Where Have All the Pee Chees Gone?

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The sting of back-to-school blues is partly soothed by the small thrill of purchasing new school supplies for our kids. With this end-of-summer exercise comes the belief that annually accompanies it: This will be the most organized school year ever.

A full set of markers with matching lids beckons a map of a foreign country to be drawn. Glue, which with one easy twist of the orange grooved top, allows unobstructed flow. Three-ring binders, stocked full of crisp white notebook paper, summon extra credit.

The waxy aroma of a new box of crayons and the sawdust scent of Ticonderoga No. 2s replace the aroma of sunscreen and backyard barbecues.

Crayons celebrated their 107th birthday this year. The design of the small art sticks remains the same. But as the collective conscience of America has changed through the years, Flesh was renamed Peach and Chestnut replaced Indian Red.

Pencils in one form or another date back to the Romans. And the only real change in Elmer’s glue since the ’40s? Glass containers gave way to plastic.

Even with the invention of iPods, laptops and iPads, the comfort of crayons, pencils, or glue are certain to be with us for years to come. Yet other staples on our back-to-school list seem to have been left behind like vegetables on a school lunch tray.

Where have Pee Chee folders gone?

The folders, first introduced in 1943, were an indispensible part of every student’s identity for years. The cover of a Pee Chee folder was a vital avenue of self expression.

By Christmas vacation (now known as winter break), the drawings of the football players, tennis players, and runners on the track became covered. We doodled, wrote band names, lyrics, phone numbers, addresses of parties, political phrases we knew little about (“Free the Hostages”) or solidarity statements (“Homework Sucks”).

By Easter vacation (now spring break), our Pee Chees had become soft from wear. The center fold grew weak and thin under the weight of too many papers.

While the outside of the Pee Chee was sports and fun, the inside was all business.  Printed on the inside in capital letters: “USEFUL INFORMATION,” as the Mead Co. called it. Multiplication tables and metric conversions for our reference.

And speaking of the inside of a Pee Chee folder, how genius was the vertical side pocket design? Loose leaf papers were shoved in either side of the folder, ensuring the safety of algebra assignments, book reports, and notes to friends. Much better than the traditional pocket folders which risked embarrassing paper spills if lifted upside down.

Will our kids ever know the joy and possibilities of a Pee Chee folder?

Perhaps not, but rumors that the best folders on Earth are gone forever are not true. I verified it on the Internet. They even come in more colors: green, red, dark blue and light blue.

But we know a real Pee Chee folder is what Crayola calls “goldenrod.”

You still have time to purchase a Pee Chee folder before school starts. Just understand you are doing it more for yourself than your kids.

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