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Key to my organization vanishes
By Joni Hirsch Blackman | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 8/16/2008 12:05 AM

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I can take the fact that my younger son graduated from high school and my daughter got her driver's license within a month of each other, but one more change this summer is more than I can handle.

After 30 years of using the same date book - a Chandler's Assignment Notebook - from every August to August since August, 1977-78, I recently went to order my new one. I know from vast experience when they are printed each summer.

I went to their Web page. (They didn't have a web page in 1977, but they do now. Or, they did.)

At Chandlers.com, these awful words are printed: "Thank you for your patronage over the last several decades. Unfortunately, Chandler's Inc. has officially been closed for business. We will not be selling the Assignment Notebook or Date Books in 2008 or beyond. Best of luck and well wishes to all of our past customers."

Huh?

There was a familiar photo of the wonderful little books I've used, continuously and exclusively for the past 31 school years - my entire adult life and then some. But I still didn't believe the words I read.

If you can't trust a Web site, turn to the tried-and-true. I called the 800 number in the back of my current Chandler's, which apparently now is a collector's item. The woman who answered the phone didn't say, "Chandler's." She said some other company name. Bad sign.

"I'm looking for Chandler's," I said.

"This is them," she said, "Or was."

Uh oh.

"Really?" I said. "They aren't making them anymore? Is it because everyone uses electronic calendars?"

"Because they're cheaper to make in bulk overseas," she said.

"Wow." I said. "Please tell anyone there who would care that I'm sorry."

She didn't sound like she cared. Well, I do.

This is one of those things that hit home when people talk about broad subjects like offshore vs. made-in-the-USA - which, not incidentally, was proudly (with an exclamation point!) printed in the back of each of the Chandler's I have had (and I still have most of them.)

According to the back of my last Chandler's, the famous Assignment Notebooks were produced for more than five decades and beloved by millions of students (and at least a few ex-students.)

In the Chicago area at a certain time, if you went to high school, you carried a Chandler's. It was even a two-page spread in my high school yearbook. (As yearbook editor, I was attached to my Chandler's even then.)

The Chandler's pride was evident from the rest of the paragraph inside the back of the book, where the company boasted lovingly of its signature product.

"We are very proud of our ability to maintain our high quality. The genuine wire-o-binding (25% recycled metal) is the best binding available and it allows the book to lie flat for writing. The cover material (made from recycled fibers) represents the most cost effective, durable choice in the marketplace - this high quality product will withstand the demands that you place on it. There is no product in the marketplace that offers these features at our price."

They should have said "no other product," but now, their words are true. And though an order form is included in last year's book for the 2008-09 edition, there was apparently no point to sending it with $8.59 to the Waukesha, Wis., address printed there.

Though I did consider it, just to see if it would somehow work.

Now what? I always knew my son's graduation was imminent and unavoidable. I knew my carpooling days were numbered. I wasn't looking forward to these events, but they were not surprises.

But suddenly my trusted companion through all these years can't be replaced, as it has each late summer since my freshman year of college? Unexpected and disconcerting, to say the least.

The timing is more than slightly ironic: A few days after my 30th high school reunion and a few days before my second child is a college freshman himself, my last Chandler's will be useless.

I'm starting with the reluctant assumption that the world isn't going to end after tomorrow - the last day of my current Chandler's - no matter how much it seems like it could.

I've begun a halfhearted hunt for a replacement, but it's not easy to replace something that has been a piece of your daily life for so many years.

I found a possible replacement in my son's college bookstore.

It's use that, or spend the next several months missing countless birthdays and appointments. Which, frankly, sounds like a tempting protest.

I know from the experience that comes with having filled those 31 books, life will go on, with or without my beloved Chandler's. But something big is changing and I'd like to simply mark the moment and say:

Thanks, Chandler's, for helping keep me organized through my last year of high school, college, getting married, having and raising three children. I guess I will go on from here, but I'm really going to miss you.

• Joni Hirsch Blackman writes about Naperville twice a month in Neighbor. E-mail her at jonihb@aol.com.