Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 2012

First Bell: Memories of secretarial school; Kids Voting; pre-bond input sessions

October 24, 2012


• Recently, while conducting interviews for a pre-election story that will run later, I spoke with a candidate who had attended a now-closed institution in Topeka which people in the 1950s and 60s would have called a "secretarial school."

Today we would call them "career colleges," and the educational programs would be much broader and more geared toward a 21st century work environment. And you might not get through the program in a single year.

But the whole conversation started me thinking about those schools at that time. It was an era that is now nostalgically romanticized in the television series "Mad Men," when the business world was significantly more male-dominated than it is now, and when the idea of a woman aspiring to be anything more in the office than a "Girl Friday" for her male boss could be seen as revolutionary.

A quick Google search for "1950s secretarial schools" pulls up some interesting sites, including places where you can buy vintage editions of the old Gregg Dictation instructional manuals. (Does anyone still take shorthand?) There are also some articles about how the schools taught more than just secretarial skills, but also things like etiquette for a secretary, how to keep your desk tidy and organized to send the right impression, and how to correct your boss without sounding like you're correcting him.

Yes, it was a chauvinistic era. At the same time, though, I can't help regretting that I never learned some of those skills - particularly shorthand and keeping a tidy desk - that would have helped me immensely in my own career.

So if any readers out there ever attended an old "secretarial school" back in the day, please share your memories, fond or otherwise. They might make good fodder for a feature story in the future.

Email me at, or give me a call at 832-7259.

• The Kids Voting Douglas County project is still in need of volunteers to work at polling places on Election Day, Nov. 7.

The project allows children as young as kindergarten-age and as old as high school age, to accompany their parents or other adults to official polling places and cast unofficial ballots in order to give them the feel of actual voting.

Kids Voting is a national project that teaches young people about American government, civics and the political process. One of the aims is to get young people, K-12, accustomed to the whole idea of voting and being engaged in their community. Studies have shown it has a long-term, positive impact on voting and other forms of civic engagement.

Volunteers will work shifts of about three hours: morning, 6:45 - 9 a.m.; afternoon, 2:45 - 5:30 p.m., or evening, 5:30 - 7:45 p.m.

Local sponsors say volunteers are desperately at specific times and locations in order to keep those polling sites active in the Kids Voting project this year.

Those locations are: Baldwin American Legion (all shifts); Baldwin Junior High School (all shifts); Centennial Adult Education Building (afternoon); First Baptist Church (evening); Immanuel Lutheran Church (evening); Langston Hughes Elementary School (afternoon); Liberty Memorial Central Middle School (afternoon); Marion Township Hall (all shifts); Pioneer Ridge Assisted Living (evening); Vinland Methodist Church (evening); and Willow Springs Township Hall (afternoon).

People interested in volunteering can sign up online, or email Adrian Jacobs at the

• Lawrence school officials will hold their next pre-bond public input session at 6 p.m. tonight (Thursday, Oct. 24), at New York Elementary, 936 New York St.

• Have news about local school activity you'd like to share with the community. Call me at 832-7259, or drop me an email:


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