth Vader.  I know for a fact that there was a metric ton of overstock on this particular Jedi story book as I’ve consistently seen brand new copies of this book in dollar stores and overstock book stores over the last 20 years.

The last vintage book club flyer I have to share is from the Scholastic imprint called TAB which was aimed at 7th graders and above.   This particular edition is from February of 1987 and barely survived to be shared…

My first impression of this flyer is that it’s sort of schizophrenic in its odd mixture of offerings.  On the one hand there are some more adult fare like teen romance novels, classics (such as the Count of Monte Crisco, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies and Dracula), and books on writing term papers, but on the other there are still kid oriented books (like one about race cars) and sticker collecting kits.  Then again, when I think back to my 7th grade days I know I was going through a similar period of weird reading habits, bouncing back and forth between thousand-page Stephen King epics and cracking open Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing for the umpteenth time.  I guess the 7th grade really does mark an awkward transition period for children.  Most are turning thirteen, and depending on individual predilection, most are probably also facing that time when it isn’t cool to collect toys, read comic books, or bring your lunch to school in a lunchbox anymore.  I know that I personally rebelled against the idea that these things had to stop, but I was also far from popular…

As a special bonus, friend of the site Jose Anibal Gonzalez (who has a great art blog by the by), went above and beyond and sent in a scan of his daughter’s current Scholastic book club flyer from this past January.  It’s the perfect way to end this series as we can see how these flyers have changed over the last quarter century.  Thanks Jose!

   

  

  

  

School Book Club Flyers from the Past part 2, Weekly Reader!

So this week I thought I’d dig a little deeper into the whole school book club flyer phenomenon of the 80s while also taking a look at one of the more recognizable clubs, Weekly Reader.  Again, all of these scans come from the personal collection of the Evil King Macrocranios, or Steve if you prefer, to whom I am indebted.

When I was originally looking for some examples of these book club flyers to share them, I was a bit uncertain as to who the actual companies were that produced them in the 80s.  After doing a little digging there were a few names that sprang up, namely Weekly Reader and Scholastic, but I know that there were others that I remembered more fondly like Troll and Arrow.  This past week I shared a few Troll flyers, and I’ll have some Arrow flyers to post about next week.  The big question that was still sort of hovering over all of this for me was were these all difference companies, or were they just different imprints aimed at certain regions or age levels there were all from the same corporation?  Turns out, it’s a little bit of both.

From what I can gather off the fine print of the various Weekly Reader and Scholastic websites, back in the 80s there was a whole bunch of different companies distributing discount books through catalog flyers in classrooms.  Some of the services, like Troll, seemed to be more concentrated on liquidating discount books, while others (namely Weekly Reader) seemed to be interested in selling books as well as distributing their own branded periodicals providing news and articles for teachers and students.  Over the last 20-odd years there has been a lot of focus-shifting and consolidation and there seems to be only two companies left, Scholastic (who bought up a lot of other clubs like Troll and Trumpet) and Weekly Reader who seem to have strayed away from regular book distribution and begun offering mostly their own branded products (teaching aids, study books, and WR non-fiction picture books for young kids.)  These days Scholastic provides a whole slew of book club flyers aimed at various age groups and it appears that they’ve also taken over most if not all of the in-school book fairs, but we’ll talk a little more about that next week.   This week it’s all about the Weekly Reader…

These WR book club flyers were distributed as a part of the Weekly Reader Eye periodical handout, and were a bit different in terms of layout and advertising.  Again, there seemed to be a dual motive with this company in that they seemed to want to educate as much, if not more, than they wanted to distribute books in the classrooms.  Another variation of their magazine was called Senior Weekly Reader and seemed to delve into some much more adult topics and current events including the crack epidemic, the Challenger disaster, homelessness and the government’s plans to create an anti-nuclear missile defense system in space.  All of this seems pretty heady for preteens who were most likely more concerned about whether or not their friends would think they were dorks because they still wanted to order Choose Your Own Adventure books in middle school…

You have to hand it to the publishers though, they were trying their best to not write down to middle-school-aged kids.   Actually that reminds me of similar memories I have of watching the fledgling Channel 1 in my homeroom when we had TVs installed in our high school class rooms back in the early 90s.  The snippets of news stories seemed to be almost on par with what my mom and dad were watching on the evening news.  Of course it bored me to tears back in the day, but there’s a part of me that appreciates what they were trying to do education-wise now that I’m a little older. 

