Column, Looking Back

From paper to paperless

By Mary Ellen Shaw

The role that paper plays in our lives has changed so much compared to its role “back in the day!”

Several years ago I was researching information about WWII and its effect locally. I visited the Rutland Historical Society and found a letter written during that war. It was correspondence between a local woman and her boyfriend who was away fighting. The ink had faded somewhat but it made the trip back in time seem so real compared to viewing a scanned copy.

It also made me wonder how diligent we will be in modern times about saving digital correspondence that will have historical significance later on. And if we do save it, will it be a technical challenge to access it many years down the road?

I heard a guest on a TV show say that the only time he uses cursive writing is to sign his name. He added that he has to stop and think what he is doing as writing with a pen on paper seems foreign to him.

In my elementary school days we were offered an opportunity to have a pen pal in a foreign country. To keep in touch we wrote letters, put them in a mailbox and waited to get a letter back. No instant communication in those days! But what fun it was to look in the mailbox and see if you had a letter.

We have gotten the Rutland Herald delivered to our house since 1944. That was the year when my parents bought the house that I still live in. I will continue to have it delivered for as long as it’s an option. The Herald subscription offers a free digital edition to subscribers but it’s rare that I choose to view it that way. Sipping a cup of coffee as I hold the paper in my hand is the perfect way to start my day. Old habits are hard to break!

Back in the 50s one of my father’s Sunday pleasures was getting the Boston Globe and reading it from the first page to the last. He would get the paper at Louras’ store after Mass.

I would go in with him to pick out a comic book, which served as my own “Sunday pleasure.” Turning those pages was the best part of my day!

There is nothing like the aroma of a book store and a new book. The Hartford Book Shop on Center Street was my favorite place to go. There was always a cat curled up in the front window on a small circular rug. My mother would browse through the books with me as I made my selection. As soon as I opened the book at home to begin reading a wonderful “new book scent” wafted my way.

The need for paper in the business world was the reason that Moore Business Forms in Rutland existed. My husband, Peter, worked there for almost 30 years. They made many different types of forms. Continuous forms were popular with businesses. I remember using a large printer at City Hall to print quarterly water bills and annual tax bills on continuous forms. Moore’s closed its doors by 2000. Individual printers became popular with businesses and single sheets of paper stacked in a tray replaced many of the continuous forms.

Even banks want to go paperless today. They encourage customers to get their statements online. One of the banks I use requires customers to go to the drive-through, instead of inside, if they are dealing with cash. After all dollar bills are “paper” and their aim is to be paperless. So I sit in my car and get cash handed to me through the window. I realize that most of the world prefers the ease of a driver-through but I liked going inside the bank as a “brick and mortar” customer.

“The times they are a-changing’” and a world that no longer wants to deal with paper is a strange world to me!

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