A Proustian moment

(About my life, not language.)

Benita Bendon Campbell writes from Colorado:

Not too long ago, while cleaning a bunch of neglected desk drawers, I happened upon a few sheets of faded pale-green scratch paper from your days at The Reading Eagle. Pure Proust.

Ah, the green headline pads!

When I worked at the Eagle (1958-61), I mostly worked as a “floater”, taking whatever position needed to be filled that week, which meant I got to do pretty much everything. My two favorite assignments were feature stories (which eventually got me an offer of a position as assistant Sunday editor, to move up to the editorship eventually — but I went to graduate school in linguistics instead) and headline writing, which was an exercise in problem-solving.

When I first did heads, they were hand-written, with an extraordinarily soft-lead pencil, on sheets from pads of 5 x 7-inch cheap green scratch paper. You tore off a sheet, positioned it with the long side as horizontal, added the instructions to the compositors (“12 pt Bodoni Roman”, say, though most of the instructions were more complicated than this), then the head itself, and then you pasted the story itself to the bottom of the green sheet.

But early on in my days, the paper shifted to more durable paper for the heads, and the editors offered me the remaining stock of green pads as scratch paper for my work at Princeton. I happily accepted a carton of the stuff, which carried me through my remaining years at Princeton and into my time at MIT. And I shared the paper with my roommates and with Ann Daingerfield and her roommate Bonnie Bendon (the Benita Bendon Campbell who appeared at the beginning of this posting). My own stock ran out at Illinois or early in my time at Ohio State, but I occasionally come across files containing notes written on the green paper, now much faded.

The pencils followed me around the country, even to Palo Alto, though now they’ve been used up as well.

Maybe not as good as childhood food to evoke the past, but still the paper brings back the Eagle and Princeton for me.


One Response to “A Proustian moment”

  1. floater | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] From a 2012 posting of mine: […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: