How the Heck Does Trapper Keeper Stay in Business?

So, what was on your school supply list when you were a kid?  Pencils, notebooks, the usual, right?  Yeah, me too.

I went to Catholic school, so getting clothes was a minor stage of the whole Back-to-School Shopping Blitz.  Because we had uniforms, the school supplies were where we could really show our personalities off.  But, the nuns got wise to this pretty quickly.  Our list of things we could NOT buy for school soon surpassed the quantity of things we were required to buy.

Erasermate Pens were one such item.  We weren’t allowed to write in pen.  But that was because you couldn’t erase it.  So, what was the rationale, I wonder, for banning the brand new invention of pens with erasable ink?  I’m pretty sure the Sistahs are the reason that remarkable innovation isn’t in the drawers of every office desk today.

Another way to get yourself detention at my school was to walk in with a Trapper Keeper.  Those amazing organizational tools were the bane of every teaching nun’s existence.  The Party Line was that the bulk of the darn things pretty much made it impossible for them to co-exist in the same desk as our massive textbooks.  But I think that Sister Mary Quite Contrary was more fearful of the far too many sinfully secular designs that appeared on the covers and each interchangeable piece.

It killed me not to get a Trapper Keeper.  Every year, I would wistfully pull one out of the display case, showing my mother The Dukes of Hazzard or the less controversial horse racing through a green field, and begging her to buy me one – pretending to be completely oblivious to the Trapper Keeper Commandment.

No sale.

Now, it’s 2012.  My daughter is 9.  She goes to public school.  We have spent 3 exhausting days looking for clothes and mandatory school supplies.  And even though she has a lot more freedom to make a statement with both her fashion and her various notebooks and writing utensils, she does not feel that is enough.

We have gone to three different stores looking for the perfect nail polish color for the first day of school.  Yesterday, I spent an hour in Sephora as she painted each nail on her hands a different color.  Oh, she knew which one she wanted by the fourth, but she needed to finish up the job once started, apparently.

Erasermate should invent some erasable nail polish pens.  Now, there’s a bestseller.

God, I wish there had been a Sephora around when I was a kid.  Those nuns would have had a lot less time to worry about Trapper Keepers…

Anyway, why, you may ask, did I allow my child to spend an hour decorating her digits, and to buy a $10 bottle of nail polish when that is not on any school supply list and she is not starring on a reality show?

Because, even now, 35 years later, I still have a little bit of Catholic School rebel in me.

And, even now, 35 years later, you still can’t bring Trapper Keepers to school.

2012-2013 School Supply List (PUBLIC SCHOOL!)


Posted on August 7, 2012, in Children, Dimples, Humor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 150 Comments.

  1. Lets see the nail polish

  2. Yep, no Trapper Keepers here either. And my kids want one too!

  3. What the hell is a trapper keeper?

  4. Wow – never even heard of a ‘trapper keeper,’ but it sounds like something I would want to keep out of the zoo. I liked your post today. It was fun.

  5. A trapper keeper was known in the Old West as a Winchester rifle and was the most popular method of gettin yersef a husband.

  6. Right down at the bottom of that list? The 2 boxes of Kleenex? You’ll need at least that many to wipe up the tears when the sales person rings up your purchases.

  7. I can’t believe Trapper Keepers are still in business with nobody allowed to bring them to a school. Who actually buys them? I think I asked for one for Christmas and just said I would use it at home. Haha! I want to see what color she picked, too!

  8. Had to google ‘trapper keeper’. Definitely not part of our schooling – past or present!

  9. I had to google ‘trapper keeper’ too, but I totally had some of those growing up, and they even came to school! loved those things! Had a horrible tendency to not actually hole-punch or put away papers because I could just zip it closed or clasp it, but still 😛

  10. we went school supply shopping yesterday. i must say i DO NOT have your patience. my kids are taking some used supplies (because i already spend hundreds on school supplies – half of which i get back at the end of the year unused???) and managed to buy all the new stuff they needed in 49 minutes (my son timed us). we only made one mistake (target has GRAPH notebooks mixed in with regular notebooks- WTF???) and we only have two more items to get that target didn’t have. i am beyond elated. today we are hitting old navy and tj maxx to finish up the clothes/shoe shopping. and, wth is sephora??? do i need to keep my girls far away? good luck and loved your post!

    • Oh, yes, I need to hit Old Navy tomorrow, I think. Sephora is kind of like Ulta – a store of “beauty” supplies. Thank God for every day that your girls don’t recognize that name.

