Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back to school: buying supplies at G.C. Murphy

I'm going to take a break from writing about the pool because kids are back in school and that evoked some back-to-school memories of buying school supplies at G.C. Murphy.

Murphy's, located at 561 Merchant Street where the Dollar General store now is, was my favorite place to buy school supplies. They were sold in the annex connected to the right of the main store and to the left of Enlow's Shoes.

The school supplies were located toward the back of the annex, on the left side. I loved to look over the pencils, erasers, rulers, and tiny notebooks sold individually and stocked on a waist-high wooden counter with glass partitions forming a small bin for each type of item.

There were big, fat black pencils if you were just learning to print; yellow #2 pencils; small plastic pencil sharpeners; cap erasers to put on the top of your pencil after you wore away its original eraser; pink wedge erasers--didn't they smell good?; wooden and a variety of plastic rulers; metal scissors with blunt tips so you didn't poke out an eye if you fell while running with them. Those scissors tended not to cut very well, but safety first!

But even though I could, and often did, buy those supplies separately, in my early elementary years, nothing was more wonderful than getting a pretty cardboard pencil box already filled with school supplies. The pencil box usually had products that were inferior to the supplies sold separately: one or two pencils; a small, hard eraser; a plastic pencil sharpener; a thin plastic six-inch ruler; a small plastic protractor; and a few waxy crayons. But it had compartments! And my favorite pencil box of all time had two levels; the lower one was a drawer that slid out.

When I got older I liked buying ball point pens--I favored inexpensive, retractable and refillable ones with blue ink and colored plastic barrels.

I never got really excited about black composition books, tablets, or binders, but once I got into high school, no binder was acceptable except one covered with blue denim cloth and a spring clip inside the front cover. I know some kids would write or draw on theirs, but I didn't do that. I preferred mine unadorned.

But Crayola Crayons! Now those were exciting! Especially once I got beyond the thick ones used by kindergarteners and early elementary kids. More colors. More choices about number of Crayons in the box: 16, 24, 32! I was never fond of the smaller boxes because they didn't have my two favorite colors: midnight blue and burnt sienna. Of course, after 1958 when Crayola introduced the big 64 Crayon box--with a sharpener built into the box!--I wanted needed it. A box that big wasn't always practical for a small girl carrying a small bookbag to take to school. But at home, oh, yeah!

1 comment:

  1. The G.C. Murphy Company on Merchant Street - I remember doing my Christmas shopping there.

    I had a few dollars to spend. Let's see, Jimmy needs a new key chain with a lucky rabbit's foot. The yellow-green ones are nice.

    Chuckie wants one of those erasable tablets. Just lift the film and you get a clean sheet of "paper". It comes with a handy stylus.

    Dave would like one of those puzzles - move one
    of the nine little tiles to the empty square until you've got a complete picture - (kind of a two-dimensional Rubik's Cube).

    I wanted to get Donnie the face enclosed in plastic with the six little beads that you move around until you fill in the eyes, nose, mouth (and ears?). I didn't know if Donnie was old enough for it, but it was cheaper than a coloring book.

    My Dad had to stop in at Mellon Bank, just across the street, but before that, couldn't I have a ride on the horse outside on the sidewalk?

    There he was, his legs outstretched, his eyes and nose wide with excitement. He was the same color as Roy Rogers' horse. A little bit smaller.

    OK, up in the saddle.

    Dad, you have to put a dime in it.

    Bobby, you've had enough, get off the horse.

    I grabbed Trigger by the neck and dug in. Dad tried to pry me loose.

    I wasn't going anywhere. My head began to overheat. My face turned red. Respiration stopped.

    A chain reaction had begun. I had reached critical mass.

    Call Admiral Rickover.

    Too late, the kid is in full meltdown.