Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Typing Class, Part 2

The sort of Sears typewriter
my parents gave me for college
Miss DeAngelis had us memorize the keyboard: Left hand (ASDF), right hand (JKL;).  Years later, by the way, I learned that one of the factors determining the keyboard layout, dating back to the 19th century, was this: The founders liked it that typists can type the word typewriter by using only that single row--the QWERTY row. Sounds apocryphal--but I like it.

(And BTW ... in my post the other day I said I couldn't remember the brand of portable typewriter my parents gave me when I went to college in the fall of 1962. But I did remember over the weekend. It was a Sears brand (natch--my folks did much shopping there (see an earlier post)), and the photograph at the top of the page is pretty close to what I owned back then. As I said in my post, it was cheap--and behaved cheaply--jamming, etc. But I still owned it when I met Joyce in the summer of 1969, was still using it for my grad-school papers and for school handouts, letters, etc.)

Miss DeAngelis also gave us routine speed drills--speed and accuracy. We weren't allowed to look at our fingers, just the text we were copying. A competitive guy, I knew how others in the class were doing (I could hear the bells ring as they neared the ends of their lines, the slam of the carriage-returns as they moved to the next line), and I forced myself to go fast, faster, fastest. Soon, I was among the leaders in speed, if not accuracy.

Back in 1982, there was a film, Tex, based on the S. E. Hinton novel of the same name. Young Matt Dillon played a frisky high school kid, who, BTW, was taking typing. There's a funny scene in that film when Dillon replaces some typewriter ribbons in his class with rolls of percussive caps--the kind we used to put in our toy cap guns. And then ... in typing class ... bang, bang, bang--a sound that brought laughter in 1982 but would initiate alarm and lockdown in 2014.

As I look at the transcript of my junior year at Hiram High (1960-61), I see that I did well in typing: A average 1st semester; A average 2nd semester; A average for the year. Impressive, eh? I had the same average in U. S. history (don't be impressed: Our teacher, Mrs. Muldoven, was famously generous). The news gets worse: All B's in English. B+ yearly average in German I. B average in chorus. Phys. ed: A-. (I must have failed to wear white socks once or twice--we got graded on our outfits.) And then there's Algebra II. Shall I share? First semester: B! Second semester: D+!  That's not good--but it is a fair symbol for my math lack-of-ability.

Miss DeAngelis also advised the school newspaper, which in those days required quite a production. "Reporters" turned in their handwritten stories, the kids who knew stuff about English edited them (I was not in that category at the time), the kids who could type (I was one of them) then had a task before them. Because we wanted right-justified columns for the stories, we had to type them in columns, putting little numbers at the end of each line to let us know how many extra spaces we needed to insert in the final typed version. See below:

This is a story about how all lines
need to be exactly the same1234
length, so we type little numbers1
at the end of the line to show how
many extra spaces to insert in the
final version of the story. (See1234

This is a story about how all lines
need  to  be  exactly   the    same
length, so we  type little numbers
at the end of the line to show how
many extra spaces to insert in the
final  version  of  the  story.  (See

Computers have made things slightly easier. Anyway, once we had the columns ready, we had to cut them off the sheets of typing paper and paste them to other sheets of paper to do the layout for the paper. Once we finished that, we then had to retype the stories on stencils for the mimeograph machines. (And, yes, the name of A. B. Dick, named for founder Alfred Blake Dick, 1883, mfg. of copy machines and supplies, now defunct, supplied as much glee for adolescents in 1960-61 as it would now.)

Ah, those blue stencils! (Some were green.) The typewriter punched holes in them--but your touch had to be just right. Too light a touch = insufficient holes = pale copies; too heavy a touch = rips rather than holes = ink blots on your copies. And typos were a pain to correct. A. B. Dick sold little bottles of blue fluid; you would dab some of it on your mistake with the little brush affixed to the bottle cap--blow-dry--re-type--carefully, carefully (the repaired spots were not all that sturdy)--then move on.

Headlines required yet another device. You mounted the blue stencil on a
light board (the light from below illuminated the dark stencil) and used a cutting tool (not unlike the shape of a dentist's probe) to trace/cut letters into the stencil following cut-outs that appeared on plastic devices that looked like rulers with letters and other shapes cut into them.

When the stencil was done, you tore the top blue sheet away from its cardboard backing, wrapped it around the drum of the mimeo machine (carefully, carefully), and--at last!--copies! Which then, of course, you had to collate and staple.

I had to go through the same process in 1966-1967 when I began my teaching career and took on the school newspaper at the Aurora Middle School. Below is a mimeographed image of one of our issues of Tabula Rasa (so clever) from Nov. 1968 ...  You can see the right-justified margins, the various headline types we cut into the stencil. I like it that the headline--SCHOOL YEAR STARTS--sits atop the issue for November 18--such news, arriving only about two and a half months after the fact!

No comments:

Post a Comment