Friday, September 11, 2020

Briefcase madeleine

[The Case Against Brooklyn (dir. Paul Wendkos, 1958). Click for a larger briefcase.]

Ahh, I get it — the case against Brooklyn. And the movie opens with a briefcase! I am belaboring the obvious.

This image was an instant madeleine for me: as a elementary-school kid in Brooklyn, I carried my books to school in an inexpensive knock-off that looked much like this briefcase. That’s what boys carried. High-school guys too. It was a pre-backpack world. I remember girls as carrying their books in bookstraps or in plaid bookbags, something like a fabric-and-vinyl version of a briefcase. Briefcases were made of genuine something — bonded leather? I remember the smell.

And I remember a briefcase for the start of school purchased from Century 21 on Brooklyn’s 86th Street. That’s the chain that just went out of business.

By sixth grade, I had switched to a metal attaché case. And when my family left Brooklyn for a New Jersey suburb, I found that carrying an attaché case was the cue for instant mockery. Mine promptly disappeared. The attaché case, that is. Not the mockery. Damn suburbs. Yes, abolish them.

Reader, did you carry your books to school in a briefcase?

A related post
NYC schooldays

comments: 5

Elaine said...

No, just a stack that I tried to keep from falling apart. The looseleaf notebook, the textbooks, and before long, an instrument case, plus a purse. We did not have bus service, as it was 0.9 miles to the HS. Did that for five years except when there was lightning.

Zhoen said...

I had a series of plastic tote bags. They never lasted a whole year, corners taped over repeatedly. I also covered all my schoolbooks in brown paper from grocery bags, which at least let me scribble on them. They belonged to the school and had to be returned in good shape - no writing in them.

Michael Leddy said...

I remember carrying everything in a stack under my arm in high school, with weird lines in my skin to show for it. And then there were book bags, denim bags with drawstrings, carried over the shoulder.

I haven ’t thought of book covers in years. I had paper-bag covers and sometimes the shiny collegiate bookcovers sold in stationery stores. I think paper bags worked better.

Murray Eisenberg said...

In junior high (as it was known then, before "Middle School" became the term) and high school I carried a stack by my side or in the crook of my arm, usually with some kind of strap around them and some kind of protective cover in inclement weather. Although my high school was all-boys, I remember that in junior high the girls would always carry their books in front of their chests, most often using both arms and hands.

Two comments refer to book covers. At my high school each term when we were issued textbooks we were expected to purchase a printed, thinly plasticized paper cover which came in a large sheet and we had to cut down or fold and tape around the book's cover. This was a bit of a scam, as the handiest place to buy those covers was in the school's basement store, whose profits went to supporting athletic teams.

Michael Leddy said...

A school store — what a racket! :) Then again, the easy access probably helped with keeping the books in good shape.