Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Fabulous Five - #1 - Seventh Grade Rumors & 80's Back to School Supplies

The Fabulous Five - Seventh Grade Rumors - Back to school supplies ,

Ah , school. The beginning of a new year with that mixed pleasure of reuniting with friends separated by summer camps , possible new friends to be found all spiked with the nausea of homework , crabby teachers and obnoxious classmates. I never went to Junior High so I couldn't exactly relate to the Fabulous Five and even when I made that nerve wracking jump from top of the heap eighth grade to bottom of the barrel nineth grade , I had made more of it then I needed to. As for this first book I was totally psyched ( as they used to say ) for it’s arrival. I had just bought The Truth about Taffy Sinclair and had saw the enticing bit of ballyhoo for The Fabulous Five emblazoned like movie advertisements - Coming Soon! To a bookstore near you complete with chapter segments. I waited appeasing my anticipation by eye-gobbling up the rest of the Taffy books. By then I thought I knew the characters backwards and forwards but the first book throws us a bit of a loop - gone is the I p.o.v. which I didn’t mind , and because of this a lot of Jana’s incessant worrying , she was at times borderline neurotic , is gone. Although in this first
book Jana has some genuine worries.
She and her friends will be entering Wakeman Junior High - dubbed Wacko and they also learn they have competition - four girls calling themselves The Fantastic Four. The girls quickly formulate a plan on how not to make themselves look like nerds - pretty great idea actually! And
after writing down important stuff to remember they head to the school to scope out a hangout
spot so they don’t look too intimidated by just wandering around.
Unfortunately the next day guess who is standing in their spot - yup the Fantastic four , if that wasn’t bad enough , in an attempt to squeeze into their spot they learn by the cool but catty leader Laura that she has heard about them - and that Beth is the show off. Meaning someone - not the Fantastic four has described them to the Fantastic Four in some possibly and probably cutting terms. Who’s the culprit - Marcie Bee? Alexis? Shawnee?
Later on boys grading the girls in the hall give Melanie and Jana three and a half tops , and Laura with her top knot braid hanging all the way to her waist gets a 10. I’ve had waist length hair and
to pull it up at the top of your head and braid it takes off a couple of inches meaning Laura had looooong hair. Jana’s day perks up when she meets a superfriendly girl who has found her schedule card , ran after her to return it and helps her tape it into her notebook. This act of kindness sparks instant friendship signals in Jana until the girl shyly introduces herself as Karen Janelle - a.k.a Funny Hawthorne. One of the dreaded Fantastic Four. After Jana introduces herself they promise to get together but as it would fate does it for them. They share English class and send each other a series of funny notes about their eccentric teacher.
Meanwhile Melanie Edwards the sweetheart of the group , has a fullblown crush on Shane Arrington who owns an iguana named Igor and looks just like River Phoenix! In fact Melanie decides to approach him urging her friends to go with her to inquire if the iguana rumor is true. But Shane is a pretty cool character he sees the gullibility in Melanie’s big blue eyes ( it’s interesting that Melanie as a bit of a ditz is a redhead not blonde ) and tells her that Igor uses the bathroom. Lizards as pets were making the rounds on t.v. - I recall Saved by The Bell had Slater mourning the loss of his pet chameleon. And a couple of class oddballs in movies had lizards as pets.
Jana’s secret friendship is finally revealed when she is caught laughing and joking with Funny in the hall - about all things if Jana wouldn’t please slip her a little information about the boys from her old grade school - namely Melanie’s backup boyfriend Garrett Bolt and Beth’s boyfriend - Keith Masterson. Jana giggles that her lips are sealed. Her friends think she’s a traitor
and possibly not the only one since Beth seems to be avoiding them lately.
I love the next scene where Jana and Funny decide to show their friends that their cold shoulder ( from both groups ) don’t bother them by walking to school together and it becomes like this event , kids are watching , they’re fake laughing and zipping into the school - I remember doing stuff like that when emotions ran so high as a kid that yeah walking in with a new friend had the ability of attracting like a rock stars audience of gawkers. But Jana doesn’t want to just push her friendship with Funny she wants to clear things up and calls an emergency meeting , amid spilled soda and hugs - tears from Melanie they make up only to notice Beth didn’t show in fact Beth is missing.
The group learns their problems pale compared to Beth’s her mother might have breast cancer. As the group decides to form a search party the Fantastic Four offers to help drawing the sudden scorn of Jana but Laura actually comes up with a winning idea - suggesting Beth is somewhere that she feels safe. Back at her old school. They find her and of course Beth’s mother is okay.
A pretty rousing start to a series with lots of interesting new things to take note of specifically - the gum tree - a Wacko tradition the oak tree stands majestic and colorful as the students plop their unwanted wads onto the tree trunk decorating in every flavor imaginable. This actually isn’t unheard of - I decided to google the idea and you must check out these pics they are so cool go to the San Luis Obispo’s Bubble gum alley , and here is a bubblegum tree.
And there is the notorious hangout spot Bumpers decorated with old bashed in bumper cars turned into booths. To be honest I could never picture anyone sitting in the bumper cars - in my minds eye the bumper cars dangled from the ceiling on wires , and most kids sat in ordinary booths. Strange but true.

