The Ball Point Pen

In September of 1947, I entered Rhode Island State College. My favorite class was English taught by a Professor Smith. Some students called him “Dr. Sex” because in the books and stories we were required to read for him, much of our discussion seemed to revolve around that subject as it pertained to our assignments. “Sex” once gave a class writing assignment and to complete his assignment I would need a better writing instrument.

The college book store was in the basement of Quinn Hall. Quinn was a multitask building with library, administration office and a tiny college book store in its basement. I entered the store with a friend and asked the pretty coed grad student clerk about writing instruments. She was a little thing about five feet tall with light blue eyes and blond hair tied in a bun in back. She said they had the latest item, a newly invented pen called a “ball point”. The ink was contained in the pen so, she explained, there would be no need to continuously dip the pen into an ink well. I bought one of her pens. Cost me six dollars, a lot of money for a poor freshman, and went home to my Quonset hut number 43 to begin “Sex’s” assignment.

When I got half way through the “Sex” assignment, that ball point pen had indigestion, burped and all the ink came bubbling out and on to my creative writing. All would have to be done over again! There was no guarantee on the pen. I could not get my money back and could not afford buying another. I finished the assignment using the old pen and ink bottle instrument.

Things are a bit different these days. On the top of my bedroom bureau there are many ball point pens, only two of which I paid for. These two specials are for doing a daily crossword puzzle; they write with dark ink and have erasers that quickly mute any mistake. The rest are all free. They have a litany of names on them. They come from doctors, hotels, orthopedic centers, insurance companies, churches and there is a special one emblazoned “Class of 1943 60th Anniversary Reunion EPHS”.

Today one can have a much better ball point pen given to him than one he could buy sixty years ago! These pens write nice and clean, they do not get indigestion and if they run out of ink you can throw them away and get another for no charge!