Midcentury Four Drawer Vertical Filing Cabinets

Israelis invented the cellphone, Quicktionary, Waze, and Mobileye. Israel’s a high tech paradise, a place where WhatsApp communication and electronic payment for goods and services are taken for granted. It’s also where Yous Truly, a technologically challenged grandma and the owner of a “stupid” phone, lives.

Dozens of years and thousands of nautical miles ago, I wrote newspaper features on yellow, A4, legal ruled pads, and, eventually, on a manual typewriter. Later, when interning at a newspaper office, I used a lightboard to literally cut and paste. Layout involved X-Acto knives, rows of cold type, and a waxy adhesive.

As there was no email (except for limited organizations’ access to the ARPANET), writers snail mailed, faxed, or literally called in their contributions. The years when I lived near certain periodicals, I walked my writing over and handed it to my editors.

Additionally, when I was a student, I took notes in a paper notebook and used physical transport to submit creative writing or to receive acceptances and rejections. Although electronic typewriters and rudimentary computers had become increasingly affordable during that interval, I mainly styled my assemblages by hand.

By the time that I wrote my dissertation, there still were no WYSIWYG computers and no cloud to which to backup drafts. Instead, I entered descriptive codes, e.g., where, and how much, to indent, to use italics or boldface, etc. To boot, I saved hard copies of my efforts in my freezer since urban legends of the 1980s posited that they’d be protected there in the case of fire.

As a professor, I wrote on chalkboards. Occasionally, I’d thread a reel projector when a film seemed pertinent to a lecture topic. Additionally, to submit my studies to journals or to receive other specialists’ work to critique, I relied on the postal service. Back in the day, given processing time, faculty members’ publication records, relative to those of present, were modestly measured.

Meanwhile, I entered students’ grades into special binders that were designed for instructors and that had size-specific spaces for names, scores, and the like. At the end of each term, I determined achievement via a four function, handheld calculator.

Outside of university life, too, communication was “primitive.” When, as an undergraduate,

I accepted a summer public relations job at a corporation’s headquarters, rather than create and edit manuscripts online, I typed them and then used carbon paper to copy them. In fact, one of my projects was assembled in three ring binders, for which another employee created glue on cover art.

Notwithstanding those advances, not all my jottings were accorded the services of a graphic designer or allotted space among frozen peas and ice cream. Some of my work was stowed in my four drawer vertical filing cabinets.

I received my first cabinet in high school. It was meant to warehouse clippings of my newspaper columns as well as drafts of my poetry, drama, and short stories.

I bought my second one after getting married. By then, I had more excerpts to cache plus academic papers and lots of creative writing bric-a-brac that needed a home.

My third and fourth stayed at work. Students’ papers, my investigations, and sundry other items loaded those chassis. Over the years, I added syllabi, lecture notes, tests along with their answer guides, and other educational material.

Even with my many caddies, when I became a parent, some of my bookish accoutrements had to be tossed. In that vacated space, I packed well-baby care ideas, which had been carefully photocopied in various libraries, and many pages referencing  herbal remedies—I had become certified in herbal medicine but had nothing akin to contemporary search engines with which to corroborate my understanding of healing. For a while, I also dedicated at least half of a drawer, per child, to the artwork that my four young ones generated.

In contrast, today, I have turned to the Internet for answers to my herbal usage questions, put my children’s art in deep storage (my kids are now in their twenties and thirties), and given my difficult-to-source findings on parenting to my offspring. Likewise, most of my pedagogical trappings have been binned (I haven’t fronted a formal class for nearly two decades.) Whereas I retained some lecture notes, most of my syllabi, and copies of chronicles containing my published research, I’ve parted with other scholastic items.

Currently, my two document cabinets are almost entirely stuffed with copies of my published creative writing. Albeit most of my efforts have been assembled into books, without my copies of those pieces’ original postings, I’d have no tacit reminders of them; websites disappear.

Regardless of my history of idea generation, dissemination, and preservation, I still don’t take full advantage of the convergent media. I might be blessed to live in “The Startup Nation,” but I look to my husband to help me navigate websites, to coach me on the particulars of Microsoft Office Suite, and to untangle me from any kerfuffles that I endure that are related to spreadsheets. I remain a filing cabinet enthusiast.

About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.