Almost everyone has vivid memories of their school lockers. Whether stacked in pairs or skinny and tall, or for those who went to a less populated school – wide and tall enough to place a scrawny kid inside – lockers have been a memorable part of the school experience for many a decade.
Getting your first locker was always an exciting experience, perhaps more exciting for some than others. Right after learning the combination, decorations and organization topped the list for many a student, while others chose to just let it all devolve into anarchy. Drawings and notes from friends, mirrors and pictures of favored teen idols were taped up year in and year out. Maybe you had a picture of Ricky Nelson in the 60s or maybe you were a part of the 90s – displaying pictures of his sons, Matthew and Gunnar. Maybe you had a ripped out page of a magazine with Charlie’s Angels star, Farrah Fawcett, or your favorite sports hero. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Cheap Trick, the Bee Gees, KISS, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, Blondie, The Beastie Boys, New Edition, Boyz II Men, Vanilla Ice (yes, even him), New Kids on the Block, Nirvana, and Janet Jackson… the list goes on for musical heroes that have adorned the insides of lockers over the years.
Of course, the beauty of the newly-decorated locker would only last for so long. By the time winter break came along, it was probably near impossible to find anything, unless you were in the habit of giving it a regular cleaning. Come Spring Break there might even be a veritable avalanche at your feet, including items that you weren’t even aware were in your possession. And, hell hath no fury like a tuna sandwich that has been left to rot over a weekend, or a semester.
While the locker was a great place to store stuff, it was an even better place to watch the goings on of the high school social circles. Some were lucky enough to be in the same vicinity as their friends, while others were more isolated from the civilized world and a trek to the ol’ locker needed to be planned in advance. Friendships and relationships have been made and broken based solely on locker location. And, in those few precious moments between the bells, locker gossip raged endlessly as students gathered their books and got the latest news.
Gym class and after-school sports, of course, had their own unique locker experiences. A bar of soap, a bottle of shampoo, a towel or two and a change of clothes were the key ingredients of gossip and in some cases, mild embarrassment. In this most intimate of settings, the locker room was a place for self-discovery. Most everyone has a vivid recollection, for better or worse, of their first gym locker room experience, where everyone got a better view of the student body and vice versa.
Lockers were pretty special. Sure, you occasionally needed some locker assistance, when you absentmindedly forgot your combination or lost your key – or were the unwilling participant in a practical joke. That’s what custodians were for, ready to clip a padlock off with ease and save the day – and your dignity. Still, it was a few square feet of space to call your own, to do what you pleased, to decorate to your heart’s content.
Tell us about your own experiences with school lockers. Was yours neat and tidy or biohazard? Did you every get locked inside one? And, most intriguing, do you still remember your combination? Share all your memories with us in our comments section, as we pay tribute to this well-remembered tradition of childhood, here at Retroland.