Sunday, February 19, 2017

My favorite things 8

I've always loved old-fashioned offices and office equipment, harking back to my earliest days of paid employment when I would work typing my father's book manuscripts and then as a secretary for low-budget organizations that were headquartered at my college.  In all these places I had manual typewriters and a motley collection of tools dating back to World War 2.  And I loved all that stuff.

My mother had a little wood file cabinet with six drawers, enough to store an inch-tall pile of paper in each one so you could keep different kinds of letterhead, plain paper, colored paper, invoices, whatever you needed for your well-stocked office.  The drawers had holes in the bottom so you could poke your finger up and raise the pile of paper high enough to pluck off one sheet without denting the edge.

She had liberated it from some office where she had worked, and it held paper in our home office.  But in later years she converted it to a jewelry case.  I coveted it.

One day, hanging out in a flea market, I was thrilled to find the identical file cabinet for sale, and took it home to be my jewelry case.  And then, after Mom died, I grabbed her cabinet too.  So I now have one in my bedroom full of jewelry and one by the back door with stuff you need as you are running out of the house -- a comb, a Chapstick, sunglasses.  And a few of the bottom drawers still have some of Mom's jewelry.

I've scored other pre-owned file cabinets over the years, but my second favorite is this little one, just tall enough to file your bank statements and electric bills.  It still has a label from its previous owner on the bottom drawer, which says "savings."  I wonder what went in that drawer, and what the top drawer was called.

I feel great sympathy for whoever was in charge of all those cabinets -- probably a woman, who was forever being called on to produce the proper piece of paper at a moment's notice, correctly typed, correctly retrieved.  She had to wash her hands frequently to keep the carbon paper and typewriter-ribbon smudges off her work; she got paper cuts too often.

Not like that in today's offices -- at least not the carbon paper or typewriter ribbons, and maybe not even the pieces of paper -- but I still feel sympathy for the workers.  Been there, done that.  Sometimes not much fun, but always great pride in a job well done, even if the boss doesn't appreciate it or understand how much work it took to make it happen.


  1. I have a four drawer card file which was War Surplus when Jefferson County Schools bought it, and which came to our house when they moved out of Sixth and Jefferson to Bishop Lane in 1962--all! new! furniture!--which I use to hold my rolodex of business cards, my stamps, my stapler and tape, and various other oddments. My printer sits on top of it nowadays but I don't keep spare ink cartridges in it for some reason.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  2. Long before computers I had the thankless job of filing work orders for newspaper advertising. Sounds okay until I realized each salesperson had taken a stack of orders (kept in their cars) so that one paper's ads came from 8 to 10 different numerical work orders.

    I was expected to find a filed order for a certain date.

    It could be anywhere in the large bank of file cabinets.
    It was a rather zen moment when a supervisor asked for a certain work order. I stood looking at my files and open a drawer randomly (I thought) and sort of held my hand over one section and then pulled out an order. It was the one he wanted. I think I remained in a state of disbelief--well, until today even.

    I left for a new job soon after--I knew I could never do that trick again.

  3. I have inherited my stepdaughter's mother's huge old typewriter, a Hermes, and am not quite sure what to do with it. Meanwhile it has taken up residence on a shelf in my "walk in" closet. I also inherited two boxes of 4x6 index cards, going back to the 1970s. It doesn't seem that long ago...