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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


August 18, 2016

The Day of Fountain Pens, No. 2 Pencils

Harry M. Covert

Back to school days. How exciting for all the young girls and boys preparing for kindergarten and elementary learning, plus the older and sophisticated heading to junior and senior high schools ready for classroom academic sessions and extracurricular activities, athletics and Friday night football and marching bands.

 

Let's face it. This is a thrilling time for everybody – teachers and administrators, mommas and dads and the students.

 

In days long gone, it was fun heading downtown for dip pins, bottles of ink and number two pencils. Mothers figured ways to make homemade cloth ink blotters. Book covers were prepared from brown paper bags.

 

As our schools today attempt teach and prepare pupils for college days and careers, they deserve support for their classroom endeavors.

 

Youngsters today won't know anything about nib pens and other such details of learning. Classroom writings required nib pens dipped in ink wells. Of course, some mischievous boys liked to tease the girls with long tresses by quietly and softly sticking their pigtails in the ink wells. No sooner did one boy have success than several others followed suit. Then Miss Reames, who had eyes everywhere, nailed the miscreants. She didn't send anyone to the principal's office. Neither did she sit down fearfully. She had the guilty under control, and, during class, had them erase and clean the blackboards and, believe this, kept them after school.

 

New seating arrangements were made. Of course, the girls got even with the silent treatment and didn't allow any copying of their spelling or arithmetic quizzes. There were other penalties, too, but they but will not be discussed here.

 

Use of ballpoint pens in those puerile times was denied across the school system. Just wasn't proper for English papers. They had to be written with a dip pin or Parker or Sheaffer fountain pens. No such items as an iPhone or calculator were around. Learning multiplication tables, spelling and vocabulary had to be done by memory – rote. A few counted by using fingers. No toe counting allowed because socks and shoes were required.

 

Imagine no ballpoints or rollerball pens today? It took a school board vote after some heavy, stirring debates from teachers to allow the new-fangled writing instruments. Some all-business traditional teachers demanded fountain pen cursive for essays and book reviews. Those who obliged received special attention, but they had to spell correctly, know about declarative sentences and not end them with prepositions. She wouldn't accept use of "very." She said: "If something is good 'very' doesn't make it better." At least I learned something.

 

Returning to school was fun even as we walked in rain, shine or snow. No complaints. Sometimes a city bus ride availed, but not often.

 

Today's classrooms and schools are modern in most every way possible; air conditioned, fancy cafeterias, auditoriums, teachers unions and dress codes of all sorts. In some areas students can have soft drinks with lunches. What a luxury!

 

It was milk or water in the cafeteria in my day. The school board only allowed the Coca-Cola Company to give students book covers until officials figured how to create some income from selling their own book savers.

 

Today school student opportunities are incredible with modern technologies, equipment and all sorts of educational supplies.

 

It's always fun writing with pens and pencils. It sure is mighty fast and neat to use laptops, computers and individual printers in every facet of our lives.

 

Time marches on, mighty fine, you might say. Despite so many trials and tribulations being experienced today, the good old days are now.

 

hmcovert@gmail.com

 



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