This article has forgotten more about the Trapper Keeper than I will ever know

There’s a fascinating article in Mental Floss published last week with an exhaustive history of the Trapper Keeper. Because I’ve written about Yikes! pencils before, and I used Trapper Keepers around the same time as Yikes, this is definitely relevant to my interests.

Trapper Keeper

I definitely learned things from this; facts that make me feel dumb that I didn’t know it before. Like: did you know that a “Trapper” is Mead’s name for their pocket folder with vertical pockets rather than the horizontal pockets in most folders? Therefore, a Trapper Keeper is the binder that lets you keep all of your papers together.

Duh. I knew that all of my Trapper Keepers had folders with vertical pockets, but I had no recollection of them being called “Trappers”. Doesn’t this seem like something I should know?

If I would have seen this commercial, I would have known that:

Turns out, this commercial is older than I am. Which brings me to my second facepalm moment:

Trapper Keepers are way older than I thought:

Launched in 1978 by the Mead Corporation (which was acquired by ACCO Brands in 2012), Trapper Keeper notebooks are brightly colored three-ring binders that hold folders called Trappers and close with a flap. From the start, they were an enormous success: For several years after their nationwide release, Mead sold over $100 million of the folders and notebooks a year. To date, some 75 million Trapper Keepers have flown off store shelves.

That’s at least a full ten years before they ever entered my consciousness (Well, and a full five years before I was born, in 1983). I don’t recall trapper keeps ever looking like this:

The Trapper Keeper Prototype: one with the logo and one without. Photo by E. Bryant Crutchfield and from the original article. The Trapper Keeper Prototype: one with the logo and one without. Photo by E. Bryant Crutchfield and from the original article.

I remember the ones that looks like they were designed by Commander Mark from Imagination Station: like this or this or, famously, this one featured prominently in “Napoleon Dynamite”:

It's pretty much my favorite Trapper Keeper.

I had this exact Trapper Keeper.

Oh, and I had this one too:Red dots IN SPAAAAACE

You don’t know how thrilled I am to have so many things in common with Napoleon Dynamite.

I had a very close relationship with my Trapper Keeper. It was with me six hours a day, five days a week, and kept m life organized. Eventually, I moved onto other binder organizers that were more collegiate-looking and less youthful. Gone were the lasers and psychedelic 90s spacescapes, replaced by navy blue fabric.

If you, like me, had a Trapper Keeper, you should definitely check out the full article. It’s fascinating, and brings back so many memories.

The History of the Trapper Keeper |

The Game of Pencils

As I was showing my collection of pencils from the 1990s to a friend the other day, he reminded me of a game he used to play in middle school. I went to middle school four years later and halfway across the country from him, and I vaguely remember it, too.

It was called “pencils” (great name, right?), and involved two players. They took turns flicking their pencils at the other player, damaging the wooden barrel of the pencil on defense. After each hit, they’d switch roles and the defense pencil went on the offense. The pencil that broke first lost.

As a collector and user of fine graphite-based writing instruments, I now feel that this is just a bit of wanton destruction for the same of destruction—something middle-school-aged kids love, right? But then I got to thinking. Could this be a good test of the durability and strength of a pencil? Would, say, a glossy lacquered, fine incense cedar Palomino demolish, say, the cheap generic Office Depot pencil?

I sort of want to put this to the test. Stay tuned in the future for some wanton destruction of pencils.

A cursory Google search reveals the Tradition Mexican Pencil Game, pencil and paper games (which looks kind of fun, actually), and how to score baseball games with a pencil (which our California Cedar friends Chuck and Joey might like). But I can’t seem to find a reference for a game of pencils.

Meanwhile, do you remember this game? Any rules or subtleties I’m missing? Let me know what you think.