I first attended Downing School, then Bingham, then back to Downing. One of our monthly "chores" was to clean out our desks. I loved doing that. We were encouraged to clean our desks whenever we had spare time, i.e., we finished our arithmetic before everyone else. But, we were required to do it at the end of the month. The teachers had to justify their attendance books at that time, and this was when we had the monthly cleaning of our desks and various other classroom chores, such as clearing off the bulletin boards of any papers that were posted, making sure that the cloak room was clear of all matter such as rotting lunches, or clapping the erasers -- which really was a daily chore which I loved to do. I think most of us did enjoy clapping the erasers.
For those of you who don't know what clapping the erasers is, it is simply taking two chalkboard erasers and taking one eraser in each hand -- chalk side away from the hand -- and then banging them together until you can't see any more dust flying from them. You had to either hang out the window or go outside to do this chore. If the weather was nice, we opted to go outside. Since each classroom was provided with four erasers, two of us had this job!
Our desks were the kind that had the seat that was hinged, as was the lid. There was a hole cut in the desk on the right side corner farthest from the child, which at one time held an ink pot. No more ink pots once the lead pencil was invented.
We had a desk like this on our back porch for most of my growing up time, and I used it, of course, to play teacher. Dad put a chalkboard up in front of one of the windows, which was a little high for a shorty, so I had to stand on a footstool to use it.
After our desks were cleaned out to our teacher's satisfaction, we received a new pencil. We got a new pencil (No. 2, eraser tipped, yellow painted) every month. And oh how we coveted the box in which the pencils came. The top slid off the box not unlike the larger crayon boxes do today.
I don't remember what qualified us for a box, but whatever it was, believe me I tried very hard to be one of the recipients. Since the class was 30 or 31 children, that meant that three boxes would be deprived of its pencil content (12 per box), so three of us each month received one of the coveted boxes.
I suppose it would have been fairer to just give the boxes out to the children in alphabetical order (10 months, 30 children) but that's not how I recall the boxes being given out.
I still have a love for all things stationery (as did my father to a hoarding extent). And I just love to walk through Staples and sniff the paper or the pencils (the wooden ones). The smell of these items evokes such fond memories.