In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Going Obsolete.” Of all the technologies that have gone extinct in your lifetime, which one do you miss the most?
I loved the clean sheets of columnar pads for Bookkeeping class, number 2 Ticonderoga pencils with good erasers, red pencils for liabilities and losses; Typing class with the heavy black Royal manual typewriter and daily typing drills; Business English; but most of all I loved the Secret Society of Stenos.
In prehistory only girls took Steno or Shorthand class in high school. Do you know why there is a vertical line dividing each page? Gregg shorthand is written in short lines across and down each column. I adored my shorthand classes because I was learning something only a select few could understand, a secret language used by intelligent professional women, a widely admired and necessary skill for any woman who wanted a career in the business world. Think Della Street on Perry Mason.
It was a skill that I used to pass notes to my girlfriends in class about cute boys and boring teachers and later used to pass notes and jokes to other women in boring business meetings when the Chair or other speaker proved to be a pompous ass. When I graduated from high school I could take 90+ words/minute in shorthand and type over 100 words per minute. Back then, in the late 1960s, it mattered.
My first job out of high school was in a major Miami Beach bank. My position as Accounts Receivable Clerk was at the smallest, oldest, rustiest, ricketiest desk in the furthest corner of the least prestigious office space in the bank. Did I mention the flickering fluorescent lights? In those days, people sent their monthly installment loan payment to the bank and my job was to pull their loan account card and paper clip the check to the card for a more senior “girl” to actually post. I wasn’t old enough to be a teller or experienced enough to use the precious bank equipment. Of course I was still expected to dress professionally in a suit or dress, stockings, heels, etc. even if I worked as a mushroom in the back corner of a dark room. The executive secretaries to the Vice Presidents were the stars who entered the inner sanctums of the Board Room and closed door meetings wearing expensive heels and silk dresses . Very mysterious and glamourous and envious-making. Very Della Street-ish.
My Cinderella day arrived when one of the VPs ran into our office yelling for anyone who knew shorthand. His secretary was sick and the senior officers needed someone to take notes at their monthly meeting. I shyly raised my hand and was whisked into the boardroom, given a steno pad and pencil and told where to sit. The rest is history.
I stayed with the bank through the introduction of electric typewriters and the first computer (in a specially built room that took up half of the second floor of the bank). I knew every aspect of banking and when I left four years later at the age of 21, I had advanced from mushroom to Assistant Comptroller … because I learned shorthand in high school and jumped at the chance to use it when the opportunity arose.
Thank you Mr. Gregg for your brilliant shorthand system. It launched me on a business career that expanded and grew with my education and experience over a period of 50 years. I am sorry it is a lost art.
The Secret Society of Stenos or How Gregg Shorthand Made Me a Star!