Even posting this image of the mimeograph machine reminds me of the particular smell it gave off. If you are old enough to remember the machine, I bet the you would still recognize the odor if you ran across it. Since we needed more than one copy of a worksheet for much elementary school assignments, we had to use the mimeograph machine.

Fortunately, I rarely had to make my own stencils to use. There were many ready made mimeograph sheets available. But sometimes I had to make my own. I typed them on the stencil material which produced the image in reverse on the back of the master. Then the master was carefully separated from the back and attached to the large roller of the machine. Paper was inserted on the right and then you cranked the roller to duplicate as many sheets as you needed.

What could go wrong? You might die from the fumes of the thing to start with. There were no OSHA regulations in those days, and I am sure that the ink used to reproduce the stencil was toxic. Then you would have the challenge of attaching the master very carefully so that it lay evenly and smoothly across the roller. A slight wobble produced disastrous results. And of course, like most teachers I would wait until the morning I needed the sheets to run them off. So we had to wait while each of us carefully attached a stencil and ran off their copies.

Do I miss the thing? Not at all. By the time I returned to teaching the Xerox had been invented. Of course, it brought a myriad of its own problems from paper jams to toner spill. But at least, unless when it was overheating, it didn’t send out toxic fumes!

“Keep A Copy”


Returning to the more pleasant topic of things that have disappeared from common use, I remember carbon paper. It is difficult to remember back before Xerox machines or the ability to save, store and print documents at will. The only way you could make a copy of something was to insert a piece of carbon paper between your first piece of paper and the second piece. Then you had to carefully keep everything together as you threaded the trio into your typewriter. When you struck the typewriter key with enough force, the carbon paper transferred a bit of black ink to the underneath sheet while the top sheet got the ink from the inked ribbon.

If this sounds tedious, it was. However, it was a vast improvement over the century before. If you have read Melville’s story “Bartleby the Scrivener,” you will know that lawyers and other paper heavy professions hired men(not women)to hand copy each document that needed to be duplicated. This was the tradition that had come down through centuries. While printing presses allowed multiple copies to be made of books–a vast improvement over hand copying each book–it was of no use for making one copy of a will or deed.

Carbon paper was as messy as it sounds. It also was of no use in correcting errors. Even if you could use White-Out to correct errors on the original page, you had to repeat the correction on the carbon copy. Now I guess it is a novelty item. It is still for sale I learned when reading about it. But in my college days it was a necessity. A dirty necessity, but needed nonetheless.

“Flag Day?”


When I was a child, June 14 was celebrated as Flag Day, and I remembered that this morning when I noticed the date. I was very murky about what that day was supposed to celebrate, and I am quite sure I was never taught its significance. Researching it now, it apparently was to note the adoption of the first flag for the United States by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. That was a little premature, since the Revolutionary War didn’t end until 1783, but they were optimistic enough to design a flag.

Unfortunately, many people have confused caring about the country with carrying about the flag. That led to outrage in my college years when protestors set fire to flags. People were also appalled by pants being patched with flag patches. My country’s leader is almost apoplectic about athletes not standing as the national anthem is sung while looking at the flag. Some say that old flags can’t be discarded but must be ceremonially buried. There are organizations in the United States that will collect old flags and ceremonially destroy them for you.

To me a flag is a symbol, not the thing itself. Much more disrespect is shown to the values of the United States daily by our leader than is ever shown when a flag is discarded. Locking up refugee children apart from their parents, for instance, is a grave demonstration of disrespect. Flying an American flag over the lockup doesn’t bless the actions.

To the extent that the flag reminds Americans of the ideals of democracy, I am glad to fly one from my front porch and I do. But don’t think I expect you to genuflect before it. It is just a symbol, not the real truth of freedom. Kneeling during a flag ceremony is a genuine act of freedom for an American. And it is done respectfully, in silence with a bowed head of mourning. Because like those first designers of the flag they are protesting against repressive government actions. Not the British this time, but their own leaders who sometimes act without justice under the banner of the flag.

“What We Didn’t Know 2”


Smoking was ordinary in the 1960’s and 70’s, but apparently sales showed that not enough women were smoking. The tobacco company began a campaign designed to appeal to women. Supposedly. The early ads showed women in the early 20th century being chastised for smoking. Now, apparently, women had “come a long way, baby” and could smoke just as freely as men.

This ad is clearly trying to attract another market segment, black women. This woman is meant, I suppose, to represent a very strong rebellious woman, with an Afro and Afro-centric colors of clothing. This ad probably ran in Ebony or Jet, rather than in women’s magazines such as Good Housekeeping. Ads were still drastically segregated, and people of color were not seen in ads for “general (i.e. white) audiences.” But that’s another post!

I never took up smoking because of a childhood deep inhalation of a neighbor’s cigarette when I was six. I promptly threw up, curing me forever of any desire to smoke. But most of my friends smoked. Cafes, restaurants and bars were thick with smoke. To be an intellectual almost demanded that you smoke. No one except the tobacco companies knew that cigarettes were both addictive and lethal.

Today I cringe as I think about both the ad campaign with its patronizing use of the word “baby” and the emphysema and lung cancer rampant in people my age. But we didn’t know about the danger in the smoke. And it hurt us.



“Isolationist In Chief”


I have spent my life collaborating with others. That is probably a result of living with five other people with a small hot water heater! At any rate, I have learned that other people have needs and ideas and that life goes better if we coordinate. Even though I might have thought my long bath was more important than every other family member’s, I still limited my soaks and showers.

The United States is plagued right now by a “leader” who has no interest in working with others. Worse still, he feels the need to demean and bully anyone who has a need that conflicts with his own. Not the nation’s, mind you, but his own. And his primary need is to be left standing alone, talking to himself, deciding things himself and then being endlessly praised.

I am reminded of the children’s game Farmer in the Dell. In that circle song, the farmer chooses a wife, the wife a child, the child a nurse, the nurse a dog, the dog a cat, the cat a mouse and the mouse the cheese. But the cheese is left standing alone. That’s how I envision the leader of the United States. Alone.

It’s a terrible way to live, and he is unfortunately trying to take as many people as possible to his dark isolated corner of the world. May we join together to demonstrate a different view of life. May we continue to speak truth to power. May we continue to combat lies with truth. May Donald Trump have a spiritual awakening that allows others to enter his cold, lonely prison of self.

“52 Card Pickup”


My siblings and I loved to play all kinds of card games. They all had specific rules that we agreed, even if begrudgingly, to follow. One game, however, was a practical joke which we never tired of playing on each other and other kids: 52 Card Pickup. Quite simply, one asked “do you want to play 52 Card Pickup?” The unsuspecting child would say, “sure.” Then the jokester would throw all the cards in the air shouting: “52 Card Pickup” and walk away laughing.

I have refrained from political commentary for a long time on this blog. However, after watching Donald Trump basically play 52 Card Pickup with the heads of state gathered in Canada for a meeting, I had to say something. Donald Trump does not know how to play with others. He is not interested in the rules. He is not even interested in looking back after he throws the deck in the air. He expects that the rest of the world will pick up after him.

To all my readers in Canada, Germany, France, and England, please know that a majority of Americans are appalled at the behavior of Donald Trump. He only knows how to disrupt, not build. We will find a way through this and hope that you will find a way to let us work with you again.

“Parking Heights”


For some reason yesterday I began to tell my husband about “pigeonhole parking.” He had never heard of it, so perhaps it was a West Coast phenomenon. My siblings and I begged my mother to put the car in the contraption pictured above when we went downtown to shop. In fact, if you look at the far right stack of cars, the second one from the top looks a lot like what we called the b-mobile, our Ford station wagon.

You drove up to the lot and centered your car on an elevator like platform. Then the attendant maneuvered your car up to a height with an available parking slot. Then he drove the car into the slot and brought the empty elevator down for the next customer. When you went to get your car, you would look up until you found it and then point it out to the attendant. Then he reversed the process, bringing your car safely back down.

I am not sure why we were so fascinated by the mechanism. However, it was a very popular parking fixture, and toy makers even chimed in with miniature versions.


They never really caught on, I guess. While they conserved space on land, they were terribly inefficient, particularly if several people wanted to leave at one time. But while the lot pictured above was around, we loved it.