Who Was Your Secretary?

As of late, I have become a bit nostalgic. In high school, I excelled in typing and shorthand. Able to take shorthand at blazing speeds, I could also whip out a typed transcribed page almost word perfect amazing everyone around me. What we were being trained for was being a secretary. Now that term is almost nonexistent. It has been deemed as derogatory and has been replaced with the term of Administrative Assistant. I have been both, and they do not seem that much different. You still do whatever your boss does not want to.

I was quite upset when they changed the title of the position from Secretary to AA. It had become quite a term of endearment to me. It was a position that held a lot of trust from your superior. He trusted that his secretary would keep his secrets. So I felt quite honored to be a person who was worthy to be deemed a secretary. Perhaps I was brain washed to believe that. Not sure if was the women’s rights movement or the men who influenced the change in the title. Someone has said that it was just another example of Political Correctness. Same job, same pay. But slap a fancier title on it and look out.

Anybody who took beginning typing back in the sixties knows that there were no computers. In fact, electric typewriters were a rarity in our high school. I learned how to type on a manual typewriter. They had nifty names like Underwood, Royal, Smith-Corona, Remington and Olivetti. We had to strike the keys with a bit of gusto and still keep up the pace during a timed writing. In sixty seconds I could muster somewhere between 70 and 100 words per minute. We would practice, practice and practice almost daily and those manual typewriters were pretty noisy too. The teacher had to literally shout “stop” at the end of our timed typing tests.

We were tougher back then. Besides striking the keys sharply, you had to return the carriage instead of touching return on the keyboard. It took an extra second or two to go to the next line. It did not automatically wrap text to the next line like computers do. The typewriter also would ding as it came to the end of the line to warn you to prepare to return the carriage lever. Now we are a bunch of wimps. We never even had the term carpal tunnel syndrome back then.

Touch typing also meant to type without looking at your fingers or keyboard, similar to how a piano player is expected to know his keyboard. It was almost considered a sin if you glanced to find the right letter. It was drilled into our heads. The hardest keys to learn were the numbers, but I did get pretty good at those too. Changing the silk typewriter ribbon was a skill all in itself without getting your fingers all black. If you didn’t keep a certain rhythm while typing on a manual, the actual keys could get tangled on their journey to striking the typewriter ribbon, which would physically press the ink onto the paper. We learned also how to use a small brush to clean the empty spaces in letters such as “O” and “e” which would fill up with grunge.

My skill in shorthand has been quite useful over the years. It helped me as I went back to college for taking notes. I can listen to a song or talk and take down almost all the words. The basics I learned have served me well and I have never forgotten the shorthand that I used. A few of my most recent bosses have used my mad skills when they realized I took shorthand. I still have a certificate for taking shorthand at 120 words per minute which I cherish. It took a lot of work to get it.

Nowadays all bosses have their own computers with grammar and spelling checkers.Secretaries back in the day also knew the dictionary very well and the rules of grammar. Now it seems that no one knows the rules of grammar or how to spell because they always rely on the computer tools. Good secretaries were hard to find and they had been trained in all the important aspects of the job of making the boss look smart. Now they have to do it on their own.

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Comments 27 comments

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Interesting comments dahoglund. I'm still making a pittance off my secretarial skills, but enjoy writing on Hubpages and other sites that bring a little money too.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I also took typing on a manual typewriter but I was not all that good at it. Where I worked in the government all clerical workers were termed secretaries even though they had other official titles like clerk typists. In a way it is an amazing prep for writers. When I retired as a technical writer I trained a woman who had been a secretary for several years into my job. In the years since I left she has gone two pay grades beyond what I was and is a team leader. I never understood why she was not promoted before.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Seems like my typing has gotten worse since the computer as I know I can correct easily. So sad after all those practices trying to get it all perfect. Things change don't they. Thanks for your comments Lady Guinevere.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 6 years ago from West Virginia

I used to be a receptionist. I never typed fast to do didly squat with and I learned touch typing. I also had a good vocabulary then, not so much now. I think that I had a small stroke some years back and some of those skills elude me as well as some others. I have a coffee mug that I got one year from the guys in the office and it was filled with flowers and it was on "Secretaries Day". That was only some 15 years ago!

I was horrible at shorthand and it ruined my writing style and I have never gotten that back. Thanks for the memories although I didn't take typing and shorthand until high School in the mid 70's.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks Support Med. Sounds like we have had similar experiences. I still use my shorthand from time to time just to see if I can. Thanks for commenting. Aloha.


