At my school there were clear rules set out for writing in ink:
– You started using ink during you standard 3 year ( year 5)
– You wrote neatly in all books, in the Palmer McLean style
– You had to keep your books neat, with no blots or spilt ink.
– No mistakes at all if possible, but rule one neat line through errors.
– Arithmetic (mathematics) was always written in pencil.
Our teacher regularly reminded our standard 3 class of these rules as the day approached when we would start using ink. He emphasised that it was a privilege to write in ink, and strongly recommended that our parents buy us Osmiroid fountain pens, a good brand at a good price. The new pens coming into shops, called ballpoint pens, were not allowed in school. Their ink flowed irregularly and sometimes left blotches, or no mark at all. We all felt very proud and grown up as the day approached when we would be writing with ink.
My parents refused to spend all that money on a fountain pen, just for a nine year old. However on our big day I was still excited setting off for school with my bottle of Stephens Radiant Blue Ink, and a dip pen. As we put our pens in our desks before school, I was embarrassed to see that no one else had a dip pen. However we then went out to play until the bell rang at nine o’clock and I hoped someone else would bring in a dip pen as well.
No one else brought a dip pen. To make matters worse I found that dip pens had to be dipped in the ink every few words, but too much ink in the nib left blots behind. I left several blots before i worked this out. Our old two seater desks had sloping writing surfaces, with narrow ledges at the top with a hole for an inkwell, and ridges to hold pencils, pens and rulers. There was little level space for my open ink bottle where I dipped my pen, and there were no ink wells in the school. The teacher frowned at my dip pen. I worried too that I might put blots on my seat partner, at our double desk and get into serious trouble.
Disaster came when I tipped my bottle over, and ink ran down our desk, under my book, and down across our bench seat. The teacher frowned even more and made sure I blotted up all the spilt ink. I was in tears, waiting for a big telling off, with a possible strapping but neither came. I went through my big day with the humiliation of the other children staring and commenting on the big ink stains on my leg, gym dress, and underpants. I dreaded the expected telling off at home, but to my relief Mum made light of the ink stains. We went down to the stationer’s ship in our little shopping centre and I chose a brilliant green Osmiroid pen which I thankfully took to school next day.
Much later on I realised the school must have rung Mum and insisted that i have a fountain pen for school.