Monday, June 2, 2014

Fun With Dick and Jane

Caution: This post is for real old timers only. In an age when printed books as we know them are disappearing in favor of digital editions, I was remembering my parochial school days in the '40s and '50s when none of this electronic stuff had even been imagined. Books were valued and treated with loving care. Most households struggled to put food on the table, so for many, books were a luxury. We had a few well-thumbed volumes in our house, but most of the books I read came from the public library. My parents were too busy raising us and making ends meet to have much free time for reading. The first books I came in contact with were the "Dick and Jane" readers we were given in first grade. Although the idyllic lives led by Dick and Jane, their parents, their dog Spot and cat Tabby were so far removed from my own, I enjoyed reading the stories.

We received a new reader in every grade. The stories got more sophisticated as we were introduced to harder vocabulary words and more complex sentence structure. We stood up and read aloud in the classroom, with our teachers calling on each child to take a turn. If you mispronounced a word, the teacher would correct you, and so we learned. (Today's parents would probably be consulting attorneys to sue the school for publicly correcting their child in class.) The readers were given to you at the beginning of each term, and you were responsible for caring for them. I remember making book covers out of brown paper bags to help protect the book covers. You had to turn the books in at the end of the term, and God help you if there was any scribbled marks on the pages.

We also wrote with fountain pens, the kind you had to fill with ink. The pens had a rubber bladder that held about a day's worth of brilliant thoughts. We used blotters to blot the ink while it was still wet to keep it from smearing. All the local politicians handed out blotters with their campaign pictures on the reverse side of the blotting paper. We were required to use only blue-black ink in our pens. You were expected to fill your pen at home, but the teachers kept a supply of ink you could use if you ran out. Scripto made blue-black ink, but then a company called Waterman's began making inks in exotic colors like aqua and green, colors which were frowned upon in our school. Because the pens tended to leak, every boy at one time or other wore his blue-black badge of courage with honor.

I have a tablet, laptop, smart phone and a Dick Tracy two-way wrist radio, but like some old timers, I still like the feel and smell of real books. 



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