A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Friday, November 1, 2013


Here's an interesting article that I ran across the other day.  Some of my older readers may appreciate the list.

I  miss the taste of paste (wintergreen) and the smell and feel and visual glory (and names) of  Crayola brand crayons (which I actually collect to this day). I  also miss clapping erasers together to remove most of the chalk dust, and then opening the port to the built-in vacuum system to let the negative pressure do the rest. I also miss blackboards and using white and colored chalk. (I've taught in classrooms with the "revised updated" green boards and those white boards that use foul, chemical-smelling markers that stain hands,  sleeves and shirt fronts). Cursive writing, for me at least, was always easier than printing which we were never taught. While my results were never as good as Lucy Stansbury's (class artist), they were passable and I learned to write quickly.  I even learned some symbols to speed up taking notes such as "&" for "and"  along with the use of arrows and balloon circles.

I  also miss my special Scripto automatic pencil with its shorter round, see-through red or blue barrel and pink eraser. I will not miss the wall-mounted pencil sharpeners that I had to clean and that left my hands filthy with carbon black. But I will miss the sharp points that those wall mounters gave my lead pencils (#2 yellow Ticondaroga or Dixon), a point that hand-held sharpeners can't duplicate. I do miss 16 mm. Bell and Howell movie projectors, less so the slide projector--even those with carousels-- or the film strip projectors with their funny beeps. Cigar boxes, of course, were a luxury item for those of us who lived in non-smoking households.  I had a deal with the local pharmacist who saved me some every now and then. Cigar boxes could be made to hold a variety of secret, amazing items, including de-coder rings, single edge razor blades for model airplane building, a skate key, a missing jigsaw puzzle piece, a chess piece, a folding scout knife with multiple blades, a match book, cloth "wolf-bear-lion" patches from my blue cub scout shirt, and a spare (oft-misplaced) needle valve that we used with a bicycle pump to inflate basketballs and footballs. You get the idea.

I wonder if enforced good manners have also disappeared? Coloring between the lines? Cutting construction paper to make Christmas Tree chains or Valentines--with a deplorably dull set of round pointed tin scissors? How about peanut butter sandwiched between the halves of a hamburger bun, warm milk in half pint cartons with a straw, fig newtons, brown bananas, or the surprising first taste of V-8?

I reserve a special place in my memory of elementary schools for the smell of mimeograph sheets or ditto sheets. The scent of that ink can still take my imagination through history--across the world, over the times tables, up and down animal kingdom, and in and out of Presidents and capitals. I knew so much, so easily, then. Uncomplicated process and no Software building and testing errors.

What will Millenials miss? Boomers?
10 things disappearing from elementary schools
Cursive is going the way of the abacus
You don't see this much anymore.
You don't see this much anymore. (Three Lions/Getty Images)
Modern technology has changed the American classroom in many ways, as have parental attitudes. Here are some elementary school essentials that are either long gone or starting to disappear from the classroom.
1. BlackboardsThe first classroom blackboard was reportedly installed at West Point in 1801. As the railroads spread across the U.S., so did chalkboards, as slate was now easily hauled long-distance from mines in Vermont, Maine, and Pennsylvania. By the 1960s, though, blackboards began to go green — literally. Steel plates coated with porcelain enamel replaced the traditional slate boards; the green was easier on the eyes and chalk erased more completely off of the paint. In the 1990s, though, whiteboards began creeping into classrooms. Turns out that even "dustless" chalk annoyed kids with allergies and got into the nooks and crannies of the computers that were beginning to become classroom fixtures.
2. RecessThere are many reasons why some schools are eliminating or shortening recess: Students need every available moment for academics in order to prepare for standardized tests, too much liability lest a child gets injured, not enough budget to hire sufficient playground supervision, etc. Some schools that do still have recess have banned dodgeball or games like tag. Other schools have Recess Coaches who provide structured play and conflict resolution (Rock-Paper-Scissors rather than Pink Bellies) on the playground.
3. Cursive penmanship
Who could have predicted that one day, cursive handwriting would become a hot-button issue along the lines of school prayer and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance? But thanks to computers and texting and all that fancy technology, script handwriting is slowly going the way of the abacus. Many educators believe that legible printing and good typing skills are all today's students need to learn to succeed in the world, and cursive is a non-essential skill. I recall feeling quite grown-up when I started learning cursive in the second grade — I could now read all that "secret" stuff my mom and other adults were writing down!
4. Wall-mounted hand crank pencil sharpeners
Maybe teachers were made of sturdier stuff Back in the Day, or maybe they just had a stock of Valium in the teacher's lounge…how else did they survive without the "Classroom-Friendly Pencil Sharpeners" that are all the rage? Some are electric, some are manual, but they are quiet and many have a pop-out feature to prevent over-sharpening. Sure, these old-style sharpeners were awkward for southpaws to use, but to take away the fun of grinding a pencil down to a stub just for the heck of it? Sheesh.
5. PasteMany school supply lists today require glue sticks, not the good ol' white paste in a jar with an applicator that smelled so minty good it always inspired at least one kid to eat the stuff.
6. Film projectorsThe really fancy models came with a playback device that "beeped" when it was time to advance the filmstrip to the next frame. And it always seemed to take forever to get the picture just right on the screen (propping it up on one book, then two…then focusing…). But we didn't mind the delay — it was just that much more time that we didn't have to spend actually studying or paying attention.
7. 16mm movie projectorsThe A/V captain had to turn the volume up to 11 most of the time, due to the poor sound quality of the ancient films and the clack-clack-clack noise of the sprocket holes moving through the machinery. Sometimes a series of holes were broken and the film would get "stuck" or skip. The projectionist knew then to stick a pencil in the lower loop and pull it just so to get the classic Coronet or Jiminy Cricket "I'm No Fool" educational short back on track.
8. Pencil sharpeners with exposed razorsYou probably don't see many pencil cases with built-in times table cheat sheets any more, and even pocket pencil sharpeners have undergone a transformation in recent years. The models sold for student use are much more safety-oriented, with the blade concealed in a plastic cup or enclosure of some sort. In fact, in 2008 police were summoned to a school in Hilton Head, South Carolina, when a student was "caught" possessing a small razor blade. The police report stated that the "weapon" was obviously from a pocket pencil sharpener that had broken (the kid had the broken plastic pieces, too), but the school was obliged to call the law due to their "zero tolerance for weapons" policy.
9. Cigar boxesEven back in the 1960s, you could buy "school boxes" that were the same size and had the same hinged lid as a cigar box, but they had cutesy pictures of the alphabet and school supplies painted on them. And they cost money. So when kids brought home that list of necessary school supplies every year, many parents went to the local drugstore and got an empty cigar box for free. There was something rather soothing about opening that box up during the day to retrieve a pencil or ruler and getting a quick whiff of rich tobacco aroma. By the end of the year, of course, ol' King Edward had an eye patch and warts drawn all over his face. Thanks to the decline of smoking in the U.S. and the idea of a tobacco product being near a first grader's desk, most students bring those store-bought boxes to class these days.
10. Mimeographed sheetsSometimes called "dittos" and technically referred to as a spirit duplicator, they reproduced multiple copies of an original document in dark purple ink for the teacher to pass out. But the most important thing about a ditto sheet was the aroma — a fresh one smelled heavenly. It was pretty much a reflex — as soon as you were handed a freshly mimeographed paper, you lifted it up to your face and inhaled that delicious, indescribable fragrance.

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