Remembering my first ballpoint pen


I accidentally knocked over a large mug on our kitchen counter the other day. It was full of ballpoint pens. I counted 30 of them.

Before putting them back, I scratched each one across a piece of paper. Half of them didn’t write and got tossed.

That got me thinking about the first ballpoint I ever owned. It was called the Reynolds Rocket and someone gave it to me for Christmas.

The year was 1946 and the emergence of the new-fangled pen was just another small part of our nation’s return to productivity after a long, costly war. I was stunned to learn the pen cost $9.75, a whopping amount of money back then.

When I returned to school after Christmas, I proudly stuck the pen in my shirt pocket, eager to show it off. By the time I got to school, however, the pen had leaked and I had a big ink stain on my shirt. Devastated, I kept my jacket on throughout the day and never said a word about my treasured new pen.

After that, the pen stayed at home laying flat on the dining room buffet. Writing with it required holding it upright till the ink got down to the point, and then writing like blazes until it started leaking again.

Obviously, the luster surrounding it faded quickly. By the time I entered high school I was enamored of a new and improved pen – the Parker T-ball Jotter. Since then, a gazillion generations of pens have come and gone.

The first ballpoint pen was patented in 1888 by British tanner John Loud who designed it to write on coarse leather. It took him years to get one that worked. He would be shocked to know I casually threw away a whole handful of them the other day.


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