A friend of mine wondered if these posts are excerpts from my book, “Baby Boomer Reflections: Eighteen Special Years Between 1946 And 1964.”  They aren’t.  The book is scheduled for release in May 2015.  It is an actual story.  These posts are fun memories I believe we need to share.

I had actually forgotten the formal name until a former classmate mentioned it in a comment she posted on Facebook. For those of you who didn’t have the privilege of taking penmanship as a class in your elementary school, it has absolutely nothing to do with men or ships. 

Penmanship is the technique of writing with the hand using a writing instrument. Unfortunately, it is becoming a lost practice, with many elementary schools across the United States dropping cursive (a penmanship term) instruction altogether, in deference to increased progress testing, State Standards and the impact of computers in the classroom.

I’m not sure when we baby boomers started practicing penmanship in school except that it was definitely in one of the elementary grades. We were graded on it. We also were graded on deportment or conduct (apparently, that’s disappearing as well).


Remember the penmanship drills we did before we started practicing the actual letters? Students would practice slanted vertical lines or consecutive circles from one side of the paper to the other. While the students practiced these drills, the teachers would meander around the classroom, some carrying a ruler, that they used to touch students’ fingers to indicate they were doing something incorrectly. Many times, that touch resulted in something like a smack.

3i4p63b circle-spirals-penmanship-exercise-med

When you demonstrated really good penmanship with your pencil, you might have had the opportunity to use an actual fountain pen and ink to demonstrate your prowess. Dip the pen into the inkwell and don’t get it on your fingers or clothes.

Unfortunately, texting, emails and other genius inventions, like voice-to-text software, are making actual handwriting disappear faster than you can type LOL. I hope evolution doesn’t eventual replace five fingers with a giant thumb. I also hope that tomorrow’s students don’t have to go to a museum to see a number two pencil sitting right next to a quill pen.

11 thoughts on “Penmanship

  1. There were people who made a career out of evaluating someone’s penmanship to determine their personality. Such as, a person who wrote with a very exact style was someone who followed rules. Whereas, someone who had a lot of curves and swirls in their writing would have a more flamboyant personality. I guess since cursive is no longer being taught, this art too will be gone.

    Sent from my iPad


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  2. Fred we had penmanship every day and in Mr McCrackens class 6 7 8 grade we had it every day listening to sammy kaye on the radio. Lots of ovals and push and pulls in my lifetime and still im a lousy writer. I wrote a letter to my 20 yr old grandson the othef year and he could t even read it not because of my writng. He couldnt read cursive so sad

    Sent from Samsung Mobile.

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  3. I fell in love with a girl in the 2nd grade who started her lower case e in the usual spot, but continued the tail a foot along the blackboard till the end just lifted up above the line. Man, that was exciting.

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    • I always had a problem with cursive since I was left handed. We started school at a time when most teachers would smack one’s hand with a ruler if one tried to print or write with one’s left hand—-didn’t happen to me, however. My mother marched in the classroom and stated her position on the subject. No teacher ever confronted me and no ruler ever came near my hand. My penmanship is awful most of the time–very juvenile, sometimes large, sometimes caps where they don’t need to be located and on the rare occasion when trying to impress someone, my cursive looks like another person took hold of my hand and said “do it right this time or the Big “R” will appear.” To this day, I prefer to print.

      as an aside, Fred, you could release two books at the same time–just saying.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, what memories you unearthed, Fred, of a penmanship class way back in RIverside Elementary. It is interesting to think of something you have not thought of in over 60 years. I read in a health magazine this week that a Cornell University study found that when folks engaged brain regions associated with memory and reminiscing, they did better on the tasks at hand. If you daydream it might strengthen your working memory which helps you retain and recall details. So the Baby Boomer Reflections may be helping us all to keep our wits about us!

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  5. I remember handwriting class in 6th grade…very orderly, and over and over.
    Then, I began teaching 4th grade where I taught cursive writing…but over the years, I
    tried to have the students focus on writing their name so someone could read it. That seems
    to be the only need for ‘handwriting’ or ‘cursive’ writing in this day and age. Everything else is
    done electronically…or now even by fingerprint!


  6. Penmanship and spelling bees were my favorite. I was excellent at both but somewhere along the way I developed a half cursive and half printing method. Many times an a in the beginning of the word will be different than the a at the end of it, or in the next word. It is horrible looking and I bet the handwriting experts would have a field day with judging my personality or even character from one of my more recent writings.

    Let them, I’m fine with who I am at this late stage of life and too young at heart to really care! When I want it to look pretty, I concentrate on that and the old school techniques comes back. I’ve still got it!


  7. Interesting. In Riverside, we started out writing cursive. We never learned to print. To this day I am a terrible printer. Since we were all part of the same school system (Danville Area), I’d be interested in knowing if the other schools in the district learned to print.


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