By Dennis Martin
About 20 years ago, my youngest son pointed to an object on the top shelf in the storage area of my basement and asked what it was. I pulled it down, plugged it in, found a piece of paper, and I showed him what an electric typewriter did. He found it amazing. You just press a key and a letter appears on the paper immediately – no computer needed, no word processing program, no printer, no cords. You didn’t have to name the document or save it. You just pushed a button and a letter appeared. He wondered why I wasn’t using this advanced technology.
Of course, now we could easily rattle off the deficiencies of typewriters – you couldn’t make multiple copies except maybe two with carbon paper, correcting mistakes was time consuming (erasures, erase tape, whiteout), you couldn’t easily rework sentences and paragraphs, centering was imprecise, etc. etc. Before Xerox machines, the way to make multiple copies was to type up a ditto master, put it into a ditto machine, turn the crank, and if you were lucky you might get 200 copies before the purple print and letters became blurry. I didn’t discover how hard this was until I became a student assistant in college. Making a typo mistake on a ditto master was difficult to correct. You had to scrape the waxy back of the ditto master with the edge of an exacto knife, then type over the mistake. If you wanted to make more than 150 good copies, you had to type two or more identical ditto masters.
When I was in WPHS student council, I had a statewide position too, and I decided to do a talk at the state convention on student council constitutions/bylaws. I mailed out a request and received back about 50 different high school constitutions from around the state, as well as several sample ones from the National Association of Student Councils.
Well, I got this crazy idea to do a complete overhaul of the WPHS student council constitution and rewrite it. I synthesized ideas from the constitutions I had collected, and simplified the verbiage when I could. I’m guessing it was about 10 pages long, single-spaced, when finished. In order for the new constitution to be approved, WPHS’s existing rules said that every student must get a copy of the proposal, and it required a 2/3 vote of approval from all students, not just the homeroom representatives.
Now, let’s see. 1800 students. 10 pages each. No Xerox machines invented yet. Where’s our ditto master? The job fell to Carol (Bell) Sharp, I believe, one of the secretaries of the Student Council. As noted above, I was oblivious to the difficulties of dittoing until later in college. The task must have been enormous. Perhaps Carol can give us the details of just how she did it? Copies were produced, collated, stapled, and delivered to homerooms for a vote. The new WPHS student body constitution was approved.
Twenty-eight years later, in March of 1995, I was in town visiting my daughter who was attending the new WPHS and about to graduate that June. Around 5pm she asked if I could drive her back to the school. She had left something in her locker. This was and is the ONLY time I’ve ever set foot on the new/current WPHS campus. I let her out at the curb in front of some building and just sat in the car waiting. The only person in sight was a young black kid sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against the wall next to his backpack. (I say ‘kid’ because all HS students look so young to me now.) My daughter came out of the school and got into the car. “Can we give him a ride home?” I said sure, and she motioned for him to get in the car.
As we’re driving away, I told him that I had attended the old WPHS, now the 9th grade school. I said that I had run track and field, thinking maybe he was also an athlete on some school team. Nothing. So then I said I had been on the student council. He said that he was on the student council. I then said that I had completely rewritten the school constitution in 1967. Digging through his backpack, he said he had a copy of the constitution with him. Now who still carries the student handbook around with them in March of any school year, except maybe Lenaghan’s briefcase? Anyway, as we sat in front of the boy’s home, I perused the handbook, and sure enough it was the same constitution that our school approved in 1967. We did good Carol.
P.S. This will probably be my last story. Like the rest of you, I’m running out of memories to share. lol