They Wrote, By Hand

Whiteboard with Happy New Year to All written on it, and marker.

Has writing by hand become a lost art?

Today, a college student called upon to write on the chalkboard might cringe at the thought because the chalk (or marker or pen or pencil) feels strange in their hand. “Can’t I just text it to you,” they might ask.

But it wasn’t always so.

Born in the early days of Canadian confederation, the parents of Dickies from Gunton: Canadian Brothers in Two World Wars never went to school, but they learned to write. They wrote letters and cards in their own distinctive handwriting. That’s what a lot of people today call “cursive”.

Percy and Earl also wrote letters, cards, reports and other notes in their own hand or handwriting. Although like many people of their generation who only went to school through Grade 8, they jotted down their notes and communications by hand. They wrote things down in flowing, connected letters. The messages were immediate and tangible. You could hold them in your hand.

There is something deeply personal about a handwritten message. It’s about more than the words themselves and what they are saying. The letters on the page, the writing itself is also a personal expression by the person who wrote it.

Today, receiving a handwritten letter or a post card in the mail is a novelty. More likely, people will receive many texts on their phone or messages in their email or posts via social media. These transmissions remain distantly electronic. Each letter is standard to the font or type used. We can easily delete and/or disregard these messages once we read them.

Percy and Earl never learned to type. For them, typing was for business correspondence. An official government letter would be typed. Percy’s wife would use a typewriter sometimes. But she had worked in her father’s print shop. Her sister took a business training course and learned to type. But that was for secretaries who typed what executives dictated to them.

The boys would be amazed to learn that future generations would have typing classes at school and then finally, that typing skills have simply become a natural part of life. Young children begin to hone them as soon as they can grab an electronic device. Today, a small child could easily out-click them, and push their buttons.

In their day, working men did not type.

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