Anyway, back to the meat of this post and on to our first Weekly Reader book club flyer, which is from November of 1984…

The first thing I noticed while flipping through these was a slightly less commercial feel to the design.  They’re printed in mostly black and white with a single accent color that I’m sure was intended to lessen the printing cost (which was mostly likely deferred to help supply the news portion of these handouts.)  They’re also a bit less shilly in that it was much easier to obtain the “free” posters as you only had to buy a single book instead of the requisite three from clubs like Troll.  These flyers also had a secondary, longer term, incentive program in what they called PaperBucks.  For every item that you purchased from the catalogs you’d received one of these Paperbucks (see the 4th page of the flyer below for an image) which could be saved up to “pay” for specialty items like sticker sheets, plush dolls, instant cameras and posters…

    

This flyer also has some pretty damn nifty offerings including one of the Mr. T Antioch sticker books (featuring stickers with B.A. Baracus skiing), another of the Serendipity books by Brian Cosgrove (called Morgan and Me), a Masters of the Universe picture book (always loved the art in these), a Fraggle Rock poster and an offer for 100 stickers for only $0.75!  Oh, to go back in time with 5 bucks and access to one of these flyers…

Next up is the December 1984 flyer/insert…

This flyer also has some great books, but what really got me excited was the offer for a sticker collecting wallet for only $0.95.  I’ve seen official sticker collecting books, photo albums, stapled together sheets of construction paper, and even childhood furniture used to house a sticker collection, but never a wallet.  How neat would it have been to whip out a bill fold to show off your stickers on the go?!?

  

There’s also an interesting special offer on the Garfield collection in this flyer which comes with four Garfield branded brown paper lunch sacks.  However neat these would have been to carry my lunch to school when I was in-between lunch boxes or in that gray area where I was getting too old to bring a lunch box, they still seem like a pretty weird thing to bundle with a comic strip collection.  It’s like winning a contest and getting new socks or something.  Practical, but not exciting…

The last flyer I have for both today and for the Weekly Readers was released back in February of 1985…

This flyer is chock full of awesome swag including a Go Bots picture book (featuring art by none other than Steve “Spiderman” Ditko), another Serendipity book (Flutterby), and a sweet Break Dancing poster…

  

There were also a couple of interesting Choose Your Own Adventure style books with offers for an Indiana Jones Find Your Fate paperback and one for one of the more obscure brands, Wizards, Warriors, & You.

Last, but certainly not least, we have a handful of Weekly Reader posters which were a bit different than their counterparts in the Troll book club flyers.  Granted, I’m only going on a selection of three flyers from each club as reference, but the Weekly Reader posters seem to be a little less generic.  Not only do they feature some pop culture icons like E.T., the cast of the Empire Strikes Back and Wicket from Return of the Jedi, but even the goofy kitten and puppy posters are a little neater with printed titles on them.  These posters often featured ads for books on the back as well…

  

Next week I’ll be back with a closer look at the Scholastic book club called Arrow…

Holy crap! Vintage Book Club Flyers!

I wanted to start off 2011 and the end of my winter hiatus with something that I think is pretty damn cool.   One of my goals with this site was to try and track down and share some of the more obscure things that I was really fond of as a kid.  Sure, talking about the Transformers and G.I. Joe is cool, but so are the Donruss Zero Heroes sticker cards and issues of Stickers magazine.  Trouble is, the majority of the obscure stuff I’d love to track down and talk about isn’t all that easy to present in an interesting manner.  It’s one thing to just talk or write about something, say the Screwball brand sherbet/bubblegum treats that used to only be available on the various ice cream trucks back in the day, but it’s hard to provide that heady feeling of instant forgotten memory recall without some sort of scan-able packaging, or a theme song, anything that’s a bit more visceral.  So I have a list of stuff, a wish list of sorts, that I’m patiently waiting to dig into when I have something more tangible to share.

Well, this past December, a very awesome friend of the site dug deep into his archive of school papers and ephemera from over 25 years ago, and he came out with some very amazing pieces of newsprint. Esteban, the Evil King Macrocranios, the ruler of the kingdom roboplastico home to muchas robots fantasticos and metalicos, not to mention the host of the Roboplastic Podcastalypse (which if you dig any of the podcasts I’ve done in the past you’ll probably love this show), found his old stash of elementary and middle school book club flyers which he has very graciously scanned and sent over to be shared here, and I can’t thank him enough.

Much like vintage food packaging, school book club flyers are in my opinion so of the rarest pieces of ephemera as there is absolutely no reason to archive them.   It’s rare enough that kids would keep their homework and school paper work longer than it takes to peel off a congratulatory scratch and sniff sticker, let alone any peripheral materials that would just clog up your backpack, but for it to survive for 25 or more years is just astounding.  Even if these flyers were kept, it’s not there’s any sort of market or demand to get them out into the hands of collectors.  The closest thing would be the very niche market of people selling old Saturday morning cartoon ads on ebay, but it seems like no one is selling book club flyers.  Hell, I remember wracking my brain just to try and remember a single name of one of these book clubs when I first started this site and I couldn’t find anything on the interwebs that really helped.  Either people don’t care or these book clubs have become obscure enough nostalgia-wise that there isn’t really anyone talking about them in the shadow of conversations about potential Thundercats movies, Smurfs as CGI, and Return-of-the-Jedi-themed jungle gyms.  Honestly, that’s all right, because this is the stuff, the more obscure stuff, that still gets me the most excited nostalgia-wise…

