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go back to the last page you were on Writing Hazards Decades Ago!

Muriel Wells

"Ballpoints regarded as the tools of the devil", quoting Joe, in his latest memories![1]

You triggered off memories of my own, starting about 1940 when having had a year of getting to be proficient in handwriting, albeit, in rather a round and unformed style --- in pencil, we graduated to pen and ink.

Nibs were loose and slipped into a simple holder. Ink was in inkwells which fitted into the holes in your desktop. The ink was provided when a trusty monitor filled the inkwells from a pourer with a long thin spout.

Our inkwells got cleaned out at the end of the term, so progressively as the term advanced there was the hazard of sludge adhering to the pen nib! A crossed nib was another disaster waiting to happen.

Writing with pen and ink is an artform in itself, so I wonder that adults ever expected competence from small fry aged around 8 years old.

We were rather good at getting ink everywhere but where it was supposed to be, as might be imagined. The nib could be overloadedand drip a blot, or an unwary fist or finger smudge the still wet script! Hands would get bedaubed at some stage in the game and the pen nib indented the last joint of the largest finger of my right hand rather painfully. It is a wonder any writing ever got done --- and miracle of miracles, a few achieved tidiness and beauty and got marked 10 out of 10!

Then from 1942 to 1944 I went to Wheatley Street C. A. Girls' School. Now writing was a crusade with Miss. Clews the headmistress. She had perfected the school copperplate style --- and by hook or by crook we were all going to be proficient in it!

The classroom doors would open and she would cruise around peering over our shoulders, intoning, "thin up-strokes thick down-strokes"! Woe betide the careless or the slacker! Anyone who has attended her school will show some residual traces of this early drilling, no matter how many decades have passed, since. I'm sure Dorothy will bear me out on that ![2]

For many years those that had fountain pens were not allowed to use them in school. And then came the introduction of the infamous ballpoints! Again, verboten, at first! In anycase, the first ballpoints were prone to blob --- or leak in your pocket or bag. In time they became the efficient tools they are today, together with rollerballs, gel pens and fine markers.

We do have it good theses days! Teachers, too, have much to rejoice over as the old nib with ball end, for creating wall posters and apparatus, has been replaced by speedy, fast drying felt markers. Such a saving in time --- and you don't drop blots! I became very creative in disguising such calamities.

So --- time marches on --- and pen nibs are almost as redundant as slates with squeaky pencils of my mother's era or the mini sandtrays in which I first practiced my "letters" in 1936. Hurray! You were "in the doghouse" if you spilt the sand, or horror of horrors knocked the jolly thing onto the floor!

But you know --- I still have some ink --- and some nibs and a holder --- and I think that I'll have a little practice one day soon. It might improve my current scrawl!

Hmmm, the idea appeals!

Serious Risks from Textbooks, Smokey
Dorothy's Reply, Dorothy Gibbs

Written by Muriel Wells