Going Back to School: The 1970s vs Today


Back to School, 1970s

1. Take the kids downtown to go shopping at Sears for back to school clothes the last week of August. Get everyone a new pair of corduroys and a striped tee shirt. Buy the boys a pair of dungarees and the girls a pair of culottes. No, Jennifer, you can’t have that orange and red poncho. Promise you will crochet her a better one with much more fringe. Get the girls a package of that rainbow, fuzzy yarn they like in their hair. You are done. You have spent a total of $43.00. Now take everyone to the Woolworth’s lunch counter for grilled cheeses and chocolate milk.

2. On the night before the first day of school (that would be the Sunday night after Labor Day, of course, you know, mid-September) throw the kids in the way back of the station wagon and drag them downtown to Eckerds, K-Mart, Ames, Dollar General, Drug Fair or the like and hurry them over to the back-to-school area to pick out a lunchbox. Make sure to tell them get a move on because you don’t have all night for them to make a damn decision. They need to get in bed by eight and yes, they’re going to miss the Wonderful World of Disney if they can’t decide between The Fonz and Dukes of Hazzard. Good Lord, why is it so hard for them to pick? Tell Kimberly if she can’t make up her mind between Holly Hobbie and The Bionic Woman then you’re going to pick Pigs in Space and you don’t want to hear another word about it until June. Grab a composition book for each of them and a pack of pencils too. That’s all they need. Remember to save some grocery bags so they can cover their textbooks with them after the first day of school.

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3. Buy yourself a pack of Virginia Slims on the way out and smoke three of them on the way home.

4. Get up in the morning and make yourself a cup of Sanka with Sweet ‘n’ Low. Line up all the lunchboxes on the formica counter top in your kitchen. Open up a bag of Wonder Bread and do this assembly line style.
bologna5. Spread yellow mustard on bread. Slap bologna on bread. Unwrap American cheese slices and put on top of bologna. Put top on the sandwich and wrap sandwich in tin foil or wax paper. Put it in the lunchbox. Every kid gets the same exact lunch. Period.

6. Alternate sandwich choices could include: Peanut butter and grape jelly, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, the end of last night’s leftover roast beef or the ever popular with children tuna fish with large chunks of onions and celery and Miracle Whip.

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7. Put some Planter’s Cheese Balls into a baggie and close with a twist tie.

8. Take Twinkies out of the box. Put one in each child’s lunch box.


9. Fill thermoses with either Kool-Aid or whole milk.

10. Include a red delicious apple even though you know that damned apple is just going to come home uneaten again, which is fine because you can keep adding the same one until it practically rots.

11. Close the lunchboxes. You’re done. Go put some Barry Manilow on the record player and celebrate that your kids are out of the house until dinner time. They’ll grab them, along with a frosted, dutch apple Pop-Tart on the way out the door as they walk a half mile down the road to get to the bus stop.

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Back to School, 2014

1. Take five deep breaths and say a positive affirmation. School begins in two weeks. It is the middle of July. Don’t worry, you still have time to order BPA-free bento boxes and authentic Indian tiffins made with special stainless steel that did not involve any child-labor, sweat shops or animal cruelty. Remember, you have Amazon Prime. You can get the free two day shipping and you will have plenty of time to read reviews and make this very important decision because your kids are in summer “camp” which is actually just another word for school in the summer because OH MY GOD you were so tired that day you had to have them home all day with you and you couldn’t go to your restorative flow class at yoga. And that was also the day something went terribly wrong with the homemade glitter cloud dough recipe that was supposed to go in their sensory bin and the very same day that they were out of soy milk at Starbucks and you had to immediately email corporate to let them know that duh, they should actually be selling almond milk and/ or coconut milk. Get with it Starbucks. Soy is so 90s. Ugh, but you digress. The tiffin. The bento boxes…

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2. One Week Later: The bento boxes and tiffins have arrived. So has your childrens’ school’s annual list of school supplies that you must purchase and deliver. It is three and a half pages long. It includes a ten pound bag of flour and several cleaning products and also requests a Costco-sized package of toilet paper.


