Thursday, September 21, 2017

For the Glory of Old Lincoln High

Next weekend is the 50th Anniversary Reunion of the Class of 1967 of Lincoln (Lincoln West) High School of Cleveland, Ohio. A few things got in the way of my attending, among them Hurricane Harvey. I actually did not graduate with that cohort, having transferred to John Marshall High in the middle of the tenth grade. However, for odd reasons, LHS was 7-12, so I spent almost four years with my classmates. Of all the benefits of my education at LHS the greatest has been this, writing and editing.
 
Chandler & Price, Cleveland, Ohio, 1912
(LetterPressPrinting.com.au)
We boys had to take shop classes in the 7th and 8th grades; and the teachers could not fail us because it would keep us out of the junior honor society. I never did well at wood, metal, or mechanical drawing. But printing grabbed my attention. This is how books, newspapers, and magazines were made. I learned the arcane craft of creating the carriers of ideas.

In today's world of desktop publishing with Word, XML, and Madcap Flare, we do not know the Job Cases (upper case for capitals, lower case for little letters), the composing stick; the leads and slugs between lines, the molly quads and nancy quads to justify type; pulling proofs, the frames, furniture, and quoins; the kiss impression when cold type touches paper and you ride the pedal up, brushing out one sheet, and placing the next as your weight on the treadle brings the platen forward.

At the same time, I had journalism as a half-credit elective. Junior high schoolers were not allowed to actually work on the school newspaper. The next semester, I was in high school and on the staff with a semester of experience, counting headlines, and learning the special vocabulary of newspaper publishing. Today, very few educated people know the masthead from the banner, a tombstone from a gutter. Even though newspapers are as quaint as Amish buggies, the principles of good layout remain – even for tweeting.
 
Composing Stick
(Edinburgh City of Print. Wikimedia Commons)
I went from The Lincoln Log to the John Marshal Interpreter to the College of Charleston Meteor. A score of years and half a dozen life changes later, I was setting type on a DEC VAX in Donald Knuth’s TeX, the parent of SGML, the grandparent of HTML.

In Cleveland Public Schools, English classes alternated each semester between grammar and literature. In junior high, we had a lot of general reading. In the 11th grade, it was American Literature and in the 12th, English English Literature, by Jove. Although hormones lit up 
“Evangeline,” “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” “Annabelle Lee,” and “Lenoir,”  my secret passion was tracing word origins to their Indo-European roots. 

I became a technical writer when no one else on a database management project wanted to write the user manual.
"A Plan of Printing Instruction for Public Schools"
Library Catalog Card. Another root technology.
Twice, classmates from Lincoln High intersected my career path, Walter Rowinsky, and Greg Stricharchuk, both writers, formerly editors of the Lincoln Log. In 1987, I was writing user manuals for a start-up in Lansing, Michigan, when I saw a product review in PC Week or PC World by Walter Rowinsky. How many people could have that name? I sent him an email (via Fidonet most likely). It was he. Wally recommended that I write product reviews. I did place some, but sold more writing about the politics and sociology of computing, hacking, and informatics.

About 1993, I discovered numismatics. A few years later, I was the international editor of Coin World. Combing through the Wall Street Journal while researching fraud and theft in the hobby, I found an article about corporate crime by Gregory Stricharchuk. Not many people could have that name. So, I emailed him, probably via AOL. Greg said something like, “Where else would a kid from Tremont end up but under a street lamp on a dark night waiting to meet a hoodlum?”  

PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS


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