  11. I loooooved my trapper keeper. Lisa Frank madness!

    • Now, that’s 2 people I know who were allowed to have a Trapper Keeper. I feel like I lost out on my whole childhood.

    • YES, i had a lisa frank one too, God bless that woman for singlehandedly infiltrating nearly every aspect of my childhood with all her rainbow colored puppy dogs and the like. And as far as the trapper keeper goes, I don’t remember any problems taking it to school? I’m sure all my friends had one….you were prettymuch the class “loser” if you didn’t.

  12. It’s like they try to take all of the fun out of buying school supplies! I love that you’re such a rebel and show it by letting Dimples buy nailpolish. 🙂

  13. I always got stuff anyway. My mom would say, “what? that’s ridiculous! You’re getting a trapper keeper,” and I would get one. No one ever said anything to me about it

  14. I don’t even know what a Trapper Keeper is but I can pretty much bet it would have been banned at my school as well. We were made to tie our hair up in silly little bobbles and then forced to wear absurd hats, that didn’t / couldn’t fit over bobbled pony-tails. Then you’d get detention for not wearing the hat. Well, really?!?!

  15. This was a fantastic post! My office supply addiction began with a Trapper Keeper. I did my worst to it each year at school in hopes I could get a new one the next. Loved the erasable ink, as well! Ink was verboten for many years and I loved bucking the system!

  16. Ok I have to ask, what is a Trapper Keeper?

  17. What? No Trapper Keeper? Where do you put your Trapper folders? I ADORE those things. They really do hold all the papers in. Until they get too full. And tear.

  18. amazing how they think they can tell the people paying for the stuff what they can and cannot buy isnt it? So, buy her a folder with the one finger salute on it.. LOL…. yeah, I got a little biit of that rebel in me too I think… hehehe

  19. Thank goodness I have a 14 year old BOY who yes, does care about his appearance, but is not toooooo crazy about brand name stuff and nail polish(at least not that I know of) and the like.
    Funny post and a good read first thing in the morning.


  20. Two words: Lisa Frank. Man, I never had a Trapper Keeper either. Maybe I’ll buy one now that I’m old enough to get my own crap.

  21. My kids don’t even see the list, so they don’t care what’s on it or not. We were allowed to have Trapped Keeper for a period of time. But by the time we could afford such extravagant school supplies, they had been banned. We had a legitimate ban, though, the boys liked to beat each other in the locker room with them. Squeezed a textbook inside the zipper for extra “umph”… Boy ruin everything 😛

  22. Oh, my gosh! Congrats on FP!

  23. Yay! Hooray! Look who’s Freshly Pressed! Congrats! Maybe you can help keep Trapper Keeper alive now.

  24. My son can’t have a Trapper Keeper either, but of course that’s exactly what he wants…urghh.

    • Isn’t school shopping fun?

      • It’s a blast! We actually went to the school today to pick up his schedule and the first thing he says…”It smells weird in here.” My thought was it’s because there’s not a lot of sweaty kids running up and down the halls. But I told him “Yeh, they cleaned and buffed the floors.” His response. “They shoulda left ’em dirty. We’re just gonna mess ’em up anyway.” True enough.

  25. Oh, what is the deal with this? Do they pass this around at teacher conventions? I can’t imagine what would be wrong with having such a binder of organization. 🙂

  26. Hah! This is awesome. Haven’t thought about Trapper Keepers in so long. I was so deprived in school, my mom would never get me one…

  27. Thank God I live in a “Trapper Keeper country”. At least I think it is. I haven’t seen anything that looks like it might be a Trapper Keeper

  28. I didn’t know they still made Trapper Keepers! Loved mine when I was a kid–it had the Black Stallion on it (was totally in love with horses as a kid). Too bad the Trapper Keepers are blacklisted–it is good to see, however, that they have finally come to their senses and are allowing actual pointed scissors instead of those stupid blunted/rounded ended things that never cut anything, but instead just sorta crushed construction paper into approximate shapes. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  29. When I was in sixth grade we were required to have trapper keepers. They were worst- so bulky and cumbersome; they didn’t fit on the desk or even in the lockers. I was glad they changed the requirements the next year.

    • ARE YOU SERIOUS?!!! I cannot believe that there is a parallel universe where Trapper Keepers were actually required! Next thing you’re going to tell me is that they “forced” you to buy the Crayola box of 64 WITH THE SHARPENER instead of the measly 24 ct.