3. Begin frantic online search for backpacks and school bags made from all natural materials yet still “cool.” Have them monogrammed.

4. Take kids shopping at the mall for new school clothes. Buy them each a completely new wardrobe from Gymboree and Crew Cuts. Spend $2,387.07 on your credit card.

5. Take children to the child psychologist to prepare them mentally for the difficult transition to a new grade, new teacher and new classroom.

6. Intently study the allergy list the school has sent you which lists all the items that other children in your children’s classes are allergic to and thus cannot be sent in your child’s lunch either. This is extremely stressful because the last thing you (or anyone) wants to be responsible for is sending a second grader into anaphylactic shock. Make notes on your phone so you can remember what not to buy when you go to Whole Foods.

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7. Purchase school supplies for your children. Not to be confused with the 3 1/2 page list of classroom supplies you are also responsible for. They will need paper, pens, folders, notebooks, a calligraphy set, fifteen new apps for their tablets, a graphing calculator, a scalpel, an electron microscope and a centrifuge.

8. Go to Whole Foods to shop for school lunch items. This will take 4 hours and 15 minutes because you have to read every single label to make sure you are purchasing organic, locally sourced, non-GMO, gluten-free, allergy friendly products. You come home with tahini, bananas and a package of brown rice cakes. You somehow spent $76.19.


9. The night before the first day of school prepare the bento boxes. Fill containers with organic, local strawberries intricately cut into the shapes of sea creatures. Include homemade, nut-free granola made with certified gluten-free oats. Make a sandwich on vegan hemp bread out of tahini, kale and jicama. Form it into the shape of your child’s favorite Disney character. Make flowers out of non-dairy cheese slices, olives and seaweed. Photograph the finished Bento Box and post it to Instagram.

10. Write your child an encouraging note which includes an inspirational quote.

11. Include a sheet of stickers for good measure.

12. Fill a Siig bottle with filtered water and also include a box of chilled coconut water in the Bento Box because children can never be too hydrated. Ever.

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13. Blog about this experience. Pray it goes viral and is picked up by HuffPo.

14. Get up at 4AM on the first day of school. Make first day of school signs for each child to hold as you photograph them on the front step. Make a bunting to hang above the front door. Blow up balloons. Actually, go ahead and make a full on back to school photo booth.


15. Make pancakes in the shape of the letters of the alphabet.

16. Dress kids in coordinated outfits and spend 35 minutes posing and photographing them (with your phone).

17. Load everyone into the car to drive them to school.

18. When they are safely in their new classrooms, return to your car to cry for the next 20 minutes. But it’s okay, really. You’ll be back in six hours to pick them up and drive them to Synchronized Swimming, Cello and Urdu classes this afternoon.

Related post: 10 Ways to Give Your Kid a 1970’s Kind of Summer

About the writer


Victoria Fedden received her MFA in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University. Her blog, “Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds,” was voted 2011’s Best Humor Blog by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, and her personal essays have been anthologized in I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and My Other Ex. She also regularly contributes to Elephant Journal, and her writing has appeared on or is forthcoming from Scary Mommy, Babble, among other blogs and websites. She lives with her family in Fort Lauderdale and online at victoriafedden.com. Please visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/victoriacfedden for updates and inspiration.


Ashley bell 2 months ago

hi this comment is for the writer… The picture that follows this post on FB is one of my mother and some old friends…. She is in the overalls…. Can I ask where you got the picture? Just curious.

Shannan 2 months ago

SO funny! Things sure have changed. And for those commenters getting all upset, it’s SATIRE and written for humor. Lighten up and have a good laugh :)

Meg 3 months ago

hahaha…LOVE it!! Crazy what we parents have been driven to. Perhaps its just time to say “enough” :-)

Twinky Otis 3 months ago

Fabulous and so true!!!!

Gwenth 3 months ago

The joys of home schooling: Buy clothes through the year as they wear them out/outgrow them. Create your own curriculum for practically nothing (seriously I spent less than $30 this year) using the internet and a couple of text books from amazon. Spend about $30 on paper, pens, folders for each subject, etc.
Put in a lot of work and time through the year planning and teaching, but save thousands.

