WILKES-BARRE — So I hopped in the Way Back Machine the other day and went back-to-school shopping.
Yeah man, back to The Hub and American Clothing and Robert Hall, man. And of course Fowler Dick and Walker – the Boston store. Same Sears in the Gateway Mall and across Route 11 to Bergman’s in the Narrows Mall.
Mom and I were sure to hit them all and pick up just about everything I would need for the upcoming school year.
Beige jeans, man. Mousetrap shoes, man, shirts with matching socks, man, light blue shirt and socks, dark blue shirt and socks, yellow shirt and yes, yellow socks, and add some argyle socks and a belt and, of course, new underwear and we’re done.
No sweaters, man, none. Maybe a new jacket and a winter coat.
It was a full day’s worth of shopping. We would first go “over the town” towards the town and make the usual stops. Then on to Robert Hall and the malls of Route 11 on the way back to the homeland.
It was the annual pilgrimage. I have to look good for school, man.
The Monday before school started, all the guys in the neighborhood would walk down Orchard Street to Chet Sterowski’s house for our haircuts — we call it a delicate or crew cut. Chet used to give us some waxy stuff to glue the front.
Now we were ready for another school year.
As I’ve written before, my very first day of school didn’t go as planned – in fact, it was somewhat traumatic.
To say that I was a spoiled only child would be very accurate and understated. And being an only child, I got what I wanted most of the time. Sometimes within reason, sometimes not.
For example, several times I have requested and enjoyed ice cream for breakfast. Not every day, but once in a while. It was so good, with chocolate syrup drizzled on top and whipped cream. Not exactly the breakfast of champions.
So you can understand why I struggled to go to school for that fateful first time.
There was no way I wanted to leave my house. Why would I want to leave a life where the hardest decision for me was when to go play outside? And while I was at home, it was TV. All cartoons and children’s shows. School? Not me. I liked it where I was. School was for losers.
My mum literally dragged me up Reynolds Street, across Balita Yard to the back wall of Nottingham Street School. As we approached, I could hear the sound of children running, shouting and playing. My first peek over the wall opened my eyes – hey, that’s not so bad, I thought. All my friends are there and they run and play.
I ran to the front of the school and took off to the left, running with no real purpose, just to be part of this crazy scene. As I approached the back left corner of the school, unbeknownst to me, a child was running across the school with a stone in his hand.
As the kid rounded the corner, he threw the rock just as I rounded the opposite corner, hitting me in the head. I woke up in the nurse’s office with a bandaged lump on my head and my mom standing over me.
Fast forward to the second day of freshman.
If my mother thought it was difficult to get me to school the first morning, the next day would only be worse. Why would I want to go back to a place where I was knocked out?
But come back, I did. I was a star in Miss Shovlin’s freshman class, which shared the same room with the sophomore class. I never got less than an A in my first six years, with the exception of a “D” in calligraphy in fifth grade.
My first year of school was the last year of Nottingham Street School.
But today I remember those days when I was shopping for school clothes with my mother. On the way back to Plymouth we always stopped at Mitchell Plessett’s men’s store on East Main Street. It was routine. Mr. Plessett was a true gentleman who was too proud of his store. I remember how he placed everything on tables in neat rows and everything was clearly marked for size and price.
That was the mindset at the time. Going back to school was a big deal that we looked forward to – my mum would appreciate the time to do more cleaning, baking, cooking, while the kids would like to resume friendships with classmates, perhaps in meet new ones and, of course, get to know our new teachers.
We also wanted to learn. We wanted to do homework, write reading reports and play sports.
But we totally enjoyed the experience at school.
I miss those moments.
Do they still sell mousetrap shoes?
Contact Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or by email at [email protected]