Red School Pencils

posted: 2017-01-12

Back in the early sixties, my first grade classmates and I were each supplied with a red pencil on our first day of school. This was the official writing implement for learning to print. After completing what seemed like a thousand printing exercises, and as many trips to the classroom pencil sharpener, the red pencil was worn to a stub and was too short to hold properly. Our teacher provided a second and final red pencil. After wearing the second pencil to within an inch of its life, we supplied our own pencils through to high school graduation.

red school pencils

Original Vancouver School Board red pencils, circa 1977 (pencil extenders were not supplied).

My wife discovered that ancient red school pencils are great for playing Sudoku, Kakuro, and Hitori. Yes, this is an original Vancouver School Board red school pencil, circa 1977. As the pencil became shorter and shorter, I lamented the nearing demise of the last red school pencil I was likely to see. To prolong its life, I bought a pencil extender at the closeout sale of Maxwell’s Artists Materials in Gastown, Vancouver. The pencil extender, along with an extremely delicate sharpening technique, preserved the artifact for a few more months.

When the pencil became too short for even a pencil extender to grip, I thought that was it. But wouldn’t you know it, at the bottom of a very dusty and long forgotten pencil case, one more red school pencil remained. I hope the “F” refers to the pencil hardness and not the foreshadowing of students’ grades should they not take proper care of their red school pencils.

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  1. Ann B comments:

    You have a good memory. I don’t recall this at all. Did your wife have the same red pencils? I love your stories.

    1. Ken comments:

      Hi Ann, we were both issued red pencils. However, the ones I remember were thicker than normal pencils. I think this was to make them easier for first graders to hold.

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