Five Essential Non-Essential “Essential” School Supplies of the 80’s and 90’s

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s was incredibly fun. It was the start of the video game boom. Toy manufacturers decided to produce 30 minute animated commercials for their products and kids enjoyed both the toys and the cartoons to bits. It was also the time when superstars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone started pumping out testosterone fueled action films filled with people just shooting at stuff without caring about politically correct people saying that all that bloodshed will affect the children. And television shows were just silly fun but did try to give us a lesson or two at the end of the day. Ah, those were the days!

You know what was a bummer about growing up during the time, though? School. Well, school is a bummer for everyone no matter the time period. But there were a few ways to alleviate the pain of going to school. In fact, some of them were absolutely necessary to bring to school because, well, everyone had them! It was almost a requirement!

So, below are just five of those non-essential school supplies you just had to bring to school during the 80’s and 90’s!

1. Robot watch

I guess the timing for this product was just right. The incredibly awesome Transformers cartoon was just released and the toys were selling like hotcakes. Too bad some of them were really pricey so only the rich kids could get them. Also, some schools wouldn’t allow kids to bring toys inside the premises as school officials felt they would be too much of a distraction from all the (boring) learning the children had to do.

But they couldn’t stop us from bringing in a totally innocent looking watch, could they?

Robots in disguise!

Robots in disguise!

While incredibly simplistic and doesn’t lead much in articulation, the robot watch was definitely the kind of watch you wanted to bring to school. Yes, it could tell you what time it was so that you can count down the number of minutes before school ended. But the robot watch had the additional benefit on turning into a nifty little robot to play with during recess and, sometimes, when there was a boring lecture.¬†These things were great for passing the time, pun intended.

2. Coleman Thermoses 

Studying and learning can be incredibly thirsty work. So, of course you needed to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. That’s probably the reason/excuse why kids during the 80’s and 90’s just had to bring an entire 1-gallon Coleman Thermos with them. I’m not really sure if anyone could polish off the contents during one day so people with a Coleman Thermos would usually share its contents with a lot of their friends. Not particularly sanitary but it’s the sentiment that counts.

With a handy singular spout so you can share your spit with everyone else.

With a handy singular spout so you can share your spit with everyone else.

While the Coleman Thermos is still in use nowadays, I don’t really think kids really find the need to bring these huge jugs anymore. It’s probably more cool to have one of those plastic water bottles as they are smaller and easier to bring. And it’s going to be more convenient just to get yourself a bottle of Coke so you don’t have to lug the container around the entire day. But there was a certain impractical charm to having the Coleman Thermos with you before.

3. Plastic lunch boxes

I do know that lunch boxes are still being used by kids these days. But they don’t seem to be the same kind as the 80’s and 90’s. They’re functionally similar but the designs are more utilitarian and plain. They’re usually made out of cloth instead of hard plastics and, instead of having bulky locks and clasps, you use zippers to keep them closed. Lame!

And they feature less fighting robots nowadays

And they feature less fighting robots nowadays

Like the aforementioned Coleman Thermos, plastic lunch boxes were bulky and inconvenient. And they were actually prone to breaking because… kids are kids. Children would do stupid things like sit on them or throw and kick them around just for the heck of it. But these little lunch containers were a joy to have around as they would have pictures of your favorite cartoons on them. So, all you needed was a plastic lunch box with your favorite cartoon embossed on its side and a vivid imagination to wile the minutes away.

4. Pencil case with buttons

Now, this was the thing all school going children should have! I have to give props to whoever had the bright idea to look at the humble pencil case and think, “Nope, we can definitely make this cooler.” It would’ve been easy if he went the lunch box route and slapped a few popular cartoons and shows on it. But he actually made pencil cases a marvel of engineering by making it a contraption with tons of buttons.

The more the better!

The more the better!

A lot of the buttons were just to open up the pencil case’s various compartments which you could’ve done without the use of a special switch. But they were a whole lotta fun and actually made taking out your favorite pen or pencil out a whole new adventure.

5. Trapper Keeper

Anyone can carry a notebook to class. That’s boring! What you really needed to keep all your valuable school notes during the 80’s and 90’s was your handy Trapper Keeper! Why? Because they’re cool, that’s why!

This is one of the more "plain" designs

This is one of the more “plain” designs

Trapper Keepers are glorified manila envelopes that had a ring binder in them. That’s all they were. But there was just something indistinguishably radical (yes, radical is the best way to describe them) about whipping out your Trapper Keeper whenever there was a need to jot down some notes. They also had the adverse benefit of being large enough so that you can doodle on them without your teachers knowing that you weren’t paying attention in class.

Are there any other “important” school supplies from your childhood you can think of? Let me know what they are in the comments section below!

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