Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fountain Pens and Me I: My first fountain pens

I have recently rediscovered writing with fountain pens after finding them on Amazon. I will get to my recent adventures later, but first I need to talk about my first exposure to a fountain pen. It must have been about 1967, the TV show "Dragnet 1967" was on and at 7 years of age I was a big detective show fan along with reading "Hardy Boys" detective books. I set about setting up an "office" in my bedroom.

 Rummaging around the house I soon discovered two old fountain pens: a Parker and a Sheaffer. One had a clear rubber eye-dropper sort of fill mechanism and the other filled using a lever on the side of the barrel. I think these might have been my mother and fathers pens from the late 1940's or early 1950's, probably their last fountain pens before they switched to ball points. Pens were not disposable in that era and while these were not hugely valuable collectors items, they were not cheap pens either. They were probably the best they could afford and were expected to last and be used for years.

 I asked my mother if I could try them and she said yes, so the next time we visited a school supply section of a store she bought a fresh bottle of ink. This was a pretty big concession on my mother's part, she was a frugal woman and did not make purchases like this lightly. I suspect she also wanted to see if those old pens could still write. Of course, getting them to work wasn't that easy. Neither would pump any ink and I remember soaking the nibs in water repeatedly until, finally, both would draw the black liquid into their chambers.

 One pen had seen a lot of writing, I remember the nib being worn so that you had to hold it at just the same angle that the original user had held it in order for it to write well. I suspect that was my father's pen as he always wrote with a heavy hand. I also think that was the lever fill Sheaffer for some reason.

 The Parker was in better shape and wrote quite well having less wear on the nib.

 I learned a lot about fountain pens from playing with those two. I also remember getting a lot of splats of ink over my desk and on my hands during that learning process.

 Of course, time marches on and little boys grow older to an age when playing make believe is no longer cool and so those pens once again fell into disuse. I'm not sure whatever happened to them, perhaps my mother rescued them and put them back in one of the many drawers of the secretary desk where such treasures are kept, but I no longer have them and now wish I did.

 My second go around with fountain pens started in my tween years and I will deal with that in my next post.

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