Pens

I have loved stationery all my life. As a child if I ever had a bit of spending money, such as on holiday, I was always drawn towards the stationery counters in Woolworth’s and W H Smith. Even today, as an adult, I have an abiding love for note books, pens and pencils. In this post I’m going to look at pens and the enormous changes I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’ve covered stationery in general before but this will go into more detail about just pens.

When I started school wooden barreled dipping pens and inkwells were still being used in classrooms. We had ‘ink monitors’ who were chosen by the teacher. A different child was chosen each week. I far preferred being ink monitor to being milk monitor! Each morning blue-black ink was made up from a powder mixed with water. This was then poured into a class set of china inkwells. Each child’s wooden desk had a hole in it which held the inkwell. There was also a groove along the top to stop the pen rolling down the slope of the desk lid. The ink monitor’s job was to put a full inkwell into every hole.

Our pens were not tapered and polished like this one but the picture gives a rough idea.

The pens were the most basic design which you now only see in art cupboards in schools. Each pen consisted of a simple wooden barrel which had a very basic metal nib pushed onto the end. For those of you who didn’t live through this phase of pens the pictures might help to clarify things.

Blotting paper was essential as you couldn’t turn a page over without blotting the writing first or else it would smudge. If you pressed too hard the nib parted and you got a double pen stroke. If your nib snagged on the paper you got dots of ink spotting your book. And was there is no reservoir, you had to dip your pen in the inkwell every few words. And you always ended up with ink stains on your fingers – which didn’t wash of easily!

Ball-point pens (now known as Biros but often referred to as Bics when they were first around) were available in the 1950s/ early 60s but we were absolutely forbidden to use what the headteacher called ‘new-fangled rubbish’. The name Biro is usually credited to a Hungarian-Argentinian inventor László Bíró, whose name inspired a catch-all term for modern ballpoints. As for Bic, Marcel Bich believed in the potential for the ballpoint pen, adapted and improved the ballpoint invented by the Hungarian László Biró, and in December 1950, launched his own ballpoint pen in France under the BIC® brand, a shortened and more memorable version of his own name. To this day I would always rather write with a pencil, fibre-tip, roller-ball or fountain pen than a Biro. Mr Lewis’ legacy!

I didn’t have a fountain pen until I was eleven when I was bought one especially for starting in high school. I used the same one all the way through that school. It was a Platignum and I used to buy Quink (I favoured Royal Blue) ink to fill it with. You put the nib in the ink and squeezed the small rubber tube inside the handle (I can’t find a picture to illustrate this). Later came cartridge pens which made everything a lot easier. A nice pen was a lovely gift to give on a special occasion. There were everyday brands like Platignum and then there was Parker. There were even higher ranking pens than Parker in existence but they didn’t reach small places like ours and were too expensive anyway. Looking up pen history for this post I learned that Platignum wanted to call the brand Platinum but weren’t, at that time, allowed to register a trade name which was also registered as a precious metal.

When I was a student fibre tipped pens appeared on the scene. We had a stationery shop on the campus and I remember buying my first one, a Tempo. I thought it was wonderful. Whilst researching for this post, I learned that the development of fibre tipped pens was based on the brushes which had been used to write with in the East for centuries.

The choice appears endless now. I still love fountain pens best and also like using fibre tips and roller balls. We can add into the mix:

gel pens, marker pens, highlighter pens and, one of the most recent types, the dry-wipe pen which I made great use of when teaching.

As always, I make every effort not to infringe copyright. If, however, anyone objects to my use of a photograph in my blog, please contact me and it will be removed. Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images and Pinterest.

Thank You!

This is not a proper blog post. I have one nearly ready which will go out in a few days.

This morning I just want to thank everyone who has ever called in, whether by accident or on purpose. When I began this humble blog, about life in the countryside in the 1950s and 60s, a few years ago I had five or six ideas for posts I could write. I imagined perhaps as many as a few dozen people might find it interesting. I had no idea that it would be visited in so many countries by so many readers! This morning I have just topped 200 000 hits. I am overwhelmed by this. I’m small fry compared to many but I’m very happy to have reached so many people. Some will only have dipped in and back out again if it wasn’t what they were looking for but 200 000 is way beyond what I ever expected.

I have a good number of subscribed followers now and I really enjoy the comments readers post, often sharing memories which have been triggered by what I’ve written.

I still very much enjoy writing my blog. I also like reading blogs written by other people. It’s a world I never knew existed until I started out as a blogger.

I haven’t run out of ideas yet although I’m expecting this will happen eventually.

Pictures sourced from Google Images.

The Traditional British Seaside Holiday

As we approach summer and people start thinking about holidays I thought I’d take a look at the traditional seaside holiday in Britain, particularly the era of my childhood – the 1950s and 60s.

I’ll start by filling in a bit of background.

Although rich people were taking breaks by the sea from the 1700s, and entering the water using ‘bathing machines’, the working population still worked a six day week with no paid holidays and had no access to transport for long journeys. This changed with the coming of the railways and in 1871. The Bank Holidays Act declared that certain days throughout the year were official holidays (when banks and offices closed). The speed of railway transport meant that people could then travel more easily to the seaside. Coastal towns like: Blackpool, Scarborough, Llandudno and Brighton quickly grew into popular holiday resorts. In the UK, the Holidays with Pay Act 1938 gave workers whose minimum rates of wages were fixed by trade boards, the right to one weeks’ holiday per year.

I never heard of anyone going abroad on holiday when I was a child. I lived in a farming area so most of the families we knew couldn’t leave the farm for a holiday. Every year in the summer our village ran two day trips to the seaside for mums and children. One was just known as the village trip, I have no idea who organised it. Perhaps a group of parents got together. The other was the Sunday School trip. A coach would be hired and we would all pile onto it outside the village post office armed with picnics, buckets and spades, swimsuits etc. We sang songs on the coach and had a brilliant day out even if it rained. If it was too wet for the beach there was always the funfair and the shops in the town where we could spend the little bit of pocket we’d been given. We thought Woolworth’s was heaven!

A coach belonging to our local bus company.
A Woolworth’s toy counter.

Our family holidays were always taken by the coast. Devon and Cornwall were our nearest coastal destinations outside Wales. We have some great beaches in south west Wales too which are nearer to where we lived. We used to go to those for family days out on fine Saturdays in summer. The annual two week summer holiday always saw us going over the border to England.

Traffic jams were a big part of holiday travel at that time. There were no motorways or dual carriageways, towns didn’t have by-passes and had very few roundabouts and traffic lights. Now you can travel across the country sweeping past large and small towns on a motorway, ring road or by-pass. Not then. It was such a pain that we often set off for a holiday at night, arriving at our destination early in the morning. We children thought that was so exciting.

A P.C. on ‘point duty in a town centre before the days of roundabouts and traffic lights.

Back then, everyone took picnics to the beach. Sandwiches and flasks were the norm. Deck chairs were available for hire but most people sat on rugs or towels. We knew nothing about long term sun damage. If you got burned your mum would apply calamine lotion to the burnt skin at bedtime.

At some point in the day there would be a visit to the ice-cream van. What a treat! Homes didn’t have freezers then and neither did the shops around us. When we were small ice-cream was only associated with day trips and holidays. I loved 99’s – and still do!

Credit to Wikipedia, Google Images and woolworthsmuseum.co.uk.

I make every effort to avoid infringing copyright. If, however, anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.