Braids and Ink Wells
Knox County — Anyone who went to school in the early 40s knows what an ink well is and how braids sometimes got dipped in them. When the boy sitting behind you got bored during penmanship class, he’d dip your braids into the well if he was sitting behind you.
I don’t remember using these ink wells very much. I think the above scenario; cost; and the fact that it was indelible ink that once you spilled it on your clothes it wouldn’t come out no matter how much your mother scrubbed. Pencils were soon substituted for pen and ink.
In the 40s we didn’t have ball point pens. People used what were called “fountain pens.” When ball points came along most people abandoned the messy fountain pens. Everyone but my great-aunt May. To her it was a matter of proper form. Because of her I always thought of pen and ink as being classy. She always kept a fountain pen in good order and always used aqua ink. When you got an envelope addressed to you in that ink color and in her distinctive handwriting, you knew it was from Aunt May.
Thinking about those old pens and the ink wells, brought to mind first days of school and what we usually brought with us for the new year at school. It differs greatly from what is recommended for each grade these days.
In the South End we had a lot of poor kids who were lucky to come to school with shoes on. Their mothers couldn’t afford to supply their kids with extras like pencils. The most I ever took to school with me that first day was a pencil box with pencils; those tri-shaped erasers; maybe a box of crayons; and later on a protractor and a compass. Anything else we needed was supplied by the school or by the teacher.
Here’s the list I found on the internet to supply today’s fourth grader: pencils; erasers; pens of different colors; glue; some tissues to put in their backpack; scissors; crayons/markers; folders; single subject notebook. Are you kidding me?
Parents are given such a list each year before the school year begins. Some stores will post the lists too and even conveniently package the whole list up for you. There are drives to supply each child with the essentials packed up in a backpack. The closest we ever came to a backpack, by the way, was maybe a leather strap to carry books back and forth from school to home and back again. We didn’t even get homework till about fifth grade or so, making a backpack unnecessary anyway.
Glue and scissors were always supplied for us, as well as any paper we might need. I remember we essentially had a form of newsprint for daily work and white lined paper for special classes like penmanship or for a report we were doing.
What about computer use today? A child must have access to a computer no matter what. I wonder how the poor kids today cope with that if they are away from school computers and maybe have to rely on library computers and getting easy access to them. All of our reports were handwritten of course. We had neither a typewriter nor a computer.
What other things do kids bring to school with them these days? If they can get away with it they probably have a phone; an ipod; or even a pad. I wouldn’t want to be a teacher trying to teach with all these devices distracting their students from their class work. Our teachers would collect anything that would cause a disturbance such as marbles, tops, or other small hand toys. They would go into the teacher’s drawer, which she locked, and you’d get them back at the end of the year.
To see more old school pictures, please go to my blog site: www.southendstories.blogspot.com.
I wish all the kids from the South End and elsewhere a terrific school year. Listen to your teachers; do your best; be kind to your classmates. Words that undoubtedly came from my own mother’s mouth at one time or another when I was in school.
Thanks for listening.