Support Med. profile image

Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

I really enjoyed this article! I had typing in 'junior' and high school. Loved it! Started out on manual, then electric. Took shorthand as well, wasn't long after that computers started coming on the scene and most of my jobs did not require the use of shorthand. I've been thinking about it a lot, still have my book, will be practicing again. You're right, secretaries had to know grammar and punctuation. I, too, liked the title. A good and fun read!


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Yes, Coolmon2009. I was surprised too and they are very reasonable. They are probably better than the ones we learned on. Aloha!


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

Didn't know it was still possible to buy a type writer. Interesting hub takes me back to typing class in high school - Thanks for sharing


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Impressive andrykesuma. Some only use two fingers so you are good at keyboarding.


andrykesuma profile image

andrykesuma 6 years ago

i am not secretary but i can type with my 10 fingers


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Guess I am kinda old fashioned that way Nicks - guess some women feel they need to compete for the big jobs. I like to be in a supportive role. Too many cooks spoil the soup.


Nicks 6 years ago

Surely, the demise of 'secretaries' is a good thing for women? Which of you ever wanted to be just a machine - when you could be a genuine part of the decison-making process?


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks for all the comments! I appreciate your stopping by for a bit of nostalgia from this old lady. Aloha!


TheSablirab 6 years ago

At 22, I can honestly say that reading this, made ME feel nostalgic for the manual typewriters and shorthand. I have to agree about people not being able spell, grammer, etc., etc. It is ridiculous.

I can, sadly, put myself in that group of mis-spellers. I probably mis-spelled a word and didn't do proper puncuation. Which I'm pretty sure I just did. I think.


Lisa 6 years ago

WOW!! What wonderful memories your hub brought back to me. I attended vocational high school because I wanted to be a secretary. The training was awesome because it equipped me with the skills needed. Although I decided not to be a secretary, learning to type, spell checks, speed, all played an important role in my college life, as well as my personal life. Great HUB!!


Carmen Borthwick profile image

Carmen Borthwick 6 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

Yes, the good ole' days! So do they call it national assistant's appreciation day now? LOL


LianaK profile image

LianaK 6 years ago

Great hub and the typewriter brings back memories for me too. I remember going to a private school in Tonga and taking typing. I was never as quick as you though--that is pretty amazing. Thanks for the flashback :). Wish I knew shorthand...


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks all for your great comments. I guess some hubbers out there are almost as old as I am. I feel in good company.

I had a very busy day so didn't get to check my hub until tonight and was pleasantly surprised by the number of comments. Malo aupito (thank you very much in Tongan)


Rose West profile image

Rose West 6 years ago from Michigan

I enjoyed reading this! Although I've never actually used a typewriter, there's something nostalgic about it. :)


gracenotes profile image

gracenotes 6 years ago from North Texas

Hey,

Good for you, remembering your shorthand. In our family, we have urged my niece to learn Gregg shorthand, because she has a wrist deformity that causes her pain. I think any shortcut to taking notes in a college class would help her.

I definitely remember most of my shorthand, if not all of the brief forms. I finished 2nd at the state meet in the shorthand competition, where we worked at 120 WPM.

And how well I remember the high school typing classes. I wasn't as fast as you, but I put my skills to good use, as I helped my dad with his business during these years.

I was never a secretary, but learning shorthand is very helpful, for a few reasons.


Keira7 6 years ago

Great hub. Have a nice Christmas my dear friend.:D


bat115 profile image

bat115 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

i've never been a secretary but this has made me miss my Smith-Corona


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

Your nostalgic hub was very enjoyable to read. I know I'm dating myself, but it brought back memories. Thanks.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

It is definitely an interesting point. Thank you for your hub.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Great hub. My husband has a secretary who insists on being called an administrative assistant. She hasn't earned either title.


tobey100 profile image

tobey100 6 years ago from Whites Creek, Tennessee

Hey, thanks for following. I have a genuine secretary believe it or not. Barb won't let me call her an administrative assistant or anything else. She says she's a secretary and that's that. She's incredible by the way.


Duchess OBlunt 6 years ago

I enjoyed this hub because this is my day job (an Executive Assistant). I remember learning on an electric typewriter (not manual) and being among the first to learn word processing - I think it was called WANG and I can't remember what that stands for. It has been very interesting learning the new technology as it comes. I don't think I could do like my mom who has learned the computer after the fact.

One thing I am sorry I didn't keep up on was the shorthand. At one point I was also at 120 wpm. Don't remember any of it now, which is too bad, it is a very useful skill.

Your last sentence - do you mean the boss has to do it on his own? If you do, I have to disagree. They need us now more than ever! The roles may have changed a bit, but they need us. Good secretaries ARE still hard to find, no matter what title they are given.

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