Remembering pencil tablets and inkwells

Published 3:34pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Oh, then there were the left-handed kids. A severe handicap when writing from left to right as was required. Many curled their arm above the page to avoid smearing the ink. My Fran was forced to write with her right hand from the beginning, and is not comfortable with that even today. She uses regular scissors, too.
Getting back to those pencils with erasers on one end: the ‘rubber’ usually wore down to the metal sleeve before the pencil got too short to write with. Therefore some pencils had erasers about twice the diameter of the pencil. Separate erasers that slipped over the end of a pencil were also available. And in a pinch, you could bite the sleeve to flatten it and thus push out some more rubber to take care of a few more mistakes. Metal barrels with advertising on them and erasers in one end were available to slide onto a short pencil to extend its useful life.
Along about sixth grade our English “compositions” had to be written in ink. Then we got slick white ‘notebook paper’ to fit into a ‘loose leaf binder’ and we learned to write with ‘fountain pens.’ No more inkwells in which to dip the pigtails of the girl in front of you, and no more scratchy “Post Office pens.” But, alas, no more erasing either! We could “line out” a few words, but were graded down if there were too many.
Another thing about those pencils . . . they had to be sharpened. There was a mechanical sharpener fastened to the frame of the blackboard at the front of the room. By junior high, we boys noticed that most girls jiggled nicely when turning the crank on the sharpener, so we would ask to add our pencils to theirs when they went by. They were always accommodating us that way . . . reckon they were on to us?

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