All this talk of the first day of school got me nostalgic about school supplies - that was the highlight of back to school I just loved all that junk!

Trapper Keepers , Note Totes , little scented erasers in all shapes and colors - I remember having the strawberry - isn’t that goofy - I mean everyone even the boys probably had the little strawberry erasers. How about the pencil cases - the plastic ones were cool because they had the artwork on them of your favorite characters - Frankenberry , Strawberry Shortcake , Foofur but the ones made out of fabric were sturdier - we have a company in Canada called Kettle Creek they made all kinds of high end canvas stuff all branded with their name on thick leather plaques. I wanted one of their pencil cases so bad - everyone had one instead I had to make one out of a pair of jeans - truth be told I kinda liked the one I made it was huge - and it held everything. You could practically lose an elephant in it okay okay not an elephant but maybe a pot of my favorite Bonne Bell lipgloss or a tube of roll on Kissing Potion. I loved getting new pencil crayons - Laurentien - they were the best ever my favorite color was a mauve color called Sky Magenta. And the sounds of the pencil crayons clicking together in your pencil case or scritching over a sheet of paper. Those are the things I miss about school just little things like that - when a pencil case full of new things all clinking together made you feel probably better than a business man with a briefcase full of important papers.

Around 1986 a stationary store popped up in our town I don’t recall the name it came and went as the novelty of that sort of stuff waned and conglomerates like Staples swallowed up independents. It was one of my favorite places to browse - I say browse not shop because this was before the era of the dollar store and each little thing seemed to cost a fortune and to me it was nicer to think about having pom-pom topped pencils with googly eyes than to spend three dollars on one. Member those pencil toppers - man we must have looked insane using them - but I loved the ones with the fuzzy troll hair you’d roll the pencil super fast between your palms and make his hair fly out. Anything beat doing homework. Lets not forget making rubber pencils by waving them loosely. Did you ever scratch out letters in your Pink Pearl eraser so that it now became an ink ear eraser or a Pink earl , Pink ear , Pink Pear , Pin ear?

What kind of junk was in the stationary store? - oodles of good stuff , candy colored paper clips - good for making necklaces , liquid glitter filled pens & pencils , stationary sets with pencil , eraser & paper all patterned with rainbows or maybe Garfield. Neon spiral notepads - those I actually did invest in - they were a must for passing notes and nobody looked cooler than someone who brazenly put one at the edge of their desktop - although the teachers always threatened to confiscate them. Member all those I don’t know what they were paperweights? - some were globes others stood up like those pushbutton water basketball games. They were filled with water and blue oil. They would stay separate making it look like the sea , I had one that had a tiny windsurfer bobbing along the blue oiled sea. But there was one that was brought to school and sat on the desk of one of the most popular girls in our class , I had no idea what it was, it just one of those battery operated gadgets - I dubbed it the ink factory, it was a novel thing that had a swirly ramp and would drip blobs of blue oil that would spiral down the ramp one after another and get sucked into the bottom to make it’s journey back up to the top to start over and over again - It was hypnotic watching it. I was annoyed when the teacher told the girl to take it home. Day-glo pens? Fluorescent markers , highlighters? They were a must nothing looked cooler they writing a bubble letter note with each letter a different neon shade. White out - that was a necessity which was banned after some buffoon in our class sniffed it so much he passed out. We had the kind of teachers who didn’t mind white out , but if we had too many pen marks scratching out mistakes they would say it looks messy do it over - without white out we had to become a lot more careful.

Isn't the Fab Five cover Fabulous! It just about wins my prize for best designed covers for junior division - the fake spiral note-book coils at the side , jazzy triangle print , scrawled graffiti , and 3-d diamond to house the fat jumbo lettering of the series title. As for the painted picture giving us our first real look at the fab five since the Taffy books , Beth looks a little young and awkward before her haircut , I love Katie's perm and pink jumpsuit! see how the cuffs are rolled to mid-calf that was actually the style , Melanie looks great in her turned up coller but Jana is the best dressed - big floppy bow tied in her hair , denim skirt , striped top ( these were all standard - nobody could look bad in this outfit ) Christie looks the most mature and I was kinda bummed in later stories that she was well, kinda dull ( until she moved to London ). This painting is probably what messed me up on never picturing Bumpers as anything but a souped up coffee shop - the booths are normal but they're obviously in bumpers!

Got any school supply memories? Let me know I love hearing about stuff I've missed , or forgotten.

I found some images of old vintage erasers , some pics from an Ideals catalog circa 1984 and a page full of 80's school accessories and how do you like the Shirt Tales crayons? Aren't they wild - I picked them up for a quarter
at a used clothing store - I just love the names they gave the colors - Gotcha Green , Playful Purple , Yum Yum Yellow , Rascal Red , Giggly Green , O.K. Orange , Peachy Keen , Frisky Brown , Bogey Blue ( Bogey was the name of the Shirt Tales monkey ) , Pepper Black , Oh Oh Orange , Pammy Pink ( Pammy was the name of the panda ) Gopher Gray , True Blue , Bold Gold , and Rowdy Rust! Hope you enjoy.

The real Bruce Patman

The real Bruce Patman
For more 'real' Sweet valley comparisons click here it'll take you to Cliquey Pizza 2

The Real Lila

The Real Lila
Same soft , dreamy look!