My School Suitcase

Who remembers going to school with a brown (box) suitcase before the nap-sacks became popular?

Good ol’ Faithful From Way Back Then
Still In Great Condition


In looking around my things for putting my Granddaughter’s collection of crayons and colouring books into, I suddenly thought how perfect a small suitcase would be – you know – the ones we used to have ‘in the old days’ for school.

And memories came flooding back – that wonderful smell of a brand new case every time I opened it up – clicking the latches open and close just to enjoy the sensation-
for Gooooodssssake stop that bloody clicking – Sorry Mum – and that’s the last case we’re buying you, do you understand – yes Mum – do you all think money grows on bluddy trees? – No Mum.

-and finally packing my homework books into the new pristine case with neat precision from the rather battered old, multi-sat-on, inverted-top, cracked-dent-edged, sticker-covered, Mazowe-orange-juice-spilt-stains-with- encrusted-bread-crumbs and several blue-Quink-ink-spills of several years old.

My first case was the smallest model with a single-latch for starting school in KG 1, Bindura Junior School. I can still remember this day so well, terrified and clutching my mother’s hand with my new case in the other as she walked me to school just a few yards down the road from where we lived. Everything was new, hat, shoes, socks and school uniform – large to grow into and last longer (all uniforms in our family were bought a size larger and this principle remained right through with all 5 of us till the last one left school with the result that in late junior and senior school my eldest brother refused new clothes so he could be seen in the then fashion of very tight, crotch-strangling really-short shorts – but I digress)

So my first day was all and everything new from the experience of sitting at a desk to exercise books with far-apart blue lines (to be taken home and covered in brown paper) and pencils. When break time came, I nervously collected my case and found a place to sit in the ‘playground’ alone. My comfort came in opening my suitcase to find a Marmite sandwich wrapped in greaseproof paper and a square-edged plastic bottle filled with Mazowe orange juice. I will never ever forget the combined smells that came from my new case and how delicious the sandwich and orange juice tasted.

Somewhere between infant and senior school, we moved over to leather satchels (but that’s another story). As the weight of increased homework books increased in senior years, we went back to suitcases. In retrospect and especially in the case of my sister and I,  I wonder if the reasoning behind this return to the case was because the weight of the satchel pulled our shoulders right back thus innocently causing our budding boobs to stand out proud (and perhaps a tad provocatively) – not a good thing in my protective mother’s eyes.


My second most loved item bought for school was a wooden pencil box for Standard 2 at the Dominican Convent, Salisbury.  It was a double-decker one with a sliding lid and the top section swivelling open on a screw at its base. It was filled with a new rubber, pencil sharpener, 2 pencils and in the lower section 12 Derwent crayons which Dad had carefully sliced a 1 inch piece of paint off the bottom to write my name into it. Again I loved the combined smell of especially the new wood, crayons and the rubber. This case lasted most my school years – Now I wonder what happened to it? Did I simply chuck it out? What a shame.)

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