Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Looking Inside the Ranzen Satchel

Antique Ranzen on ebay
Child's School Slate

I have begun my vacation. You will understand when I say that I was not planning to post to my blog. But shortly after my last post, "Schultüte und Ranzen Go to School," Ewald Meyer, who grew up in the little village of Beurig, gave me some exceptional details about his own Ranzen after he read the blog post. I am very glad to have this new information about his school days when writing paper in a school satchel was rare.

Rather than add this content to the September 6, 2013 blog post, which would make it unlikely that people who have already read that post would read it again, a short new post seemed a better idea. Therefore, this month's post is mostly written by Ewald Meyer with a few additional details which were left out the last time I posted.

Here is what Herr Meyer says he carried to school in his satchel on the first day of his first year in school - my translation. "When I first went to school in Beurig in 1937, the Schultüten (see last post) were still unknown here. They existed in Beurig only since about 1950."

He goes on to say that in his satchel were a slate with a wiping cloth, a wooden pen box with pen for the first written exercises, and a small box with a wet sponge to clean the blackboard. There was a primer in the satchel for learning to read. The slate's front panel had double lines which were to help the youngest students write the letters of the alphabet by giving them ample space. On the back side there were squares for mathematical problems.

As I had surmised in the last post, the Schultüte was not known in the villages of Kreis Saarburg until the 1950s. In the local history book, "Beurig Lese- und Bilderbuch," there are yearly photos of the first grade class for each school year. From 1950 on, the Schultüte is held by every child. Earlier pictures, dating back to 1908 show no sign of the paper cone filled with little gifts.

In Beurig, where Herr Meyer went to school, first grade students were known as ABC Schütze. Schütze, Herr Meyer tells us, is derived from the Latin "tiro" or raw. Thus, a recruit who was drafted into the military, was known as a Schütze. The beginning school children therefore became the "ABC Schütze."

In some places in Germany, i-Dotze or i-Männchen was the nickname for the first-time scholars, a throwback to the time when the first letter of the alphabet to be learned was the letter "i." It was the most easily taught. Sometimes on the school grounds the little ones were teased with the following nonsense rhyme:

Abgeleckte Heringsschwänzchen'"

This translates as
"i-little people, 
little coffee pots, 
licked-off herring tails." 

 It defiinitely seems to lose something in translation.

Der Blumenbaum, Oct, Nov, Dec 2005, p. 68. 
Ewald Meyer e-mail


  1. I had a Schulranzen with a Schiefertafel (slate), Griffel (slate pen) and Kreide, (chalk) plus a little Schwaemmchen (sponge) to wipe the slate clean.

    I never had a Schultuete, because I was an I-Dotz straight after the war, when such luxuries were unknown.
    The Ranzen (satchels) were large and heavy, quite a load for a small child’s back.

  2. josiane9:46 AM

    my goodness!it wasn't much different in 1950.
    a slate with a dry cloth attached to it,a sponge in a box,a slate pen.i .didn't have lines on one side of the slate ,nothing but squares on the other side.not more to start the first year but in a beautiful leather schoolbag like the german ones(in the Vosges area in France) only because, though poor, my mother always wanted us to have the best!most others had rough bags made of rough fabric like potato sacks ! girls never carried bags on their backs ,i wonder why?any other way was allowed
    about the letter i it is still the easiest letter to learn first and i did start with it for 25 years as a teacher myself.
    thank you ,dear Kathy,for that walk back in time