What to wear on the first day of school

Published 7:30 pm Monday, August 19, 2019

The first day of school is just around the corner, and, back in my school days, it always left me with mixed emotions. While I looked forward to seeing my friends and sharing our experiences of the summer, it was hard to give up the freedom that the summer provided for me. Whether it was on the river or in the tobacco patch, there were memories that were made, and I did not even know it. There was one thing I always looked forward to, though, and that was seeing everyone wearing their new school clothes. It did not matter whether it was new dungarees or khakis, we were proud of what we wore.

I can still remember the first pair of Bass Weejuns (that was the fad in high school) that I ever got. I had worked in tobacco and saved my money. At that time, they could not be purchased in Washington, so I drove to Greenville and visited the College Shop to purchase them. That was where everyone said you had to purchase them if they were real. Sure enough, they had my size and in black, also. Once I opened the box, I checked the top to see if it had “the notch” at the top of each shoe, and they had Bass printed on the inside of the innersole. This assured me that they were real Bass Weejuns, and so I gave the nice lady my money ($27.60). I hated giving my money to her but headed home with a smile on my face and a pair of Weejuns on my feet for the first day of school.

One other shoe that was also popular was Hush Puppies, and they could be bought at Cox’s Shoe Store beside the Turnage. They were not as expensive as Weejuns and were supposed to be more comfortable. Still, I was saving my money for my Converse tennis shoes, so my Dad paid for them and other clothing if it was purchased in Washington. We all waited ’til basketball season to get our “chucks” when Coach ordered them for the team. They came from Johnson-Lambe Company in Raleigh, and we paid him $2 for a pair. We only got high tops in our freshmen year, and they could not be worn with our clothes until after the season. We were afraid we would wear them out on the cement.

Another hot item was not clothing but the boys had to have it — cologne! Togo’s sold English Leather and Canoe, both colognes of choice in the ’60s. Knowing what we know now, we wore too much, but no one told us any different. That was always a popular Christmas gift and Togo would sell out every year. We all thought that it helped us get a girl, so we wore it on a date!

Togo’s, Buckman’s, Suskin-Berry and Mr. Hilton’s were the only men’s clothing stores in town when we grew up and were supported by those who lived in our community. Some that worked in those stores went on to be clothiers in their later years. Two that come to my mind are Bo Lewis and Russell Smith. They worked together for a while and now Russell owns Russell’s on Main Street. So proud of him and all that he has done for our community and Main Street!

The first day of school was always exciting just to see what everyone would wear. We always dressed up for school and looked neat. Long pants, shirts, sweaters and shoes that were in style were always worn to school. We never dressed in shorts or T-shirts, and our clothes were always clean and neatly pressed. We usually purchased our school clothing with money that we earned from our summer jobs and were proud to do so. None of us enjoyed parting ways with that hard-earned money, but it taught us the value of hard work. Sometimes I wonder if that is not missing today.

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.!


— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.