An Alphabet Of Things I Like: I


When I started school in the 1950s, we were taught to write with an implement that had not changed since Victorian times.

The ‘dipping pen’ was dipped into inkwells built into the school desks.

Someone had to be the ‘Ink monitor’, and I volunteered for the job. I had to go around with a container of ink and a metal funnel, filling up each desk inkwell before the lesson began. I liked the smell of the ink, and enjoyed trying to fill the inkwells without the ink overflowing onto the desk. Writing with those pens was not easy. Blots were an issue, and many shirt cuffs and wrists became badly stained with the ink during lessons.

It wasn’t too long before the inkwells were removed, and we were expected to supply our own pens and ink. My parents bought me a ‘lever action’ fountain pen, which sucked the ink up into a rubber tube concealed inside.

Bottles of ink would be carried in our satchels, always very tightly closed to prevent a disastrous spillage that could ruin everything inside.

Then ballpoint pens came along, and ink-pens became a thing of the past before I finished school. But I retained my love for writing with a pen, and continued to send personal letters written this way until just two years ago, when a wrist injury made it difficult for me to hold a pen again.

65 thoughts on “An Alphabet Of Things I Like: I

  1. This was so great and made me happy to read. I love things of the 1950’s era, and have been using a fountain pen for about a year now. I have an ink pen with a bottle of ink too, which I adore. It’s amazing how something so simplistic, can be so meaningful and special. I’ve always been a fan of written letters, over typed. So much more unique, requiring so much more thought and effort. Thank you for this. Happy to have found you. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We had the same desks, but the inkwells had not been used in years. I was fascinated and wondered what it would have been like. I think it is very cool that you were an ink monitor. Only the wealthy kids had the pens that sucked up the ink. That would have been fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahhhhh memories I love writing with an ink pen but I also remember the stained finger, blots, and cuffs and being told not to press too hard …A post filled with memories…Thank you, Pete πŸ™‚ x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Primary school was pens with cartridges, but we were all ballpoint by the time I went to secondary school. The desks were great, I’d love to find one now, with its carved in history πŸ™‚
    Even up North. I remember ‘we’ dumped a bottle of Quink in someones swimming pool on mischief night, back in the days when if was just trick, none of this trick or treat business πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love ink too. My father used to have bottles for blue and blue-grey. He never gave us a bottle to carry to school because he knew of my capability to break iron, if I want. Glass bottle never stood a chance. Instead we had many pens each. And extra nibs! 😁 ballpoint pens are convenient but the effect is not the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Now that’s a bit of history! I love the details. Nothing like that in the States. I think students went with pencils. I’ve never heard of anyone from other generations using ink and pen.
    I think it’s great! Go ink!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Apparently, dipping pens are not the same as fountain pens.

    From Wikipedia: “A fountain pen is a writing instrument which uses a metal nib to apply a water-based ink to paper. It is distinguished from earlier dip pens by using an internal reservoir to hold ink, eliminating the need to repeatedly dip the pen in an inkwell during use.”

    In other words, a fountain pen uses ink-arcerated ink. A dipping pen uses ink that has never seen a pen-itentiary.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. We still had the holes fo the inkwells in our desks, but no inkwells in them any more. We wrote with a slate pen on a slate. And later with a regular pen or a fountain pen, until ballpoint pens came into use.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. we didn’t have inkwells in our desks, Pete. my mother was a teacher so i remember those bottles of ink πŸ™‚ i used what we called ‘fountain pen’ for the longest time and i loved it. how amazing that you continued to used them until two years ago. very impressive! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t remember using ‘dip pens’ at school [outside art classes, that is], but I’ve always enjoyed writing with a fountain pen, and still use 2 of differing nib thicknesses for handwriting birthday cards or [the now increasingly less frequently required] cheques; I’m so used to typing now, though, that I have to really concentrate to make my handwriting legible! Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I remember desks with ink wells but we didn’t use them. I seem to remember we had to write in pencil until the end of primary school. My handwriting has always been rubbish whether with pen or pencil – thank goodness for laptops πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could write quite nicely with a fountain pen at one time. Then I moved a neighbour’s stupidly heavy bin away from our side window, and turned my wrist dragging it. Since then, I find it too hard to hold a pen at the angle I need to use it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did try with a cartridge fountain pen but it still looked like a drunk spider had staggered across the page. My dad, on the other hand, loved to use a fountain pen but he could also do calligraphy. I obviously didn’t inherit that gene.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I loved those fountain pens. I used them at school as well, and I always collected the cartridges when they were empty. That said…leaking was inevitable, and that of course has happened to me once or twice. Can’t beat those pens though, they were the ones I loved writing with the most😊

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I had a similar fountain pen, until the cartridge pens came out, eliminating the need for the bottles of Quink. As you say ink stains were a part of life then. I never had to use ballpoint pens as we weren’t allowed them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ballpoints were allowed during my last two years at school. We could use them, as many famlies in that area couldn’t afford to keep buying fountain pens.
      Best wishes, Pete. x


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