So thank you Esteban for braving your old pile of school papers to dust off these amazing gems.  I’m going to be sharing his collection over the next couple of weeks, and today I’m going to start with a few Troll Book Club Flyers, the first of which is from April of 1982…

For the most part my memories of these book club flyers surrounds the excited jolt I’d get when the homeroom teacher would hand out them out each month.   In fact, I was kind of a nerd for anything that involved school and spending money; be it browsing for cool figural erasers and themed pencils in the school store, the occasional book sale held in the library, or the yearly Christmas fun raisers where we’d sell gaudy wrapping paper and off-brand meat & cheese gift-sets, I always got excited at the prospect of spending money at school.   Maybe it was because I didn’t typically buy my lunch in favor of a packed lunchbox, but I always felt so independent and grown-up when I’d be trusted with a few dollars to spend any way I saw fit.  These flyers were a monthly opportunity to tap into the bettering-Shawn’s-schooling fund and to pick up some nifty stuff like stickers and posters along the way…

   

With this first flyer, I realized that at least one company, Troll, issued different monthly fliers for the various grade ranges.  This one represents books available for kindergarten through 1st grade, and mostly features the large format floppy picture books and read-alongs.  Highlights for me include the Astrosmurf which featured artwork by Peyo (I wasn’t sure if his work was repurposed back in the 80s or if it was all derivative stuff based on the Hanna Barbera cartoon adaptation of the comics), and Leo the Lop by Stephen Cosgrove.  Leo the Lop was part of a series of books by Serendipity written by Cosgrove and illustrated by Robin James that really knocked my socks off as a kid (illustration-wise.)  Also included in the series were books like Little Mouse on the Prarie, Trapper (about a little while seal), and the Gnome from Nome (my favorite.)  You also get your first glimpse at the book club flyer up-sale which includes the concept of a free poster with the purchase of three or more books.  For a kid in the first grade back in the 80s, I’m sure that 11×17 of two white rabbits peeking out of a top hat was mesmerizing.

This next flyer is for a slightly older set (grades 4th through 6th) and was released in February of 1985…

This is a bit more of what I remember from back in school.  Though I have all sorts of fond memories of these flyers aesthetically speaking, I have to believe it’s mostly just nostalgia.  I mean look at the horrible job on that curved block font around the dog poster.  Don’t even get me started on the six million different fonts used for the various book titles in the descriptions.  Wowzers.   I mean using the specific font as an image lift from a book like with the Heathcliff offering is one thing, but mixing in the serif and sans serif fonts is hurting my eyes a little.  Anyway, enough grousing about design, I mean look, original solicitations for Choose Your Own Adventure books are in this flyer!

   

I also love the fact that even though some of these posters are super cheesy, they were al least also super cheap.  $0.75 for 24″x18″ poster?  Hell, I’d have a hard time passing up the one with the collies at that price.   Also, notice the solicitation for Mad Libs #11.   Though I never had any Mad Libs books as a kid I know they were huge and these book club flyers were most certainly one of the main places to score them.

Book club flyers were also a place to score stickers, and if memory serves there was also a sheet of stickers in the flyers offered by Troll. 

Lastly, one of my favorite stand outs from this first ’85 flyer is the special on the break dancing book on the back.   I’m sure this was the gateway for a bunch of fourth graders to get the instruction they needed to properly pop and lock like a pro…

The last Troll flyer I have is from December 1985…

Featuring more Heathcliff and Mad Libs, as well as Encyclopedia Brown, a handful of classics, and a trio of different Choose Your Own Adventure Style seris (including CYOA, Indiana Jones Find Your Fate, and Zork books), this was one heck of a flyer.  My favorite listing is for yet another of my holy grail items, the 1985 Antioch sticker book, Hogan Wins the Belt.  I’ve managed to find the majority of the Antioch book and sticker sets (from the Ghostbusters and Karate Kid, to Mr. T and the Bigfoot Monster Truck), but this WWF Hulk Hogan wrestling entry is proving one of the harder ones to find (at least with the stickers intact.)  So it’s pretty awesome to get a glimpse at the stickers that were included with this book…

 

Rounding out this book club flyer are a sweet looking generic BMX book and a How To on Babysitting for Fun and Profit…

But before I end this post, I have a few more treats.  Along with these flyers Esteban also found some of the sweet posters that he and his sister ordered back in the day.  I’ll let the Evil Macrocranios set the mood for these:

“Among my childhood school papers were some of the posters of horses and kittens and puppies we got from various book clubs.  It all seemed silly to me and as I unfolded yet another sickeningly cute poster of kittens I asked my mom what kind of little boy likes this stuff.  Then my three year old son walked into the room and when he saw the poster he started yelling ‘CATS! CATS!’ and he did a little dance and grabbed the poster from me like it was the best Christmas present ever.  Troll sure knew their audience.”