Much like lunch boxes, the type of folder/notebook configuration you carried while in grade school could make or break your social status. Nobody wanted to be that kid that had to lug his homework around in a navy blue three ring binder that said "I Got Financed by Deerfield Bank & Loan". No, we wanted brand name school supplies. If we were going to have to look at this thing all year, it needed to be badass. It needed to have pockets and velcro. It need to double as a Hot Wheels car ramp or a bully-repellant (yes, i once whacked a bigger kid in the face with one of these). It needed to carry not only our homework, but our artistic masterpieces, our current favorite comic books and the occasional stashed love note from that cute girl in the third row.
It had to be a Trapper Keeper.
I got my first Trapper Keeper in 4th grade, in 1982. It was a sleek basic red model, and back then, most Trapper Keepers were a single color. Later, they would come adorned with zany graphics of dinosaurs riding skateboards and whatnot, but in my day, it was all about clean, crisp primary colors.
I would get a new Trapper Keeper every school year up through 8th grade (in 5th grade, I went for the beautiful blue model seen in these pics). For a kid that hated school (well, I hated homework, teachers, learning and that kind of stuff, but loved school because that's where all my friends were), I sure got all excited about new school supplies every year, and the Trapper Keeper was sort of the king of all school supplies as far as I was concerned. Your notebooks, pencils, rulers, erasers and all other manner of school necessities were sort of like little star fighters and troop transports and my Trapper Keeper was the mothership.
After searching for ages for just the right Trapper Keeper (and one that's affordable), I finally scored this little beauty on eBay for under $20 (many of them go for $50-$100 on eBay). When I finally got in in the mail, the very first thing I did was rip open that velcro and pull over the side pocket flap, only to get hit square in the face with the scents of freshly sharpened pencils, flecks of Crayola crayons and the rubbery flakes of those classic pink erasers, with just the slightest hint of ball point pen ink.
This was a time capsule grade school memories and I had triggered the trap.
Trapper Keepers consist of several compartments and features, such as the inner pocket, which in my day was often tested to the limits of its holding power, stretched out by comic books, action figure backing cards and the occasional construction paper Mother's Day card.
The opposite end of the Trapper Keeper consisted of the closing flap. One memory I'd forgotten about bubbled to the surface when I saw the interior pattern where the flap folded over, which was made up of small rectangular divots that in moments of boredom in class (of which there were many) I would fill in with black pen. The urge to do this again was powerful but I managed to fight it off.
This particular find came with the added bonus of having all three of the original folders (or Portfolios) inside. Each brand new Trapper Keeper came with three folders, a read, blue and green one. You could always buy more to add to your Trapper Keeper and I often did about halfway through the school year, since these cardboard folders often wore out by Christmas, thus allowing you the chance to add a little spice to you Trapper Keeper by purchasing a folder with Garfield or Smurfs on it. Or maybe a dinosaur riding a skateboard.
One of my favorite things about the portfolios in the Trapper Keeper was the fact that they were packed full of great information. In fact, it took a while for our teachers to catch on to this and I totally remember having to fill out a sheet with our multiplication tables and I thought, Hey! I know where I saw this before! and immediately began to copy it all down. I didn't think of it as cheating at the time, i just thought I was being resourceful. Anyway, got a 100% on that one.
Click to embiggen to learn all kinds of great stuff about measurements and metric conversions. Heck, I need this info in my life now.
So, now I own an exact replica of my original 5th grade Trapper Keeper (that's the year I picked out the blue one), minus all of the Star Wars drawings and inner pocket packed to bursting with trading cards. But thanks to my penchant for nostalgia and collector's fever, I can make that happen again as well.
By sheer coincidence (I swear!), Branded in the 80s just posted a great write up on vintage Trapper Keepers, too, and I strongly suggest you check it out. I only mention this because I had already planned this post when theirs went up and I just want to make sure that nobody thinks I'm a big, fat copycat.
Unless you ask me to write down the multiplication tables, of course.