the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York
School days can bring such "glik" (happiness) to your life--if your kids are old enough to attend.

As we approach the 2009/2010 school year, here are the facts:  The National Retail Federation says the average family with students in "kinder-gortn" through 12th grade will spend an average of $548.72 on back-to-school merchandise, down 7.7% from last year.  Huntington Bancshares, Inc. says that parents of "mitlshul" (high school) students will spend about $999.  Parents of college-age students can spend $2,000!

Some of our schools have gone modern. The kids who once cleaned the erasers now dust "der kompyuter."

Much of what I remember from the "gut alt" days are sounds that are no longer with us.  What are some examples?

What does "BB" mean?  Not Big Brother (TV show)  Not Bulletin Board, Barry Bonds, "der beysbol" player, Big Bang, or Backstreet Boys (band).  Not a shot pellet for use in a BB gun or air gun.  Not  a BlackBerry.  It means "Before Ballpoint!"

For those of you who are too "yung" to remember a time before the ballpoint pen, let me explain.  Each "klastsimer" (classroom) had desks which had a long groove at the top to hold pens, and a "kleyn" (small) round hole that held the little inkwell.  The inkwell was about the size of an eggcup.  The ink came in powdered form and had to be mixed with water.  Too much water and the school used up the allotted supply. adds, "Too much water and we'd all feel we were spies writing secret codes in invisible ink.  Achieving that delicate balance was an art, perfected by only a few."

Arnold Fine ("I Remember When!" The Jewish Press, 5/23/03) wrote about the kid who was selected as the "ink monitor."  He writes, "This kid had to go down to the custodian's office and pick up a large soda bottle filled with ink that had a special spout so that this kid could fill the ink wells.

If the ink monitor had a sort of crush on some little girl ("meydl"), he would fill her ink well 'mit ah fullen hartz' (fill it to the brim)."

Yes, sometimes the ink would overflow and drip down on a kid's feet.

Fine continues, "If we were bored, we didn't make trouble in the classroom.  We would go fishing in our little ink well with our pens."

Children learned to write on paper and the "ink monitor" distributed ink to the children who used pens made out of thin wooden sticks with steel needles.  The pen had to be dipped very few words or it would run dry.

Pauline Vebb (nee Pulley), who was often the "ink monitor," found handwriting lessons tedious.  The steel nib pens were so difficult to use.  The nib would either cross over or split, causing a blot.  She wrote, "We were given a small piece of blotting paper that was supposed to last ages, but was usually covered in ink by the end of the lesson."

Some "shtiferish" (mischevous) boys would dip the hair of the girl in front of him, into his inkwell, turning her hair "bloy" (blue) on the ends.  The teacher would come down the aisle with her ruler and smack "di hant" of the boy.

Gordon Keith MacKenzie remembers the "ink monitor" cleaning out the ink wells every Friday.

"Azoy geyt es."  (That's how it goes.)


Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is a retired business education teacher. 
She vividly recalls that in 1992, in the wee small hours of the afternoon,
when unruly high school students served their time in detention,
a suburban Chicago teacher found a way to make the experience uniquely unpleasant:  He forced the offenders to listen to an uninterrupted half-hour of Frank Sinatra tapes.  "The kids just hate it," he said.


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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