I Got Inked!

While I cannot relate to the days of inkwells and feather quill writing, I can remember quite vividly using fountain pens. After graduating from those oversized pencils for printing in first grade, to using only No. 2 pencils in later grades, the fountain pen became a right of passage.

I can recall the first time we were told to bring a fountain pen to class in grade school. It was exciting to know I was about to enter the world of my upper grade siblings who also learned to write cursive with fountain pens.

The nuns at my school scoffed at ball point pens and banned them from use, at least early on. Ball point pens certainly would have been cheaper and easier to obtain.

Little did I know the challenges and disasters of using ink that would follow me. First you had to acquaint yourself with the writing instrument. It was not to be a fancy pen, a simple Parker or Pilot brand was acceptable. Anything too elaborate would only cause issues among jealous classmates.

These simple fountain pens came with refill cartridges that were supposed to make refilling your pen an easy task. I quickly learned that the refills became pliable if left in a sunny window on my desk. It meant that when you pinched the plastic refill cartridge it just might

explode in your hand or cause a leak that trickled down your hand and arm.

Yikes. That ink was nearly indelible. It left its mark on everything it touched. There was no erasing this type of ink other than employing a quick swipe of Wite-Out to your paper.

Teachers weren’t keen on that and made note of “messy” papers in their grading.

I was told by one educator that I had “ink in my veins” because I enjoyed writing more than most other subjects. I guess that was a good omen considering that’s just what I’ve been doing for 40 years.

Writing with a fountain pen required a bit of expertise to prevent words from smearing across the paper. Left-handed students seemed to have a bit more difficulty mastering the technique. I found when writing an essay, if I paused too long on a page, a sizable glop of ink would puddle where I stopped. On the up side, it encouraged me to hurry through writing tasks.

Some pens were better than others in their ease of use. The tip of the pen was important. If not just right, the pen would drag and skip across paper rather than a smooth flow.

Sometimes I think the ink bottle and quill would have been easier. It was good enough for our forefathers and look what they created.


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