Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The 1950s Typing Pool

(Taken from The Pale King Photos)
After my blog about London and saying where I used to work, someone asked 'What is a typing pool?'  Well, I don't know if there are any nowadays, but this was how it was in the 1950s when I began my working career at the age of 18.  The girl with the curly hair on the far right of the photo could easily be me.  I looked just like that, could have even still been wearing short white socks!

I spent two years in the Sixth Form at John Howard Grammar School, Clapton, London.  There I learned to type on one of these wonderful typewriters.  All touch typing in those days, we were not allowed to look at our hands at all while typing! and we had to type at a regular speed, usually guided by a metronome!! e.g. asdf ;lkj asdf ;lkj asdf ;lkj - etc, etc,!!! try it. It is still very boring! Make sure you use the correct fingering though!

(Photo from ebay)

I also learned Pitman's Shorthand (highest ever speed 140 wpm!) and up until very recently I still had lots of shorthand books and I still have my original Pitman's Shorthand Dictionary that I had for Christmas in 1954!  It looks pretty dog-eared now though!

(Taken from Long Live Shorthand)
I can still write shorthand - not quite as neatly as this though and I have managed to read most of it.  Can you?
When I worked for The London Life Association in King William Street in 1955 the typing pool was run by a very stern lady. Trying to remember her name!  There were about a dozen of us in the room and as any staff member wished to have some letters done, we were sent up to his office with our shorthand notebooks to take the dictation.  Then we came back to type out the letters.  Remember - no computers then - Into the typewriter went at least two sheets of paper, one for the top, original copy and a second 'flimsy' copy to be put in the file. Between these two sheets was a sheet of carbon paper. Very messy stuff.  The inky side of this carbon paper had to be placed next to the flimsy and as you typed an imprint of each letter was reproduced from the top copy to the flimsy copy. Are you with me still?  Of course sometimes one made a mistake! Then you had to turn the paper up in the machine, open a gap between the carbon paper and the flimsy and put in a piece of plain paper, rub out the offending mistake on the flimsy, go back to the front and rub out that mistake as well and cover it with a bit of chalk - don't take out the bit of plain paper yet.  Make sure both sheets had the offending mistake removed, take out the piece of plain paper, return the cylinder to the correct typing place and re-type your mistake.  It helped to keep up our accuracy I can tell you.  And if you ever overtyped!!!  Well, I did that one time too many once and was called before the typing supervisor for a dressing down on my slack behaviour!  Ahh me - Those were the days - or were they!

And if lots of copies were needed you had to take out the ribbons from the machine so the type cut directly on to a wax sheet which was then put on to a Gestetner copier machine after you rollered over it with black ink. (But that's another story!)

(King William Street, London, where I used to work!)
(This is an old photo - not the current offices)

How did your first job go?
Ann x

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