Tom DeNucci on Writing with Pen and Ink

My friend, Tom, is a guest writer again.

Dr. DeNucci, Grand Marshall, Brown Medical School Graduation

Schaeffer, Wearever….the pens of my youth…
I was taught by nuns in the Catholic Elementary school who insisted that we write with pen and ink; ball point excluded. In the early 60’s, there were no inkwells, just holes in the upper right corner of the desk, because we had the “cartridge pen.” 
The cartridge pen had a clear barrel and came in blue, red, and green colors which we could see through the barrel. The barrel was a cylindrical tube filled with the ink, and was “tapped” with a spike located distal to the nib. A shiny metal cap covered the nib.
As a boy of 10, the word “cartridge” had military connotations. My pen had many working parts which could be “field stripped,” cleaned, then re-assembled. And, of course, when the cartridge was empty, we got to reload. I felt close to being in the military.
I can picture my desk at St Mary’s School. Inside it was a blotter(do you remember), a pencil case which contained Number 2 pencils, an eraser, and the cartridge pen with its cartridges lined up in a little package which, to our eyes, was as close as we could get to a “clip” (magazine).
These pens, the latest issue, were not perfect. They leaked, they smeared and they smudged. Our school uniform consisted of white shirt and tie, and navy blue pants. The pants were great for hiding ink stains. The shirts, especially the pockets….uhhh…not so good.
There is nothing like the beauty of blue ink on white lined paper. The nuns, who out of necessity judged our penmanship, had rubber stamps with either a smiling angel or an angel in tears which said “could be neater.” My papers had much of the latter.  I came to expect those crying angels!
But, worse than the crying angel was to be cursed with being left handed, which I was not. Those poor souls, while writing, had to drag the heal of their left hand over that wet ink. A smudge was routine for them and garnered a lot of crying angels.
So thank you Ed, for reminding me of your love of pen and ink. On the way home, I plan to stop by the local office supply store to check out the cartridge pens. I wonder if I can find a Schaeffer or a Wearever. I’ll be careful not to wear a white shirt.

Explore posts in the same categories: Reflections, Stories of the 1940's and 1950's

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5 Comments on “Tom DeNucci on Writing with Pen and Ink”

  1. June Champagne Says:


    I also went to Catholic School at St. Mary’s on Broadway in Providence. I certainly remember the cartridge pens and the uniforms; white blouse with blue jumper and black and white saddle shoes with white socks (yuck ~ God forbid the public school boys saw me!). I use to change my black and white saddle shoes to penny loafers at the end of my driveway and walk to the public bus stop at the end of my street in Johnston. My mother (God bless her neat soul!), bought me “plastic cuff protectors” for my long sleeve white blouse; but my brother wanted nothing to do with that. My brother and I were both “left-handed”, and we expereince the ink on the cuffs. Mine were always neat and clean (but of course), my brother had ink on his shirt and hands and sometimes even his trousers. When we got home from school we changed into “play clothes” and were rid of those horrible “uniforms”.

    Oh, those memories of Catholic School when we had Nuns who wore the black and white habits and the rosary beads hanging from the waist.

    • St, Mary’s was one of our seven churches on Holy Thursday, June.

      • June Champagne Says:

        I remember going to the seven churches with my mother and aunt’s on Holy Thursday; in fact, because we went to St. Mary’s School that is where we began our visits; first to St. Mary’s, then to St. Bart’s in Silverlake, over to St. Brigit’s on Plainfield; to our home parish St. Rocco’s; then to Our Lady of Grace; St. Lawrence in North Providence (my mother’s home parish) and the to St. Ann’s on Russo Street in Providence. After our visit’s we would got to my mother’s Aunt & Uncle on DePinedo Street and they would have pizza and spinach pies hot from the oven. What fond memories of those days. I remember when the churches were open all the time; it’s a shame they have to lock the doors now. We lived in Bristol for about 3 years from 2004 – 2007 and I was a parishioner at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and I remember that church to be open during the day. I have been going to the Mission during Lentand Holy Thursday and Good Friday services at St. Rocco’s for many years, even before I retired. The good Friday service is so emotional; they have a life-size figure of Jesus; and he is carried around the church with the women following behind singing italian songs. Very moving!!!
        It’s nice to relive these memories with people who remember. I would take my little niece now 18 (she was about 3 years old at the time)in hopes of her doing the same; we’ll see!!!!! She does every so often say to me, “Aunty June, I miss not going to church with you!”. Maybe I did make a difference!!!!


  2. I love writing with a ‘real’ pen. I got a pearl-handled beaut from Levenger, with bottles of ink. I made such a mess, the gentleman in the store said, “I’m sorry, dear, but you are not ready for this yet,” and sold me some cartridge. I got finally got the filling down pat, and love the feel of the ink. The cartridges are always drying up on me. By the way, this all happend long after I was a grown-up, not when I was a little girl!

  3. Did you read where college students do not know how to weite cursive, Oh dear, how very sad.

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