The three R’s. That’s what we Boomers learned in school. We read lots of American history, and in our books, Americans were always the good guys. Nathan Hale, Paul Revere, George Washington, Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson were heroes. In literature, we read the classics when there was no such thing as a book being politically correct. We learned to add, subtract, multiply and divide without a computer or calculator – just in our heads or with a piece of chalk on the board. And writing? Yes. We were taught to write.
In the early years we were taught to print, but we didn’t have the luxury of designing an “e”, for example, to fit our personal style.
Each small “e” had to be precise as well as our capital “E’s.” Then, in third grade, we were taught writing with connected cursive letters. Every Boomer can remember the lines on the chalkboard where “l’s” drifted gracefully to the top line, whereas “t’s” stopped a little short. We were scolded if the tops of our “r’s” were not precise or if our “y’s” lacked fluid curves.
Many of us wondered why our school ma’rms were so strict with those ‘riting rules, but we saw later that good penmanship was important when communicating. Back then we actually wrote letters and some of us remember when stamps were 2 cents.
In fourth or fifth grade, our writing classes assumed a steeper learning curve. We had to write things with pen and ink. Not ball point pens, but fountain pens that sucked up ink with the flip of a small lever.
The pens drew ink from a bottle up into the reservoir through a feed to the nib or tip of the pen. It was then our job to transfer said ink onto a piece of paper and pressing down on the pen was a no-no. Rather, the pens had a magical ability to deposit the ink on paper through a combination of gravity and capillary action. It took the ink a while to dry, so you had to be careful with smearing. That was points off.
Ink, however, was an accident waiting to happen. Each school desk had a small hole to hold the ink bottles and at least twice a year, each student tipped over his or her bottle of ink. Ink also had a propensity to leak onto clothing and it was also sent flying through the air in the direction of another students with a mere flick of the pen. This type of behavior was known to cause paddles to be procured from the teacher’s desk and applied to the guilty student’s seat in a series of stinging blows. But if you didn’t get caught, it was fun to see tiny blue dots scattered on the face of a fellow ink flicker.
Boomers also remember the name Parker, the Cadillac of fountain pens. George Parker received a patent in pen design in 1894. From the 1920’s into the 1960’s, Parker was either at the top of the list in popularity or a close second. Today many of those old pens are highly collectible and considered works of art. For Boomers, a fountain pen was just an ordinary way to learn to write in a way that others could read what your were writing. What a novel idea!