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Penmanship

Author Shelley Mickle Fraser
Air Date 3/16/2000
Women holding a pens writing a notebook. Recording concept

Penmanship Transcript

Penmanship is more than learning how to put words on paper. For a grade school child, moving from printing to cursive is like a teenager getting his driver’s license. Today, children are taught to print using a method called Denealion which has curlicues and lines on the letters so as to lead right into using cursive that is usually taught now in the third grade. But back in my day, cursive was learned in the second grade by the way of the Palmer Method. And that was the year Kathleen DeRossa and I nearly dueled to the death.

Our weapons were yellow number two pencils; the referee was the Palmer Method, and the judge was Wayne Fastbender. He didn’t know it though. You see, both Kathleen DeRossa and I wanted to marry Wayne. And Kathleen and I had the most perfect penmanship ever seen in a little cotton town in Arkansas. We were sure of it, and Wayne was starting to get the message.

In fact, we wrote Wayne messages almost every hour, using the Palmer Method which was stuck up around the room, letter by letter all the way through the alphabet. So if you got hung up on how to write a Q in cursive you could glance up and copy it. We had a hard time finding things to write to Wayne that would have a Q in it. I wrote him more than once that I thought he was quite cute, and I’d be quite happy to be his forever.

Wayne was not very impressed at all by this. He was into sports and playing Red Rover at recess. But in those days in the fifties, penmanship was the girls’ sport, and Kathleen DeRossa and I were stars and determined to score a touchdown by having Wayne declare he loved one of us.

Once Kathleen and I had the Palmer Method down, we starting improvising like jazz musicians. One day our handwriting would be slanted backward, the next day straight up and down, then back to the perfect Palmer way. Unless we signed our names to our notes, Wayne had a hard time telling which one of us was declaring our love. The crowning move was our signature. By the time our dueling for Wayne heated up, both Kathleen and I could have outdone John Hancock’s signature on the Declaration of Independence.

I hate to admit even today that I lost Wayne Fastbender to Kathleen DeRossa. It came down to a final note she wrote him in the middle of our second grade year. I was sure he had chosen her because when she wrote out Kathleen DeRossa Fastbender in the Palmer Method it really was something to behold. But apparently she promised him a set of bubble gum cards and a Hershey bar is he would meet her after school.

I still have terrific handwriting, though.

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