The Last Day of School

There really wasn’t a better day in the life of a kid than the last day of school. Sure, Christmas brought gifts, but it only lasted a day. The last day of school signified the carefree summer ahead, filled with adventure, love, laughter, and yes, a little boredom. But a boring summer day beat the classroom every single time.

Every kid took notice when the calendar flipped to June each year. The excitement over a two-month-plus reprieve from the classroom was almost too much to bear, assuming you weren’t headed off to summer school, which could really put a damper on things. Thankfully, those final weeks of June were usually filled with plenty of activities to make the time pass more quickly.

First and foremost, there were finals to prepare for, but there was also usually a steady stream of field trips and outdoor activities to get us out of the stifling heat of the classroom, most of which did not have air conditioning back in the 70s.

And so they shipped us off to places like Fire Island’s Sailor’s Haven and a number of parks scattered around the island, also community swimming pools, movie theaters, and any other places that afforded cool temperatures on those hot and muggy June days.

And, after the field trips and finals, after all the yearbooks were signed, the last day of school arrived – and kids all over Long Island proceeded to lose their minds.

This was the day when few paid attention to littering, throwing all that spare notebook paper on the floors while cleaning out their lockers, and out of the windows of the bus on that last glorious ride home for the season, screaming with joy the entire way. Bus drivers were less than pleased but they put up with us for the most part.

Once you stepped off that bus, you were free. No more waking up before the sun, no more tests, no more full schedules. The day was yours to hang with friends, eat Italian Ices, walk to the mall, or take one of those dreaded family road trip vacations, sitting alongside your equally miserable siblings and thinking bad thoughts about them.

Truth is, we all probably spent our summers a little differently. Some of us worked jobs, some of us traveled, some of us had a pool and the rest of us had the garden hose. But all of us yelled and ran for change when the bells from the ice cream truck drifted over from the next block.

And we all savored each day of summer, at least until the severe boredom set in. By the time August was wrapping up, most of us were starting to miss all of the school friends we hadn’t seen and ready to get back to work, or at least socializing. We had come full circle.

Sadly, there is no video from those last days of school from yesteryear. Hollywood did give us a reasonable depiction of the 70s mayhem at least, in the 1993 film, Dazed and Confused:



The one thing nobody ever tells you as a kid is that you only get so many “last days of school” in life. Sure, when you have kids, you can relive it through their eyes, but you never again get to feel that same wonderful anticipation when the days of June wind down. You likely won’t ever get the chance to freely throw a stack of paper out of your car window and scream with joy in quite the same way either.

The last day of school, a ritual passed down from generation to generation, is one of the most memorable days you can have as a kid, and in the 1970s, we enjoyed it to the extreme.

What do you remember most about the last day of school? Share all of your memories in the comments section below and help us all relive the childhood glory together.

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5 Responses

  1. Barry says:

    Yes, summer vacation was indeed a liberating experience! No classes, lots of lounging around, trips to the beach, pool, etc. However, the long arm of the school system continued to keep its tight grip on me, way way into the summer. That insidous grip was also known as the final report card…..

    Although it was a relief to be out of the stressful classroom environment, I wasn’t completely off the hook. That was because I had to wait and wait and wait for the report card to be delivered to the mailbox. It was torture. It was agony. Especially when I knew that some of my grades weren’t up to par. My parents expected all A’s from me, but the reality was far from that ideal.

    Sometime in July, the report card would arrive, and if there was a “C” grade on it, I would have to explain myself. If my explanation wasn’t adequate, the rest of the vacation would turn into a nightmare. No more priviliges. No more summer fun. Time to pick up math books and try to improve my situation. Perhaps when September rolled around again, I’d be free of my parents’ wrath. Until then, it was another long summer vacation.

  2. KaschaK says:

    My most enduring memory of a lasdt day at school in LI is a painful one actually. My sister and I went to a private kindergarten called Little Red Train in Hempstead. The last memory I have of it was climbing on bars of some sort and trying this move that older kids were doing (the school actually had even older kids there) called Skin the Cat. Well when I tried it I sort of had my tongue hanging out when I landed because my sister was making me laugh and I bit the crap out of my tongue. Screaming fit. There were two parts of my tongue where the top layer was bleeding and I thought I was going to die. It was horrible then, but now it just cracks me up.

  3. Rick Jack says:

    I graduated HS in 1970. That was the first year we were allowed to wear jeans and sneakers to school. (Public school). Back in the 60’s once the school year was over it was play time from sunrise to sunset. The days seemed so long and there were always plenty of friends to do something with. On the hot days we find an air conditioned movie and watch the same movies over and over again for hours to stay cool. Rainy days we’d take a bus to Roosevelt field and walk around and see what pranks we could get away with. We sailed model boats in Sailsbury park, or flew kites. Attach toothpicks to the wings of balsa planes and have dog fights. We lived with out ten speed bikes and once we got old enough we’d ride around all day looking for girls. But I know now we were not too cool doing it that way. A slice of pizza was 25 cents or a Carvel cone. We’d collect bottles for the refund which would fund our movies or food, or toys. We’d have play gun fights, plenty of fireworks all summer long. The days felt like they lasted forever…as my memories will.

  4. Michele says:

    Howdy! I’m sort of an imposter from southern Minnesota, so I just wanted to quickly say this has been so cool to read about all this and your memories from the 70’s! I was 10 in 1976, and I guess you guys didn’t know that other kids got out of school by the last day of May some years and for sure by June 3 or so. So we had three whole months off and in my case picked rocks and pulled weeds in soybean fields, weeded the garden, cleaned the garage and basement every weekend, etc. But also fun stuff like shopping at TEMPO on Sundays, going to Holiday for a week’s supply of groceries (hey, getting that new fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt was a big deal back then!), and hanging out at the lake two miles down Highway 19.

  5. I remember in Elementary School we got our report cards on the last day of school and found out who our teacher was for next year. Our last 3 days were also half days, so that was cool. I remember taking swimming lessons down at the beach for two summers. Most other summers I remember watching game shows in the morning and cartoons in the afternoon, staying up late and riding my bicycle.

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