Dick Swank 3 months ago

So –Sooooooo True!!!!!!

Ann 3 months ago

It also could have said…after taking all the first day pictures on your phone immediately post them on Facebook, exclaiming what wonderful, amazing children you have! I taught in the 1970s and now. Yes things have changed!

Vonnie 3 months ago

I’m sure someone has already mentioned that you’re not supposed to put your children’s names on their backpacks because pedophiles, who are EVERYWHERE, will be able to lure them easier.

And calm down, Fran and everyone else feeling the obligatory outrage because outrage. It’s supposed to be satirical. Oh, right, having a sense of humor is another thing that has disappeared since the 70s. Where are my Virginia Slims? I’m gonna smoke while I watch reruns of Dukes of Hazz…oh, right.

Mary Hurley 3 months ago

zoh Lord did I enjoy this! I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my face!!! My children asked several times if I was laughing or cying! Brilliant depiction of thencand now!!!

Lynn 3 months ago

You nailed it! Life was so much easier in the 70s.

Barbara 3 months ago

So true. We need to chill. I’m more a 70 Mom so my kids don’t expect the 2000’s as much as some. Thank goodness they are more layed back about “things”. I wouldn’t be able to deal!

Jeni 3 months ago

This story is fun and campy! Made me miss easier times and wish people today could relax.

Heather 3 months ago

I’m crying laughing. Thank you

Fran 10 months ago

Wow, the HATE in this article is so strong you can feel it. How many people do you think are shopping at gymboree and whole foods? Do YOU shop there and spend $2,000 on clothes? The reason for the allergy thing is obviously because there were issues with kids getting sick. I agree on the amount of money parents have to spend, but that’s because REPUBLICANS gut Education every chance they get. Chris Christie cut education and then told a teacher if she didn’t like paying for supplies to stop being a teacher. Yeah that’s the solution for our system that’s 32nd or worse in the world. Also, what do you have against pictures? Although people do take a lot these days, but is a visual memento of your kids childhood a bad thing? Try not to be so bitter, jaded and angry and you can enjoy life a whole lot more. You ARE a scary mommy.

frugals 1 year ago

Interesting story and so true!

jessica 1 year ago

I was a kid of the 80s my sisters were 70s but this sounds so familar haha. We each got a new outfit and shoes. Glittery pensils and Lisa frank notebooks. Mom wrote our name on EVERYTHING. Pbj sandwichs every once in a while mom would treat with a lunchable. Now you can’t write your child’s name on the stuff cause your child probably won’t even use it. You buy the good crayons but your child ends up with the cheap off brand crap crayons. You buy the special soy peanut butter that the school approved but STILL get notes sent home. I started adding a note “to whom it may concern, this is NOT peanut butter.” And homework is hell.

Lucy 1 year ago

this isn’t true, my back to school is more like the “70’s”, I don’t spend that money, it’s all a lie!!!

Parthenia I. Dilday 1 year ago

At this time I am going to do my breakfast, once having my breakfast
coming over again to read additional news.

M.P.McDonald 1 year ago

Maybe there’s something wrong with me because my daughter’s 2014 is pretty much the same as my 1970. Started the day after Labor Day here. Only a few differences like substitute Kohl’s for Sears. –reused the backpack from last year so no need to buy a new one. Spent about $100.00 on clothes, but that included new shoes. Even the lunch is pretty much the same.

Maybe the above is how the rich do back to school?

