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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.