Friday, 3 February 2017
A Spare Pair of Stockings Just in Case!
The olden days of Remington typewriters, dual erasers, dark grey for ink, white for pencil, and the hard, orange typewriter erasers - how did we manage? Those orange erasers often made a hole in the paper, which meant a total retype, and this was devastating if it was a long and complicated letter.
And a bit later smart Adler typewriters and tippex, small rectangles of white paper, You slipped a piece behind the ribbon so the treated part covered the mistake, then you would retype the key to fix the letter that needed correction, and this would be obliterated by the magic white stuff.
Sometimes it was hard to type because the office budget required as little heating as possible. Then, more mistakes were made by fingers numb and frozen - all the same, mistakes were not tolerated. The letters had to be placed inside a blotter "For Signature" book, so the boss could sign with his fountain pen without danger of a smudge.
In those days, girls from the typing pool were fair game and groped by the men in charge, but secretaries were often luckier, protected by their higher status. But not if they had a predatory boss. It was no good complaining because it would always be your fault. "Can't you deal with that yourself?"
Every new typist learned the pangram, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" because it used every letter on the keyboard just once.
Then there was Pitman's shorthand. Pages and pages of it. If your boss was a fast dictator, and you were a new secretary, sometimes it was hard to read back your work. If you were a temporary typist visiting a company whose business you were not familiar with, you hoped for a patient, understanding employer.
Every letter required copies, sometimes five or six for various departments, and you had to check regularly that the last carbon was producing a clear copy.
But the City of London was exhilarating back in the 1960s - marching across London Bridge on a brisk winter morning, a wave of bobbing bowler hats of the men and the high bouffant hairdos of the young secretaries. Big umbrellas used as walking sticks just for show.
Sharp suits and shiny shoes, and every good secretary carried a spare pair of stockings in her bag just in case she got a ladder. (Horrors!)