JHS Typing

JHS 44, the William J. O’Shea Junior High School was, looking back, an interesting place.  Attending there was filled with fun and fear, learning and “loving”, trying and typing.  That last one was required.

I clearly remember a room full of typewriters, a teacher’s desk and blackboard at the front and nothing else.  I was twelve or thirteen.  There were boys and girls in the class.  The machines were basic manual, maybe Royal or Smith Corona.  When the keys got stuck you had to unstick them yourself.  Handling the ribbon made your fingers blacken with ink.

All of that might be completely unknown or at least alien to many readers.

Having looked through my copy of our yearbook, INKLINGS for 1963, I found neither a photo nor mention of typing class.

We developed a skill which helped all the way through college, “touch typing”.  Today that skill is “keyboarding”.  People of my generation are good keyboarders because the QWERTY keyboard is still the standard.  Through the Commodore 64 and the early Apples I owned I used my touch typing abilities.  I worked for an insurance company as a typist, briefly, and when I worked at NYU’s College of Dentistry I learned keypunching and verifying of computer punch cards (something else many of you will have to look up).  These latter skills were applied to my effort to calculate statistics for my Master’s Thesis in 1976.

My dad’s machine of choice, once electric was available and for as long as I can remember, was the IBM Model A. The first one was gray and the second one was green.  The machines, including the smith corona portable I once had, were all maintained by Mr. Osner in his typewriter repair shop, Osner Business Machines located at 393  Amsterdam Avenue, between 78th and 79th Streets.

When mom had TB, circa 1950, dad cranked out dime novels, one a night on his manual typewriter.  I’ve never seen one of his novels, would love to.  He wrote under the pseudonym Harold Kane.  So far, the Library of Congress and none of the old booksellers I’ve tried have anything in their collections.

Dad typed with four fingers, two index fingers for letters, numbers and shifts and thumbs for the space bar.  How he typed so fast, I don’t know.

When I was later tested, as to typing speed and accuracy, for some job, I tested at 55 words per minute with rarely an error.  At least one of my children types at almost twice that speed.

The study in 9E which later became my bedroom had housed the typewriter and a file cabinet, a desk and a studio couch (perhaps a day bed).  Dad’s workspace was moved into the dining room when I took over the study as my room and the dining room table moved into the living room.  The study always had the aroma of dad’s smoking because it was such a small room.  The smoking eventually helped kill him and no doubt contributed with my own smoking to my lung disease.

Today, almost 60 years later, I still use that skill taught at the William J. O’Shea Junior High School and I am thankful.


12 thoughts on “JHS Typing

  1. Hey Ken. We probably had the same typing class. What I’m most thankful about “44” is I don’t remember anything about my one year there. But like your dad, I also was self-taught on the keyboard at an earlier age, using just four fingers on my mother’s black Royal portable with the sticky keys and the smudgy ribbon. I became a professional advertising copywriter and proofreader, and never needed nor used the touch typing system. I’m using four fingers typing this. Well, whatever works. Thanks again for the memories.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I remember the class and that is one skill I have kept for life. We typed to circus music….a,sldkfjghfjdksla……do you remember that!


  3. I went to Joan Of Arc, JHS 118 in the 50’s didn’t teach typing. I went to a little private school, Rhodes where it was required. I stunk. After graduation instead of going to college right away I spent a lot of times in employment offices trying to get jobs based on my poor skill referred to as “light typing”. I just remember being assigned work and using tons of those little white papers you would insert into the typewriter to correct the zillions of errors I would make. Needless to say, I didn’t last long in most jobs that required typing. Finally I found being a receptionist, more up my alley, using what was called a monitor board which was a more modern form of switchboard.Thank’s for another fun story.Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I took typing at Lefferts JHS in Brooklyn. Our teacher was very strict and you had to sit perfectly erect or he poked you in the back with a ruler. Having taken years of piano lessons helped me quite a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ken — taking typing in HS because there were a lot of girls in the class may possibly have saved Shelly’s life in Korea. On the front lines and the company clerk was rotated & he was the only guy who could type!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Ken, I too was probably in that typing class. I couldn’t read my biology notes after two days – because my handwriting is so bad, and by two days was nearly unrecognizable – even as a memory prompt.
    I used the typing skills to make a living from the time I was 17 – (4 years of typing recipes direct to 12-copies for press at Woman’s Day Magazine) before moving to Los Angeles, California, where I am now.
    Typing made my living here for years until I began to have a paying career lighting & shooting film and also working as a film professor.
    I always feel missing when I see your head photograph. Maybe I’ll send a contemporaneous one – (from about 1990?) You can crop me.
    Warm regards,
    Amy Halpern


  7. I went to ps44 in the 60’s and like you lived to tell the tale. Later as you know it was too dangerous to allow to stay open. I also took the typewriting class along with metal and wood and printing shop. To have gone to school there affected us all more than we can easily describe. The school lunchroom was fun wasn’t it? If you went in the 50’s it got worse by the time I went in the 60’s and worse from there if that can be imagined. Glad I ran into your entry! S.G Chicago


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