  30. I should have suggested to my kids that they beat up other kids with their Trapper Keepers. In their grade school, they weren’t allowed to have anything that could be used as “a weapon” like pens and paper clips. But a good thwack with a Trapper Keeper would have done the job nicely, now wouldn’t it?

  31. So funny! My 4th-grader’s school supply list specifically requested a Trapper Keeper notebook this year, but none could be found in my town. I had to order one online.

    • That is unbelievable!!!!!!! The principal of that school must be have been deprived of them like me. He/She probably said during his or her entire adolescence, “One day, I will be in charge of a school, and I will REQUIRE Trapper Keepers. And all of the students will chant my name in praise.”

  32. Are you kidding me? I don’t know how I would have SURVIVED junior high without a Trapper Keeper (not to be confused with the lesser brand, Note Tote…I mean, you had to have the REAL thing!). I’d think the reason that nuns don’t like Trapper Keepers is that you can successfully hide so much OTHER stuff in there besides school work, and most of it NOT NUN APPROVED: love notes, Right On magazine with the pullout posters of New Edition (sigh!), love notes TO New Edition…yeah, those were the days!

    • You are right ON with the nun thing. Of course, I always wondered what kinds of things they were hiding under their habits. I never even heard of Note Tote. I wonder if I could have gotten away with that instead…

  33. That’s such a shame! I loved my Trapper Keeper. It was awesome and it really does hold everything! My daughter is starting Kingergarten so notebooks aren’t on the list yet. But her school isn’t requiring binders til 5th grade, so who knows.

  34. I work a school and still don’t get the no trapper keeper rule. I loved my trapper keeper.

    However, I can tell you that these lists have become so huge so that students share supplies. Yes. For example – it may ask for 20 scribblers per student. The teacher will cut them all in half, distribute one to each student and then have a pile for when the next student runs out.

    Excuse me, but I thought a parent buys for their child, not the entire class.

    • I know. Doesn’t that burn you up? Our supply lists were getting ridiculous, so the district is pretty strict about them now. At least we don’t have to provide the toilet paper.

      • And I don’t understand why parents have to buy Lysol wipes. The teacher just puts them into a bucket for the entire class anyways.

        And what gets me is when the lists tell you that you have to have a specific brand. Not all parents can afford name brand, so the kids get what they get.

        What happened to the days of crayons, scribblers, rulers, pencils and tissue!?!

  35. I am a middle school teacher with the No Trapper Keeper note on the school supply list. Not because I put it there but because someone put it there 25 years ago and it was never taken off. I have no say in the school supply list. I think it is lame that my 8th graders can’t bring them. they are no bigger than the ginormous binders my students bring.

    • I teach in elementary, and I completely agree with you. And I have a feeling that the origin of the Trapper Keeper ban was some time in the 80’s here, too. I think no one has bothered to take it off the list. Who thought it would survive to the 21st century?

  36. I have never heard of such a thing. No Trapper Keepers? How silly? How are they bigger than most other binders?

  37. Trapper Keeper stays in business because they are forbidden. How many students have a secret cache of them at home? 😉

  38. Being a former Catholic schoolgirl myself, I can totally understand the nailpolish expedition. Heck, for me it was a milestone shopping for my first pen when I went to 7th grade. Oh the choices! And no, they didn’t allow Trapper Keepers either in my school in Puerto Rico. Those nuns had no sense of humor.

  39. what’s a trapper keeper?!?! seriously! never heard of one.

    also, you should definitely post a pic of the nail polish your daughter chose. she sounds very wise.

  40. Also a former Catholic schoolgirl (but not actually Catholic, which made the experience even more interesting), we were NOT allowed Trapper Keepers either because of the Velcro noise! Yes, the Velcro NOISE! Regular, boring (and louder!) binders were allowed, but even their noise was controlled. My strict Grade 5 Catholic teacher would make us all open our binders at the same time on the count of five. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, CLICK (somewhat in harmony, but not really).

  41. I wrote a post on Saturday about school shopping. If this is how your daughter is at age 9, I shutter to think what she’ll be like as a teenager. Like mine, I’m guessing. As for the Trapper Keeper, I think we only had the PeeChee’s – they were that golden manila color and black with athletes on them. Eventually there were colored versions. In junior high we finally had the opportunity to buy folders and binders that all matched and had coordinating paper, pencils, and pencil cases. The first year these were available, my mother bought me the whole set of aqua and hot pink flamingos. It was awesome.

