August is almost in the can, and if you have kids, they’re probably losing their minds over their dwindling summer vacations. Go easy on ‘em: September used to be a rough transition for us, too.
Thinking back, the one thing that made the back-to-school season halfway tolerable was getting all-new supplies. Oh, the thrill that came with a shiny new Trapper Keeper, or a Jansport bookbag patterned in army fatigues. The world was our oyster!
Star Wars fans of a certain age should have no trouble remembering that phenomenon. Back in the early ‘80s — the Return of the Jedi era — students could stock up on tons of Star Wars-themed school supplies, running the gamut from spiral notebooks to figural erasers. I can scarcely recall even one single back-to-school “thing” that didn’t come in “Darth Vader.”
While serving their practical purposes just fine, we really wanted those supplies to bolster our ever-growing Star Wars toy collections. That little rubber Gamorrean Guard erased mistakes, sure, but he was just at home in our old Kenner playsets.
Below are six examples of vintage Star Wars school supplies, and I’ll remind you that these aren’t even a tenth of what was out there. Stuff like this made back-to-school feel more like a birthday!
These safety scissors protected kids from accidentally turning their school supplies into stabbing implements, but more importantly, each pair came adorned with a lenticular Star Wars image!
View it from one angle, and Darth Vader watches over you. Turn it to the side, and suddenly you’re staring down an Imperial Shuttle!
Given that they came with their own inbuilt distraction, it’s a good thing that these were safety scissors.
This Return of the Jedi pencil case gave us a rather “editorialized” synopsis of Luke and Vader’s famous duel. Notice how the Death Star appears more like a futuristic greenhouse? And how Emperor Palpatine is mysteriously absent?
It feels more representative of a pre-shoot rehearsal, where Hamill and Prowse sorted out their choreographic kinks before the cameras started to roll.
…which is pretty awesome, if you think about it.
Well, this just proves what I mentioned earlier: To kids, these were more “toys” than “supplies.”
Really, there’s no other explanation for glow-in-the-dark erasers. If you plan to refute this claim, be prepared with even one theoretical instance where a child would be erasing in the dark.
Pop-A-Point Pencils were essentially extra complicated versions of common mechanical pencils, but I think dealing with a few extra steps was worth having pencils that said “MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU” on them.
Really digging that high-contrast Vader art, too. Very Shepard Fairey. Darth Vader has a posse?
Of course, if you preferred regular pencils, you were gonna need a pencil sharpener. Star Wars had you covered on that front, too.
I like the subtle implication that Darth Vader hated it when we sharpened pencils. Look at him standing over the entry point like a ticked off gatekeeper.
Best of all was an immense line of Return of the Jedi collectible erasers, which were quite literally miniature action figures. There were around a dozen characters in the set, from Max Rebo to Wicket W. Warrick.
In a neat touch, the package art reflected each specific character. Darth Vader was fittingly situated in a Death Star environment, but if you bought, say, the Bib Fortuna eraser, the package would then look like Jabba’s Palace. Really, these were out-and-out TOYS. The only thing betraying their true purpose was the oddly arousing “eraser scent.”
Now, imagine it: You’re a little kid. You’re going back to school. You’re nervous and you’re overwhelmed. Wouldn’t Star Wars scissors and pencils take a bit of the edge off?
Remember that the next time your kid wants the notebook that costs an extra dollar just because it has a cartoon character on it!