They were the ‘must haver’ fashion items

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JUST to prove that things really do go round in circles, I see that school satchels are the latest fashion item.

These design desirables are made of leather, beautifully hand stitched – and cost an arm and a leg.

The one I used at school varied in all three areas, it wasn’t leather, was factory made and was as cheap as chips.

Thinking back, hardly anybody used the traditional leather, or leather look, satchel as they were considered old fashioned and bordering on posh.

Most of us had a forces type haversack which was made of a rough material which was a cross between sacking and denim.

Many of them did have a real ex-forces pedigree and were surplus stock which was around in great profusion as Britain got used to being at peace again.

I started secondary school in 1958, and it’s easy to forget that the Second World War had ended only just over a decade before.

The main source of supply was the Pools Surplus Store which did a roaring trade and stocked an amazing variety of items which had been meant for supply to the army, navy or air force.

Many items looked brand new and had obviously come straight from the warehouse, but some showed sign of use and wear.

From memory, wasn’t the Surplus Store at the Church Street end of Lynn Street and didn’t they have a second shop in Musgrave Street too?

My perennial comedy favourite Bobby Thompson had a great line about having his full school outfit bought cheaply from his local army surplus store.

As he pointed out, it was no fun going to school dressed as a Japanese admiral!

My own school haversack was dark blue, ex RAF and it was very important that it didn’t stay looking new.

Soon after purchase, to the bemusement of our parents, we would kick them around in the street and in and out of muddy puddles to achieve the essential lived-in look.

The next step was to use a thick felt tip pen to decorate the bag with our names and hymns of praise to pop groups of the time.

The more adventurous and romantic souls would add the name of their latest girlfriend, but were soon warned off such odd behaviour by a barrage of loud abuse and insults from their friends.

It was a great game, of course, to temporarily borrow a friend’s haversack and inscribe it with the name of a fictional lady love.

It was amazing how much you could squeeze into the modest frame of a school haversack.

On a busy school day, it might contain several exercise and text books, rugby kit, towel – and a packed lunch.

After use, the whole damp lot was squashed back in and arrived home smelling like a diseased wrestler’s armpit.

When you are that age, the views of your friends, and conforming to current fashions, are vitally important, and I’ll never forget the agony of a new kid who arrived from out of town and got school bag etiquette wrong on not one, but two counts.

He had the dreaded swotty leather satchel and had both straps around his shoulders when the accepted style was to have it casually hanging off just one.

He spent the rest of his school days known as Cecil the Swot after a comic character.

Back to fashion cycles, though, and I wonder if any Hartlepool Mail reader fancies setting up a factory making trendy army surplus haversacks?

Today Hartlepool, tomorrow Milan.