Improving the improvements?


By Shirley Scott - Boomer Blog



I needed a bottle of Wite-Out; I have been doing a fair amount of handwriting. Always in teaching mode, I copied stories in cursive for a couple of boys learning the outdated manuscript style that is making a limited comeback. I wrote letters to a few residents of Urbana’s senior living centers, folks currently facing each day without visitors. Next up: notes of appreciation to local health care workers and first responders.

Nothing annoys me more than making errors when I write longhand. As casual as I am about dusty furniture and cobwebby corners, is how determined I am to create perfectly written notes and letters. In fact, I frequently shred a marred page and mutteringly begin anew – thus, my need for another bottle of the error-covering liquid.

I was surprised, then, when my sister, who agreed to pick up the Wite-Out for me, reported she had purchased a container from a relatively small supply at the second store she visited. Huh? A run on Wite-Out? Another product with supply chain problems?

It just so happens that I grew up with a proficient typist of a mother. She preceded each typed letter or recipe with her special finger exercise: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Inheriting her attention to communication-related perfection, I spent entire afternoons in office supply stores obsessing over gel pen colors and file folders.

Fortunately, my college and early teaching years had brought an expanded array of stationery supplies: erasable typing paper, correction tape, and eventually Wite-Out. So it concerns me that our basically paperless society may relegate Wite-Out to the same fate as Mother’s old typewriter. At least I have my new bottle of the stuff.

Inexplicable update: Wite-Out and other brands of liquid paper are holding their own in the marketplace, even with waning sales of computer printers and paper. It seems that artists are using these products, now available in colors, as paint. Who knew?

The Wite-Out scare led my mind to thoughts about other consumer products and their procurement, specifically fabrics and sewing notions. During my first year of 4-H, Mother brought home the red felt, toweling, and pink printed cotton I needed for my pincushion, tea towel, and drawstring apron. So I was beyond excited when allowed the next year to choose my own fabric for my first blouse. I settled on a small black-and-white print we found at the Sewing Basket on North Main Street, the tiny shop where today’s social distancing would have absolutely no chance.

As my sisters joined sewing clubs, we occasionally branched out to Uhlman’s for our purchases, where Mother once paid a memorable 99 cents a yard for the cotton my sister chose for her gathered apron. My favorite shopping trips, however, were to the basement of Penney’s in Springfield. What a huge fabric selection!

Nowadays, I buy most of my cross-stitching paraphernalia online, with the packages delivered right to my door a few days later. Embroidery floss color is often difficult, which explains all the extra skeins of any given hue in my thread stash. My sister uses a mixture of in-store and online purchases for her fabric needs.

I certainly appreciate the convenience of online shopping, but I also want to touch the fabrics I am considering. However, I think I remember that years ago Mother occasionally ordered material and notions from the Sears catalog. I guess the old has a way of becoming new again.

There are similarities, too, with shoe shopping. We almost always bought school shoes at Reed & Hanna, the shoe store tucked into the southeast corner of Monument Square. We all remember those shopping trips during the years when Poll-Parrot shoes and Buster Browns were popular: the salesman on his tiny stool measuring our feet with the sliding metal scale. And I was always fascinated with how he seemed to know which shoe was in which box from the shelves and shelves of cartons lining the walls.

I came to prefer those self-service shoe stores where I could try on every style in every size all by myself. Regrettably, such stores seem to have fallen by the wayside as online shopping has increased. I find shoes exceedingly difficult to purchase from a computer screen but have come to the point in my life where I no longer buy cute shoes just for the fun of it. Basically I use the online method to reorder shoes I know will fit. By the way, shoes were also available many moons ago from the Sears catalog.

I must be at some sort of crossroads. Although I appreciate most advances made over the old-fashioned methods of my early years, I am not always adept at or comfortable with the improvements made to the improvements. Oh, I was pleasantly surprised last week when I received my first e-mail confirmation of an Amazon delivery with an attached photograph of the package lying right there on my front porch. I have fleetingly considered a doorbell that somehow projects videos of visitors on the TV screen but just as quickly dismissed the idea: I have yet to figure out how to stream anything on my TV.

I guess I will know when my final days on earth become countable: the latest upgrades and advancements will seem totally incomprehensible. Should I worry: flashes of that eventuality have already been popping up with disturbing regularity…

By Shirley Scott

Boomer Blog

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.