Rose 1 year ago

Wow. Reading the comments and can’t stop laughing at all of you fighting. My goodness, we all went to school with pencils and notebooks. That’s it. So forgive me for thinking my child’s hundreds of dollars worth of school supplies is excessive. Tissues? Really? When I was a kid my mother gave me the little pack of tissues in my backpack. Now I have to supply the classroom? And oh my goodness, we would go to the bathroom (down the hall!! Not IN the classroom!!) if we needed to wash our hands. It was tragic, a travesty, I tell you! and yet we all survived. Sigh…

ValariAnne 1 year ago

Seriously, your expected to cater to every other kids allergies? That is ridiculous!! There were kids in school with allergies when I was growing up and we weren’t told what we could and couldn’t eat because someone else had an allergy. And I don’t ever remember anyone going having a serious allergy episode!!
So how is it all those kids survived the school year?
It’s all part of the “every one else is responsible for me” attitude we have somehow gotten into the habit of. Back then if you had an allergy you were taught to stay away from whatever it was you were allergic to instead of making an ENTIRE classroom responsible for YOUR health problems.
Thank god I’m not a parent today!! There is NO WAY I would accept this nonsense!

Lee 1 year ago

So funny! I had the Holly Hobbie lunch box but rarely used it. My mother would leave 3 piles consisting of a quarter and dime on the kitchen table so we could buy school lunch. Yup, lunch was 35 cents, except on Friday pizza days when we could get a second slice for another dime and then there would be a quarter with two dimes. We had to tell our teacher in the morning if we were going to purchase lunch and if we wanted that extra slice. Of course if it was a Tuesday or a Thursday, we had the option of chocolate milk vs. plain! Very often school lunch dessert was peanut and raisins served in a little cup. No one went into anaphylactic shock.
Back to school shopping consisted of a pair of Nikes, Levi’s “dungarees”, corduroys, a pair of Dickies khaki pants, a couple of turtlenecks and one Fair Isle sweater to be embroidered with our initials. We would have to sweat it out for the last few weeks of September until it got colder in October. Of course after the first day of school we would then realize that we desperately need Gloria Vanderbilt and/or Calvin Klein jeans and would beg our parents for them right up until Christmas when, if we were lucky, they became our “big” gift.

Robyn 1 year ago

I knew in childhood that I was deprived. I never got a Twinky in my lunchbox. LOL. (enjoyed the post very much)

holly 1 year ago

Sorry. Not in my house. I shopped last years end of season clearances. The kids get school lunch free in our district so they get whatever the school is making. I was an 80s kid. Fun read.

Andrea 1 year ago

I had a Flipper lunch box, but we never got bologna or white bread. My dad was an early health food guy, and at the time I hated it because I got teased for my lunch with fruit, nuts and whole wheat bread sandwhiches. My mom also used to pack hard boiled eggs, and more than once she mixed up the cooked with the raw and I ended up with a raw egg which I cracked on my friend’s head one time. Of course I was mortified. Funny now! LOVED RIDING IN THE WAY BACK and took a family vacation to Mexico in the 70’s riding back there the whole time.

Bmad 1 year ago

Love the humor but you missed the biggest point.. The parents of today were the kids of the 70s (I’m one!) Why did they get so crazy? What’s the connection? The kids didn’t change, the parents did. It goes back to our baby Boomer parents … Aka.. “America’s most spoiled.” I’d Love to hear an analysis of the generational influence starting with them… No one has the guts.

Tiffany 1 year ago

WOW – I can see a lot of the above comments got very off topic. But on the other hand I am a mom today and I loved this post! I also loved the comments about riding in the back seat of the station wagon facing the other way! Been there and done that!

    Love 1 year ago

    In the bio box at the end of the article: Victoria Fedden is a writer, mother, remedial yogi and occasional English teacher from Fort Lauderdale, Florida….She blogs at http://www.widelawns.blogspot.com

    Guests posts are frequently found both here and on the authors’ original blogs.

Rachel 1 year ago

Sigh… I’m such a failure as a 21st century mom. Someone send me back to the 70’s!

Pam 1 year ago

This is spot on and hysterical!

Sean Dew 1 year ago

See here is the thing, all of these extra supplies aren’t for your children they are usually pooled together for other peoples children, while schools are using state and federal funds for socially relevant projects(read Communistic) you are expected to make up the difference. This is the result of allowing 60’s leftists take over our education system … Wow this should be in Ripply’s Believe it or Not.

Sarah H 1 year ago

What the heck is a Bento box? I was born in the 1980s and have no clue about this 2014 crap lol


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