Schools Scents

By Charlotte Bennardo

The most powerful memories of my younger school days is not friends (which I can no longer remember), or any one significant teacher (they came in high school), or even a subject I loved (I started school at four because I'm a November birthday and I struggled up to 7th seventh grade). What stirs the most memories are the smells of returning back to school.

Before computers there were pencils and notebooks. Before nylon backpacks there were school bags. Before there were glue sticks, there was Elmer's White School glue. Before there were copy machines, there were mimeographed ditto sheets. Before Nikes, there were new shoes and canvas gym sneaker. When I sit back with my eyes closed, I can smell those pencils, freshly sharpened, the pine wood shavings forest fragrant. School bags, which looked like little briefcases, had the plastic smell like new pool toys or bouncy balls. Elmer's glue, and even rubber cement had their unique scents; Elmer's had a milky quality and the rubber cement gave off a sharp, alcohol smell. When worksheets were passed out, every kid sniffed them, the ink odor not unpleasant, but strangely attractive. And new shoes! Whether leather or canvas, nothing smells like a new pair. A whiff of any of these scents catapults my mind back to those years, reminding me of both good and sad memories.

The last few times I've been in a school, whether doing a book event like nErDCamp Long Island, or back to school for one of my sons, none of those smells was present. Kind of made me a little sad, it smelled so sterile. Technology has no scent.

But at least there is always the joy of the smell of a new box of Crayola crayons...

Photo courtesy of Pexels


  1. Love that crayon smell and don't forget the chalk. Getting those new school things was so exciting....

  2. Ahhh!! I'm breathing deeply now, remembering... the dittos smelled so yeasty... and the smell of PASTE!


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