Wednesday, April 18, 2018

“A right or wrong hand”

Beverly Cleary, writing about first grade:

The teacher was a tall, gray-haired woman who wore a navy blue dress and black oxfords. “Good morning, children,” she said. “My name is Miss Falb. It is spelled F-a-l-b. The l is silent. Say, ‘Good morning, Miss Falb.’”

“Good morning, Miss Fob,” we chorused.

She then wrote Miss Falb in perfect cursive writing on the blackboard and instructed us to get out our tablets and copy what she had written.

The whole thing seemed unreasonable to me. If the l was silent, why was it there? I picked up my pencil with the hand closer to the pencil. Miss Falb descended on me, removed the pencil from my left hand, and placed it in my other hand. “You must always hold your pencil in your right hand,” she informed me.

No one had ever told me I had a right or wrong hand. I had always used the hand closer to the task. With her own pencil, Miss Falb wrote Beverly Bunn on my paper in the Wesco system of handwriting with its peculiar e’s, r’s, and x’s that were to become a nuisance all my life.

A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir (New York: William Morrow, 1988).
Cleary’s signature, stamped on the cover of this hardcover edition, shows the Wesco e and r.

[A library copy, with a ballpoint slash through the final y.]

For further reading: a biographical sketch of John Austin Wesco and a 1939 edition of Wesco System of Writing.

Related reading
Beverly Cleary on writing by hand : Ramona Quimby and cursive : All OCA Cleary posts (Pinboard)

[Miss Falb turns out to be a real piece of work. I suspect that those of us who’ve had miserable teachers are never reluctant to identify them by name.]

comments: 2

Chris said...

So was she really a natural lefty? By the way, Leonora Carrington supposedly could write normally with her right hand while writing backwards with her left, an idea that makes my brain hurt just thinking about it.

Michael Leddy said...

It’s not clear in the memoir. But the Cleary novel Muggie Maggie (as I just learned) is about a girl who finds cursive a problem. Maggie is right-handed, but she writes with her left hand because that’s the way her mom does it. When a teacher puts the pencil in Maggie’s right hand, things get better.

Photos of Cleary as an adult show her with a pencil in her right hand.

There’s a Ricky Jay book with stuff about handwriting feats — I wonder if Carrington in there. (The paperback of her stories came in the mail yesterday — a beautifully made book.)