MINEOLA - In late summer, when fans hum at full speed and sweet tea flows freely, thoughts turn naturally toward a change in the season and a return to school.
For certain generations, heading back to school invokes a feeling of nostalgia, for metal Snoopy lunch boxes, Big Chief tablets and a fresh box of Crayons.
It's still possible to enjoy old school stuff, but these days it takes a careful eye and a dose of luck to actually locate authentic merchandise in good condition.
Antique experts in Mineola said school-themed collectibles are becoming hard to find in today's disposable society.
"They are getting rare," said Martha Slaughter, shop manager for Karen's Korner, 102 S. Johnson St. "The best place to find these types of items are estate sales and garage sales, where people don't know what they have."
As of last week, her shop had vintage student lockers, metal pails, reading books and antique school bells, the latter of which was acquired from a retired educator.
"The bells came out of an old school house," she said. "They are really cool."
Antique dealers said there's always a healthy demand for school items, especially among current and retired educators.
But snagging the good stuff merchandise is fast becoming a sort of rescue mission, because so many things over the years were simply tossed into the trash.
Ms. Slaughter said she finds it deeply satisfying to find and rehome interesting items for current and future generations to enjoy.
"My favorite item from school was my Ziggy lunch box and I still have it," she said from a store brimming with rescues. "When I was in school, that was my nickname, and I've always loved that lunch box. … I guess I'm an organized hoarder."
Just down the block, Between Friends/The Fudge Shoppe, 114 E. Broad St., had a pint sized wooden homework desk and chair displayed in the front entry.
The $55 set was unusual in the fact that the chair could adjust to fit the student.
There was just one on hand, and it was hand crafted.
"It will grow with the child," sales expert Allene Doggett said. "We had one of these when my kids were little. They engraved their names on it."
She doesn't have her children's desk anymore, but the memories are still firmly etched in her heart.
Shop managers predict a quick sale on the desk and chair set, but no one can say for certain whether a similar set will surface.
Coincidently, Ms. Doggett is still experiencing back-to-school jitters, though on a more voluntary basis.
Times are changing, it seems.
"I have 10 grandchildren," she said with a grin. "I did actually go to buy school supplies this year. The one in junior high had to have earbuds (headphones). That was different. … We've never had to have those before."
In another shop, the family-owned Broad Street Mall, 118 E. Broad St., was offering for sale a cowboy-themed child's metal and wooden desk, vintage globes and a $45 "training" typewriter.
"The keys are all blank, except for the shift," said shopkeeper Amanda Walls, recalling her long-ago days of typing class and messy ribbon changes. "With this machine, you had to remember where the keys were located."
Vintage typewriters are a hit among collectors, she said, explaining serious hunters know exactly what they want.
"We have a lot of people come in here, from all over the place, to look around," she said. "A lot of people have been looking at globes lately and asking for them. I had three a few days ago, now I only have two."
As much as she enjoys the nostalgia of heading back to class, Ms. Walls has no plans to hit the school supply aisles this year.
"I just got all my kids out," she said, a hint of relief in her voice. "I guess I have an empty nest. … I'm still not used to it."
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