Saturday, October 16, 2010


This afternoon I needed a pen to write something down and a co-worker
handed me one. When I pulled the cap off, I was surprised to see it was
a fountain pen, and a disposable one at that!  This brought back
memories which, lucky readers, I shall now share with you.

I was born at the end of one era and the beginning of another. They
were still using ink pens and inkwells in when I started school, and I
recall being an "ink monitor" for my classroom one week at the Frank V
Thompson School in Dorchester, Ma. This meant I checked the inkwell
at each desk and used a watering can full of ink to top off each one. But
by the time I graduated from high school the age of the ballpoint pen had

Now fountain pens did go gently into that good night. Somebody invented
the ink cartridge, a portable inkwell that fit right inside the pen. And for
my graduation, somebody gave me one as part of a "pen and pencil" set,
and so the stage was set for one of the most embarassing incidents of my
college years.

It happened in Prof. Rothstein's History of Western Civilization1 class. I
was sitting in the front row of class with my Bridgewater State College 5
subject notebook open and pen at hand, ready to take notes during the
class. As the Professor started to speak and I wrote a topic header at
the top of the page. I noticed that the ink in my fountain pen had run dry.
No problem. I had a refill with me. I reached into my shirt pocket, got it
out, opened the pen, removed the empty cartridge, loaded the new cartridge

I don't know how it happened. All I knew was that somehow I'd done
something that was causing the pen to link ink at a rapid rate all over the
notebook. I stared at it for a few seconds, then rippend an empty page
from the back of the notebook and tried to blot up the ink. By now I had
ink on my hands and a frantic look at my friend sitting next to me failed
to produce a kleenex. So I closed the notebook with the leaking pen still
inside it.

Now while all this was going on, Professor Rothstein was trying to give
his lecture but I was sitting right in front of him with my leaking pen and
notebook and as he watched the disaster he spoke slower and slower.
By this time the spreading ink was getting closer to the edge of the desk.
And so Prof. Rothstein stopped speaking, stood up and walked around
the back of his desk, and out of a deskdrawer he brought out a box of
Kleenex. He walked back around the desk, handed me the Kleenex,
and then went on with the lecture.

I had a nice wad of inkblue Kleenex sitting on my desktop by lecture's
end. Afterwards I washed my hands in the restroom and bought some
ballpoint pens at the Student Union before my next class later that
afternoon. I never again used a cartridge fountain pen to take notes in

And that my friends, is the story of the stain on my college career!


Carol said...

Great story, that would make me stop using them too! You wrote/drew a great visualization. I can see that blue kleenex in my mind's eye.

Becky Jamison said...

Pardon me for laughing, but that wa a funny story, Bill! I had my first fountain pen in 6th grade with the 2 ink cartridges--a blue Estabrook with my name engraved on it. It was a Christmas present that year. I loved writing with it, but never had the mishap you describe. What a great story. Thank you for sharing it. You are such a good story-teller!

Nancy said...

Hilarious! I'm on my way to bed with a few extra endorphins swimming around in my brain, which is a very good thing. I know the mess was not a very good thing to happen to you but you used words so perfectly to paint the image of the event.

My aunt gave me a fountain pen in middle school, I think. It was new and different and interesting. I used it off and on for years - until I began to have problems with my recipes: the ingredients and quantities began to disappear when drops of water spilled on them. I know I could have changed to indelible ink but by that time it had become difficult to find refills for the pen. I switched to ball point pens and eventually to printing them on the computer.

Thanks for the laugh tonight.

Greta Koehl said...

I think fountain pens are beautiful and writing with them is an art, but I just know that one of those in my hands would spell disaster. Thanks for writing a humorous reminder never to be tempted to use one!

promotional pens said...

Well according to my point of view, I think that fountain pen are really great pen for writing, I just love these pens, Fountain pen nibs have always fascinated pen enthusiasts. The reason is that nibs of exactly the same brand & make on different pieces behave differently.