Vintage back-to-school supplies we love and miss

1951 Dodge School Bus


Here in the Lone Star State, and across the country, the new school year is officially in session! And it got us to thinking of all of the school supplies we loved so dearly as we were growing up. So in true retro fashion, we  thought we’d put together a list of some of our favorite back-to-school supplies.

Looking back it’s hard not to get nostalgic when remembering our school days, and just how exciting new school supplies could be.  Aside from new clothes and hairstyles,  nothing was more exciting than heading to school with a backpack full of new school supplies!

Kids these days are required to purchase dry erase markers and glue sticks. But in our day, it was all about Husky pencils and rubber cement glue.

So take a walk with us down memory lane, as we look back at a few of our favorite vintage school supplies. And special thanks to all of our Facebook Fans who helped us to compile this list, we’ve given each of you a special mention. 🙂

husky pencils

Thanks to Robin Huterchson-Culp for her vote for “big fat #2 pencils.” We looked all over the web and this was the only picture we could find of the elusive Husky Pencil.

LePage Glue

Thanks to Robin again for her second vote for LePage’s Gripspreader Mucilage. We forgot all about this classic glue! It was also hard to find online, but that may have been because we couldn’t remember the name . 🙂

Rubber Cement Glue

Even if you aren’t familiar with LePage’s, you have to remember the potent fumes of rubber cement and its snotty-like consistency (go ahead and cringe, but you know it’s true).


Pastels were a must-have for art projects (and a nightmare for all moms who had to wash out the stains).

Big Chief Tablet

 At first glance, Big Chief was intimidating to say the least, but its ruled lines were every grade schoolers’ friend when it came to their ABCs and 123s.

Thanks to Hayden Ray Austin for his vote for notebooks.

trapper keeper

Trapper Keepers were the ultimate school supply & fashion accessory all-in-one. You were definitely a cool kid if you had a Trapper Keeper.

Thanks Paul Kulish for this vote!

trapper keeper

And just to keep it fair,  here’s one for the ladies.

Triangular crayons

We loved the anti-roll crayons. They were probably one of the few things we had a firm grip on at that age. 🙂

64 count crayons with sharpener

And with age (and better dexterity) came the Holy Grail of creativity, the 64-count Crayola Crayon box with built-in sharpener. Never before (nor since) had we been offered so many options. 🙂  Thanks to Charles Barilleaux for his vote on these!

Did you see your favorite back to school supplies here? Did we miss any that you just couldn’t live without? Let us know!


Filed under School Supplies

43 responses to “Vintage back-to-school supplies we love and miss

  1. Pingback: A Few Random Morning Links … | The Pretense of Knowledge

  2. Joe Miller

    Around 1962 there was a vinyl binder that held paper from the top. The mechanism that held the paper was magnetic and had space to hold pencils as well. I can’t remember who made it and can’t find any pictures of it. It completely disappeared in about a year.

  3. Anne

    I’ve been looking for the name of this notebook, too. The top would fold over to the back, and I think you could even prop it like an easel … I had a blue one.

  4. JJ Gittes

    The brand name of this top loading notebook, which was indeed launched
    for the 62-63 academic year, was “Nifty.” It came in a few colors, and required non-conventional two-hole punched top margin notebook paper.
    The magnetic mechanism was sturdy, and it was more compact than the
    common three ring, blue cloth clad multi-subject notebooks of the era.
    And yes, it had a rather short product arc, possibly gone within a year or so.
    Nifty it was!

  5. Nancy

    I attended Catholic school in the 60’s. The nuns had rubber stamps for grading papers–I would love to see them again- they were angels, a set of about 4, the first one was smiling radiantly for excellent work, the last angel was weeping for poor work!

    • Hey Nancy, thanks for stopping by and commenting! How neat were those angels?! Even when delivering sometimes bad news, they were still heavenly. 🙂

    • Patricia Clark

      I had a Nifty in Catholic school too – for a day. Then the nuns told us we couldn’t have them. Had to have regular 3 ring binders.

    • Peter

      WOW….. I have been looking for the same stamps for years. Any idea where they may be found. I wanted to give them to my cousin who is now teaching as a gift. They were used by my teachers in 2nd and 3rd grade. The ink used was usually blue or red. One said excellent, one Very Good, etc

    • WOW .I have been looking for those same rubber Angel Stamps for years with no success. I remember them vividly, They were used by the teachers in 2nd and 3rd grade. i also attended Catholic school in the Diocese of Brooklyn, nyc in the 60s ( elementary school), The ink used was blue or red. One said Excellent, One said Very good, one said Try Harder, another Poor. Any idea where they can be found ? I would like to give them to my cousin who is now a teacher.

  6. gary

    My favorite Nofty Notebook used normal 5 hole notebook paper but had the magnetic latch and pencil box and was called the Nifty College Binder. I had one until the early 70s’ I really miss that notebook..I never cared for the top holed version favorite pen is the Sheafer fine point cartridge pen..still have 3 of those and 2 medium points Michaels still carries the ink cartridges 5 colors..for 6 bucks..I’m thinking about making my own ‘Nifty’. I had hoped to find one on line..but..alas not so..

  7. I still have (and use) my top folding magnetic closure notebook from 1962 with pencil compartment. So much more convenient than other notebooks. Frustrating to not be able to buy 2 hole top punch lined loose leaf paper. I have to punch my own.

  8. Jennifer

    I can’t believe I found someone who remembers those notebooks!!! I have been looking to find one! I had one In the late 70’s early 80’s….we would put our puffy and scratch and sniff stickers on them. Just the same as early 60’s though, they came out for a couple of years then stopped. I had a turquoise one.

  9. Willene

    I still have my white Nifty notebook and I bought my mother a blue one long long time ago. I just wish I could find the paper

  10. Willene

    I can’t find mine, asked my brother to take one of blue one and send me.

  11. Willene

    I sent you an email with five pictures

  12. Willene

    I sent in a picture of my white one a month or so ago, it may have been too light to show up

  13. Thomas Smith

    I have a brown Nifty notebook. I’m looking for the paper for it. Might have to make my own pad for it.

  14. Bonnie Fritch

    I remember my Nifty notebook very well. It was a top loader and was green. School supplies were almost unheard of for left-handers and it was very difficult to write left-handed in a three ring binder. I loved it. It was not until I started to college that I experienced left-handed desks. The world just became a whole lot easier for me.

  15. jan

    I’m glad everyone feels nostalgic about the Nifty Top Punch notebook, though I was not a fan. I was forced to use one while everyone else in class got to use the side punch. I was the only left-handed kid in class and it embarrassed me to be told I had to have the top punch.

  16. Wil Chambers

    Paper is easy to get. Go to your local stationery and show them what you are needing and they can drill it for you fairly cheaply.

  17. Brenda

    How about the the denim covered binder. You were definitely a big kid when you had one of these!

  18. Jerry

    There was a jingle on TV that I remember. “Take a nifty binder to school with you and if you’re wise get all your school supplies wherever you see the nifty…drum major.

  19. Carol

    I remember the drum major! He was leaned back at a ridiculous angle. I loved my blue Nifty from 1962. I’m a lefty too.

  20. Mary Shearer

    I loved my blue Nifty binder!

  21. Len

    I have a vintage gold and white school notebook with a built in pen stand in the corner that swings out of the way to open the notebook. It has a fold over tab with a snap to keep it closed and 3 indented spots for your initials. Has anyone ever seen one of these??

  22. Patricia Nuhfer

    I am looking for the 1960 and 1970 school writing paper tablets with the pa. Map as a cover

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