Note Passing in the Eighties

In the 80s, we didn’t have texts or emails to send to our friends during school. Puh-leeze. When our history teachers were droning away about the Battle of Hastings and our minds were focused on anything BUT William the Conqueror, we had just ONE way to let get our message across that expanse of linoleum flooring.

We passed notes in class.

Here’s the J. Geils Band with their 1981 megahit, “Centerfold,” to help you remember the drill:

Slipped me notes under the desk
While I was thinkin’ about her dress
I was shy I turned away
Before she caught my eye…

Of course, passing notes in class had its share of dangers. Unless the recipient happened to sit right next to you, you’d need a chain of accomplices to get your message through. Some might be trustworthy. Others, not so much, as this late-80s clip from “The New Mickey Mouse Club” illustrates:

Even if your fellow students were willing to play along with your covert operation, there was always the risk that the teacher would confiscate your note. If you were lucky, she’d rip it up and throw it away. More dire consequences included reading it to the class, making YOU read it to the class, or saving it and posting it on the Internet in the far-off future.

“The Wonder Years” (1988-1993) was set in the late sixties and early seventies. Here, it offers a glimpse of earlier note-writing practices. Kevin’s torn strips of paper have less finesse than the neatly folded notes of the eighties, but the feeling is certainly there in abundance:

George Strait’s 1995 hit “Check Yes or No” is a corny, sentimental delight. True, the song is from the 90s, but we eighties kids can totally relate. Check out the sweet scenes of schoolroom note passing and the note that the grown man kept from his childhood. Awww, dude, that’s tender!

Passing notes wasn’t just for kids who were going out together (or wanting to). Friends passed notes to gossip, plan after-school and weekend activities, share bits of academic knowledge (NOT that LT80s endorses cheating!), and comment on topics including fashion, music, who’s taking whom to prom… In short, notes were how we discussed things that the teachers couldn’t care less about and in which we had enormous emotional investments.

Passing Notes

Of course, note passing, regrettable or otherwise, didn’t start or end in the eighties. Interminable history classes will always exist, as will distracted students. Kids today might send electronic messages. These can’t be taken up by the teacher or immediately intercepted by their friends, but they CAN be forwarded, copied, and shared with the entire worldwide web. Which totally makes paper note passing seem safer, right? Scribble out or shred that baby and all evidence is gone.

Besides, as George Strait could tell you, a well-written note is a thing of beauty. We eighties girls treasured the keepers and tucked them away in our jewelry boxes to read on a rainy day. There’s not much sweeter than a heartfelt message written in #2 pencil, after all.

There was a real craft to note folding, however. You weren’t supposed to just fold the paper into sloppy eighths or quarters and send it on its way. With origami precision, you had to fold the note, accordion-style, and tuck in that last corner just so. Don’t remember exactly how to do it eighties-style? No worries – LT80s is here to help. Check out our informative video below and send a note to your special friend today:

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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1 Comment

  1. This is a cool trip down memory lane. The 80s absolutely rocked!

    I wonder whether modern day electronic notes hold the same emotional intensity as hand-passed notes… Certainly doesn’t seem that way to me…

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