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.