Farm Forum

Yesterday I mailed a thank-you note to my grandkids and then headed for the 100th anniversary party at my town’s old City Hall, now a business.

Little did I know that my thank-you note and the venerable old building would join up for today’s epistle.

I’ll get to the thank-you notes shortly.

First, the city hall birthday party.

Building proprietors did a beautiful job of removing the century’s accumulated detritus of many bureaucratic shoes in that 1912 building once adorned with a fake clock tiara always reading 5:17 because getting a real clock on the building was too expensive 100 years ago.

Those “bureaucratic shoes” even included horseshoes on steeds with hooves as big as pie plates that stabled in city hall, ready to be hitched to the fire wagon.

Among those who stopped by to tour the old building was an friend who brought along an warn and warped book of minutes of a committee that once selected jurors for our town’s municipal court cases.

The book was to have been thrown away when the city moved to its new digs, but fortunately my friend saved it for posterity.

The book recorded minutes of meetings starting in 1884. Those minutes were neatly and meticulously written in longhand, of course. Almost without exception through the years as new male clerks came aboard to keep the minutes, all were blessed with precise and stunningly beautiful handwriting.

Their inked cursive lines and ovals are dip pen-created works of art. Trim and tidy writing wasn’t unusual then. Nearly everyone was skilled and took pride in penmanship.

Fast forward to today.

Despite all of us older folks who spent hours in school working on endless ovals and slanting lines of the Palmer Method, for some of us our cursive abominations were for naught.

I often jot down notes on flimsy restaurant napkins, but my Palmer Method is so bad I usually can’t read my own writing when I check it out days later.

Which brings me to my thank-you note to the grade school grandkids. Our daughter called to say the boys had received my note, but since the kids were not adept at reading cursive, she had to read it to them.

At their school, third graders are taught cursive penmanship. But because of today’s electronic gadgetry, most of what kids and young adults read and write is now printed, not written.

She and my son both teach college courses that require students to write class assignments. Almost all of their students print rather than write these exercises. Some are so good at printing that their work looks computer-generated, they say.

My thank-you note, incidentally, was in response to the thoughtful gift from my grandsons of an autographed baseball they had gotten from a Minnesota Twins great. The autograph was in cursive, but a mite unclear as to who had signed it.

I later learned the signee was Dan Gladden.

So you see, even a pro athlete who earned millions and who could hit with slim stick a little sphere traveling 100 miles an hour can’t match the penmanship of those low-paid, former jury selection committee clerks who used thirsty dip pens to create penmanship masterpieces.

Sadly, good penmanship is a thing of the past. But kids are good printers.

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