It is Father’s Day today! When my wife and kids gifted me a fountain pen today, the longest day of summer brought memories of a long time ago. This was no doubt, a result of them observing my preference for them at work and for leisurely writing.
Fountain pens are relegated to be given as gifts or novelty items to be stored in a desk drawer with their packaging intact, never to be used or seen again. They have also been purposefully consigned to calligraphers, instead of everyday writing.
The gift today took me back to my school days when a fountain pen was a requirement. It wasn’t just used in art classes but was the apparatus of choice for writing in any class on any subject.
What took me back however, more profoundly than ever, was its connection to my father.
My late father was a lawyer by trade. He spent his days in the majestic colonial buildings of the courts and held office hours in the evenings at his private office, for clients and preparations for next day’s trials and “tribulations.”
My first duty, at 8 years old, was to ensure that all the different varieties of fountain pens that he would have lying about were full of ink. A fountain pen without ink around his desk earned me a stern word or on a better day, a steely look!
While filling up a fountain pen with ink sounds like a mundane simple task, the hazards were numerous and mostly unpredictable. My father collected all kinds of fountain pens that had a diverse set of mechanisms utilized for filling them. The “piston” method was the most common. This is where a screw at the end of the pen, when played with, moved a plunger down. Playing it the other way drew ink from the ink bottle which had the nib submersed in it.
There were pens that caught my father’s fancy, like Sheaffer, which had a unique “snorkel” method where a long thin tube extends from underneath the exaggerated nib thereby eliminating the need for the nib to be dried after the pen is filled from an ink bottle. Parker had another kind of pen where the lever, that was used to fill ink in the pen, was replaced with a button. I had to make sure that I was not overfilling these pens because that would result in the pen coughing up more ink on the paper and the unsuspecting writer…