As students in the 1950s we were given a set of school books at the start of each school year. Each book had a number written on the inner front cover and our school nuns would dutifully make note of what numbers each of us were assigned. We were then charged with not only the use of those textbooks but with their care as well – they needed to be returned at the end of the school year in pretty much the same condition that we got them. That meant no marking of pages, writing in the books, or turning down the corners of the pages as we progressed through the year.
One of the easiest ways to keep our textbooks clean was to cover the book. Nowadays book covers can be bought for a few cents each and have images of superheroes or sweet things like puppies or butterflies on them. They are colorful, bright, and cheerful. But back in the 1950s our parents couldn’t afford those book covers that were available. So it was with great anticipation that we would await the first grocery trip of the school season.
Do you remember it? Once those heavy-weight grocery bags were emptied we got to take our pick. Gently we used a pair of mom’s scissors to cut the bag open so that it laid flat. Allowing enough room for the flaps, we would put those scissors to work creating sturdy book covers that fit each textbook with precision. A piece of Scotch tape kept the inner flaps from opening. Then with pen or marker we created the artwork that identified each book. Some of us liked to keep it simple, simply writing the book’s subject on its spine – History, Geography, Grammar, etc. Then there were those of us who drew things, like clouds or cute animals on those covers. Sometimes we’d even get creative and draw our school’s team name and mascot.
There were several things that held true about those home-made book covers. As we wrapped our textbooks we would most assuredly be the recipient of at least one paper-cut on our fingers which required a band-aid and some TLC from our mom. But those book covers were sturdy – they held up to our daily use for ten months of daily use!