  42. We were allowed to bring TrapperKeepers to my school, and to this day I have fond memories of my beloved Spider-Man TK with all the little Marvel Comics covers in the background. Those were the days…

  43. My five year old went back this year in uniforms (which i am so happy) but the cost was so high none the less. My fifteen year old on the other hand is like your nine year old, they put you through the ringer because school is now all about fashion.

  44. My daughter, who is 34(?) still has one in use. They’re great!

  45. That is funny. I haven’t heard the term trapper keeper since I was a kid. I was just browsing on wordpress and saw your post. Thanks for making my day.

  46. I loved my Trapper Keeper! All the cool kids had the pink Lisa Frank ones with unicorns and happy bears with hearts.
    We weren’t allowed to wear fancy sneakers for PE though… we were ‘encouraged’ to buy plain white ones from the school store (captive market perhaps!).

    • Ah ha! The old “school store” trick. I remember that well from high school. Of course, I was so traumatized by having to change for PE in a locker room full of girls, I don’t think I paid too much attention to my shoes.

  47. Haha I remember having one when I was a kid. Great post. I love reading and writing humor blogs.

  48. No tapper keepers! Man, I had my whole life in that thing. My Trapper Keeper: Kittens in a basket.

  49. I live in San Antonio, TX and also have a 9 year old about to start 4th grade… your daughters school supply list is EXACTLY the same. All the way down to the no trapper keeper.
    I remember having one when I was in school and they were awesome!!

  50. I had a several Trapper Keepers in school. It was with my Trapper Keeper that I first realized I had a problem organizing because it usually would swell to such enormous width with all the junk I’d shove in it, that the velcro would snap open at the worst of times. So, then I’d be chasing every single piece of homework I’d done that year down the sidewalks of my neighborhood… you think I would have learned eventually. But I didn’t. Now I just have a small weekly planner that falls open and dumps all my stuff! xD

  51. I have a 9 year old daughter as well and I love the erasable nail polish idea! I spend way too much time getting her multicolored nail polish off! We haven’t started our back to school list yet- dreading it!

  52. Trapper Keeper! I had one with some kind of nature scene on it. And the sound of that Velcro tearing open! I would know that sound anywhere.

  53. I still have got to buy my daughters some school supplies. Been putting it off but now time is running out as they go back less than three weeks. The PE kit alone cost a bloody fortune as the school insists on the RIGHT gear *ugh* and as for the clip on ties don’t even get me started on those.

  54. I had to google trapper keeper to see what all the fuss was about. They look great. I think I will get my daughter some to go to school with. They are not banned here in France as they haven’t yet been heard of.

  55. I have fond memories of Trapper Keepers. I know I got a few for Christmas’ as well as the first day of school. It was a popularity contest of sorts to see who got which one and how cute/cool the pic on the front was (I remember having one with a kitty on the front). I learned my multiplication tables off one of tables on the inside of the red folder. I remember organizing my Trapper Keeper in front of the TV while watching the Jerry Lewis Telethon, back in the days when school started the day after Labor Day.I don’t know how they stay in business either-my 10 year old has no idea what a Trapper Keeper is.

  56. I had a teddy bear backpack in the early 90’s. And it made me feel like THE coolest chick of all time. Cause it was, like, totally ironic or something. Ah, those were the days.

  57. Well your daughter is very lucky for that nail polish extravaganza! And crazy to think Trapper Keepers are still on the radar – I haven’t been in the market for one for like two decades so I’m not looking for them, but pretty sure next time I’m at Target I will make it a point! Great post & congrats on FP!

  58. I was a rebel! I had a Lisa Frank one! wow, what a memory to think back on! love this post!

  59. This is so ironic. I found your blog because I googled “Do ANY stores carry trapper keepers?” My son is SUPPOSED to have one and I can’t find one anywhere! Target carries them ONLINE only, but not in the store. That would be fine, except that school starts tomorrow and I don’t have time to order one.
    That’s what I get for waiting until the last minute.

  60. That’s so funny! Out of the 4 school lists I had to buy for this year, they all also said No Trapper -keepers!, But our store was stocked with those, and completely out of the 2 inch 3 ring binders and pencil top erasers the kids are supposed to have, they also had like a gazillion 1 inch notebooks that no one needed too.

  61. We got the same note this week…what is up with the anti-Trapper Keeper movement anyway?

  62. I love it! You have thought of a place for everything and done it so beautifully!

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