Column, Looking Back

The written word

The written word back in my youth did not appear on a digital device. It showed up on a piece of paper and was written with a pen or pencil.
In the 1950s many young girls recorded their own personal experiences using a ballpoint pen to write their words. We had diaries complete with a lock and key. Mine had a pink vinyl cover with a picture of a teenage girl wearing an ankle length skirt. She was holding a leash with a poodle on it. That may sound familiar if you were part of that generation. When I got my diary I vowed to make an entry every day. That intention lasted for quite a few weeks and then the pages remained blank. I discovered the diary in my attic a few years ago and was amused by what I found worthy of writing about.
Entries covered such topics as: a boy I had a crush on, who my best friend was and who I was mad at. On Fridays I usually entered my plans for fun things I wanted to do on the weekend.
As I looked at my writing in the diary I was reminded of the Palmer Method test we had to take to graduate from eighth grade. In my early days at Christ the King School the classrooms had large charts over the blackboards with block letters. By the upper grades the charts contained cursive letters. That is where my troubles began.
The Palmer Method of writing had a slant to it. My natural inclination was to write backhand which made the letters straight. Every nun who taught me had wonderful penmanship. They tried to guide my unwilling fingers but success was minimal. I believe that the Palmer Method tests were sent away and came back as a “pass” or “fail.” I made at least four attempts to pass the writing test and was probably allowed to graduate out of kindness. My scholastic grades were great, but put a pen in my hand to write in the Palmer Method and success turned to failure.
As you know, high school requires a lot more writing than elementary school does. Notes need to be taken in class. “Back in the day” If you were assigned a term paper, you went to the library and wrote extensive notes. Since digital devices didn’t exist, you wrote as fast as you could. I was always in a hurry, so I would often get home and not be able to read what I had written. Since the books my information came from were back at the library, that was not handy!
When I wrote thank-you notes for gifts I received, my mother told me to take my time and use good penmanship. Now what kid wants to do that? It’s much more fun to be outside playing. I watched a talk show recently where there was a discussion about thank-you notes. Three out of four hosts agreed that even today a handwritten note is the proper way to express thanks. One went a step further and said her children have to do that within 24 hours. The reasoning is that if it isn’t done right away, it won’t happen at all.
Another good reason for writing a thank-you note is the advantage it could give you following a job interview. During my working days, there were three applicants who all made a good impression on my boss. But the one who got the job wrote him a thank-you note for the time spent with her. She also expressed her hope that she would be part of his team. She got the job!
Some of my most cherished possessions are handwritten recipe cards that I keep in either a box or recipe binder. Seeing my mother’s writing and that of my friends and relatives reminds me that they prepared something I liked well enough to ask for the recipe. A printout from a website just doesn’t have that personal touch or a “seal of approval.”
So if you have gone digital, why not surprise someone and take a step back in time? Drop them a handwritten note the next time the occasion arises. I bet it will be a pleasant surprise.

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