Here in these parts, we’re all about offbeat observances and holidays, and today’s no exception. Today is National Pencil Day 2023! I was today years old when I first heard about this being a thing, and since I’m working in a school, I felt like there’s no better time than now to write about it.
According to this site, National Pencil Day 2023 came to be as a way to celebrate a tried-and-true writing utensil that dates back to the Middle Ages. The pencil underwent several redesigns and formulations, before it became what it is today.
Pencils are the go-to writing utensil for little kids starting school, and the preference for many as they move through the grades. For me, they were the only thing we were allowed to use in school for most of elementary school, until our school supply lists included blue, black, and red pens toward the end. Naturally, they had to be a certain style. None of those multi-colored pens allowed.
By middle school, pencils were still what I used, even though we were probably allowed to use pens in certain subjects only. One year, we had to have erasable pens, and those things are fuckin heinous. Come to think of it, I still have a couple of those knocking around the house somewhere. I’ll have to hunt for those and bring em into work. This way, if something happens to em, I won’t be super upset over their untimely disappearance.
One year, a kid in my class used a pen on their homework assignment, and the teacher ripped it up and demanded it be redone. If I’m remembering right, it was in front of the whole class, too.
Yes, this is a pretty extreme reaction in hindsight, and this wouldn’t fly today. At least I hope it wouldn’t. Seriously, pick your damn battles.
In middle school, those Gelly Roll pens became all the rage, basically the hottest thing since fire was discovered. Sometimes others would trade, but I never did. I loaned a couple to a friend, and never got it back. At the time, it bugged me, but now I know that was more or less inevitable. I learned to loan out the pens in the colors I didn’t care about, so if something happened, I wouldn’t care.
These things were so coveted that there was a kid who had some, and a classmate dug through their gym bag, found their pens, raided it, and left them w/ 2 colors. Nobody stepped in to help them, but a teacher saw the whole thing and did something about it. I heard the kid got their pens back, which I’m happy about. Still, it’s a shitty thing that classmate did. Then again, this classmate did shitty things often, so there’s that.
Throughout my school years, I ended up w/ a huge stash of pencils. My mom used pencils at home, but wasn’t allowed to use em at work for charting since they didn’t work too good on the copy machines they used at the time.
One time, I saw these pencils at the old store we used to frequent, and frequent often. I was probably in 3rd grade, maybe 2nd, but the ones at the old store came in packages of 2. One pink, one blue. My mom became a fan of those big fat pencils ever since.
Come high school, I used pens exclusively, except for the 2 years of math that was required. I made it a point to try and use as many different color pens as I could get my hands on. There was a time where I even tried to match the pen color to the notebook cover.
Trying to find a yellow ink pen for a yellow notebook, and find enough yellow pens to get me through until that notebook was filled, was a pain in the ass. 10/10, don’t recommend.
In my later college years, I started using pencils for class notes. They were these mechanical pencils from that same old store, along w/ Paper Mate’s answer to em. And of course, glitter pencils from Tarjay, and when I saw the OG Smencils at Justice (‘member Justice when they had a brick-and-mortar shop? Pepperidge Farm remembers!)
As I was embarking on a Project Use It Up, long before this blog came to be, I tried to use up the pencil stash I’d amassed. I did use up those Matic Funs, and I’m currently working on the Paper Mate answer to em for at home.
While I was cleaning out the basement after my mom died, I found an old cookie tin, and noticed it was a bit heavy. I took it upstairs, and looked through it. It was the old stash of pencils from elementary school, and there were those fat pencils that sparked my mom’s liking of em. She also had at least a dozen of the My First Ticonderogas knocking around the house as well.
When I got my job, I saw it as my golden opportunity to use those up. I raided the stash for the pencils I didn’t care about, and brought those w/ me. There were some pencils that I hated back when I got em, and I saw why as soon as I sharpened one of em: they’d split and crack like mofos.
The brand that put those janky abominations out doesn’t exist anymore, and hasn’t for years, thankfully. Out of the whole package of those rotten pencils, only one or 2 were decent. They’re now up at work, where they’re gonna stay. If one of the kids takes em, I’ll be stoked. I haven’t cared about those since the Clinton administration anyways.
I’ve noticed it doesn’t take me long to use those up, to the point they’re short enough that I retire em to the old Easter bucket I keep in my mom’s old room. It’s kinda like the Retirement Home for Pencils. These are the ones I use at home only, and in a travel notebook if the pencil’s super short.
Fun fact: Roald Dahl, yes, the guy who wrote Esio Trot and James and the Giant Peach, swore by Ticonderoga pencils. So much so, that no other brand of pencil would do, even though Ticonderogas are pretty hard to come by over in the UK. At one point, when his stash of Ticonderogas was running low, it didn’t go well. Whether or not that actually happened, it’s in the air, since the article’s kinda clickbaity.
Over to you, readers. How are you gonna celebrate National Pencil Day 2023? Did you do anything special for it? Do you like pencils, and if so, is there a specific type you like? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways, so drop it all like it’s hot, and let’s talk.