In honor of all the little ones returning to the hallowed halls of learning this week, I thought I’d share a fond memory from my elementary school days: Mead Trapper Keepers!
When I was in grade school, just about everyone had one of these for their school papers. In the earlier years, the binder design was actually quite plain – a single color with just the branded name across the closure flap.
But then the binder designs advanced to photos of things like horses, sports imagery, and hot air balloons.
Then in the late ’80s Mead started to sell their “Designer Series” which included some pretty fanciful images for boys and girls, including Lisa Frank-designed covers with unicorns and hearts and rainbows, and other covers that featured abstract, computer graphic-style artwork.
Looking back at some of the more out-there designs makes me wonder if the Art Director at Mead gave an illustrator the following instructions “show me what it would look like if Hal 2000 wound up in the movie Dune, and had to take a Driver’s Ed test. Or maybe show me Hal 2000 playing chess on a Miami Vice-style board.”
The term “Trapper” actually refers to the folders inside the binder (making the binder itself the “keeper” part of the equation). The difference between a Trapper and a regular old folder was that the pockets were cut vertically, as opposed to your more basic horizontal folder flaps, thus helping to secure, or “trap” your papers inside the binder, even if you were to turn it upside down.
While the design of the Trapper Keeper was certainly awesome for any pre-teen, I will say that the plastic rings that were meant to hold 3-hole loose leaf paper and trapper folders really stunk; the more paper or folders that you needed to add to the rings, the more likely that one of the three rings would eventually break (after all they WERE made of plastic, as opposed to the metal rings in your more run-of-the-mill blue binders). So you basically had to buy a new Trapper Keeper before the first half of the school year was through (which I guess was actually a clever way to get people to buy double the amount of Mead binders).
I remember three of my beloved Trapper Keepers: one had a unicorn and baby unicorn on it, one was the abstract seashell pattern seen above, and the last one was this curly ribbon design.
Although, whenever any of the plastic casings on my Trapper Keepers broke or cracked (and that also happened with regularity within the earlier months of a new school year), I would, without fail, rush to insert a picture of my favorite musician or actor in between the backboard and the plastic cover. And that is how I came to design my own custom Motley Crue Trapper Keeper, which basically looked like this: