LEARNING TO TYPE

In September, I found a job at a nursery school two blocks from our Philadelphia apartment. At the beginning it went well. I liked the other staff, particularly my partner, Sarah. The boss left us on our own with no direction. I confess I was a horrid teacher. For the first time in my life, I spanked one or two of the boys. I was a mean teacher. Those little boys must have hated coming to nursery school. I’ve regretted and compensated for my behavior ever since.

Early the next spring, the boss came to Sarah and me separately to say she had to let one of us go, but said, “I’d like you to stay.” Walking home, Sarah and I shared those conversations. Neither of us wanted to work there. After being paid the next day, Friday, we skipped and danced down the street, happy to be jobless.

My friend, Joy B., suggested I apply for a summer position at the Provident Mutual Insurance Company home office where she worked. I did. I took a typing test without erasures and made 35 words a minute. Typing had not been my strong point, but the personnel director was satisfied. She asked me to type a short letter and allowed for erasures. I was hired and put in the sales department. We took cards sent in to the company by perspective clients. The cards said we would give them a personalized pen or some other gimmick to get a salesperson in their door.

Once a month I typed a long list of agents giving their sales of the month. The agents were very picky about their names, initials, etc. I learned to be picky with my typing. These had to be typed on blue mimeograph film (no copiers in 1956). Fortunate for me, if I made a mistake, I could put some blue liquid on the error, wait for it to dry and make the correction. Another person took the film and ran it through the mimeograph machine to make copies which we then addressed and sent to each agent.

I sat next to a woman, June, who typed at least a100 words per minute. She would reach into her drawer and pull three sheets of paper and two carbons, put them in the typewriter and whip off a letter. Should she make a mistake, she ripped the papers and carbons out of the carriage, tossed them in the trash, and reached for more. The way she used carbons must have cost the company a lot of money.

One day June was sick or on a day off. It was the day I really learned to type. The boss handed me three letters at 3:00 in the afternoon. We were finished work at 4:00. He wanted the letters before then. I handed him the letters just before 4:00. I must have taught my fingers to concentrate that day. Ever since then I’ve been a much better typist. Computers make typing a breeze, but in 1956 it was an IBM manual typewriter.

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