Saturday, May 9, 2009

Spell Check

For some reason, I was thinking of my Dad today. As a young man in the United States Armed Forces, stationed in Hawaii in 1941, he wrote a letter to the editor of his hometown paper, introduced himself and assured the editor that he could provide him with interesting and informative stories, on a weekly basis, with a local flavor. It seems, after Pearl Harbor was bombed, a lot of local kids were sent to the sun splashed Island of Hawaii to serve their country. The editor asked for samples, and that was the start of a 48 year love affair my Dad had with the written word. Ironically, about 20 years after he sent that introductory letter to the editor of the Chester Times, my dad WAS the editor of the Chester Times. It's funny how things work out.

I can still see, in my mind, my dad sitting at his big cumbersome typewriter, pounding away at the keys, producing another clever piece of journalism. His typing style was similar to what you might call the hunt and peck style, except he didn't do much hunting. Using only his two index fingers while looking at his hand written notes, the sound that he produced while furiously typing was like a Keith Moon drum roll. Really fast.

I think of my dad a lot while pretending I'm a writer on my Blog. He was a writer before there was Google. Man, the fun he would have had with that.

 He was "old school", actually had to dig into books and interview people to get the story. I can't help but think about how technology has changed so much in such a short period of time. Every time I hit "spell check" I smile to myself. I remember being in high school and working on a particular paper. It just went without saying, in our house a written assignment for school wasn't considered finished until it got edited by dad. That was always painful. I would recheck my work, check it again and then when I was satisfied it was a perfect, I would head downstairs to present my work to the master. It would go something like this.

I would walk down stairs from my room and make my approach to the big overstuffed chair where dad was invariably sitting reading a newspaper. "Dad, could you check this for me?" He would lay the newspaper on his lap and taking my homework, would give it a quick onceover. "What's it about?"  As I went about giving him a quick synopsis, he would look on with interest. And then it would happen. Out of nowhere, like magic, he would whip out a red pen and go to work on my paper like a surgeon performing an autopsy. Big red circles here, slashes there. There would be so many lines with arrows relocating word groupings that, when he was through, my paper would look like a local road map. Once I swear he drew the streets of South Philly on my composition.

He would always take the time to explain why he made those corrections.

If I knew that 35 years later I'd be Blogging, I would have paid closer attention.


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dcpeg said...

What a great story! Your Dad must have been really special to have survived WWII and writing for his newspaper back home.

Your story reminded me of my Dad. He was an architect and perfectionist. At about the age of 10, I drew my dream house. When I proudly showed it to him, he managed to stifle laughter and suggested I learn about scale. He and I built things together and I helped with home improvement projects. He cared about doing things correctly and well, just as your Dad did. . .

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this post a lot. Such wonderful memories!