Ramblings from the Ridge

The case for cursive


Aug. 19, 1932

Dear Annie, 

“Got yous letter tuuday and we also send that darn bead away am glad it is gone surely we done fine packing dont let them tell you that it wasent pack write. Lales beather then when it came the mattress we roled up and put lutes of paper around it and an the out side we put tobacco cuves (I do not know what that word should be) and I sowed it shut. And the sides of the bead took each separated and then we tiede the two together we youse gunney sacks and lates of paper so I giss it want get hurt. I can peaches this week we got fifty to pints and we have fifty two quarts of sweet crabs pickles so you see I am all in tired I was to tired to bake a cake for Miss Newburg so we bought her 6 six dozen of sales dad help carry Ms Smith it was a large funeral. I stade home was in bed till half pass eleven. Mr & Mrs Dove stade till half pass five. Mr. Herricks diede will be buried Saturday leave a wife and four children. I close with love, Mother. Save this paper if any trouble turns up so we have it to show.”

I typed this letter as close to how it was written as possible. It was scrawled in loopy yet neat cursive. Even with typing, some words take work to understand. Be it the way some words were spelled at the time or the result of lack of education, it is a challenge to decode. I believe: lales = lays; beather = better; giss = guess; and lutes = lots. 

When you add the lack of punctuation, it can be a real struggle, but it is so intriguing and rewarding. There is a pile of these letters; it is a deep dive into the history of the time, all penned by my great-great-grandma Mary Mlsna. After reading a while, you can tell that she most likely suffered from the same migraines that plague members of the Mlsna family to this day. She will write about having “a pain in mine head” and not being able to get out of bed. These letters were saved by Mary’s daughter, Annie, for years. Annie lived with her family in Marshfield, hence the need to update her on all the area deaths and everyday events.

I share this family treasure to help prove a point. If I had no knowledge of how to read and write in cursive, these pieces of history would be untouchable for me. I was of the era of children who learned how to read and write cursive in elementary school. I remember our handwriting workbook, the diligence of my teachers to painstakingly check them over and make certain we were forming our letters correctly. Handwriting had its own line on our report cards. There were cursive alphabets above the blackboards in every grade from third through sixth. Paper was used. Pencils were worked down to a stub. We eventually became old enough to be trusted with those wondrous erasable pens. We were expected to write in cursive on every assignment. We were rewarded for our efforts with praise and constructive criticism. Due to the work on cursive writing in our formative years, we children of the ‘90s can read and write in that beautiful script known as cursive.

The loss of the art of cursive writing is sad. I love the way everyone has their own style of looping and swooping the letters. When you use cursive, your writing has its own style. 

I recall hearing a radio show discussing the positives of cursive and noting that it helps your brain recall information when notes are written in cursive. The simple process of not having to pick up your pencil for each letter allows your brain to continue a thought and then remember it. It also lets the ideas flow better when you do not pause in between each letter. Creative thinking and writing in cursive — what a beautiful marriage. 

The push of technology into our children’s hands and heads undoubtedly causes things to get pushed to the wayside to make room for these new skills that we are assured our kids will need in the future. 

How will they read letters from one great-great-grandparent to another that they saved from those long years when grandpa was in the service? How will they read letters talking about the price that great-great-grandma got for her eggs when she sold them during the Depression? How will they read the tiny scrawl at the bottom of a card given to them on the day of their birth from a glowing grandparent? They need to learn cursive. 

I am a lover of words and often write them to remember. I also delight in writing in cursive. Give me a new, smooth-rolling pen, a fresh sheet of paper, and let the ideas flow. I also enjoy sending cards. It became aware to me last week that most high school students cannot read my cursive. Not because of messy writing, but because they stopped using cursive after the lessons in third and fourth grade. It wasn’t mandatory or encouraged, and they type everything. No one helped them keep up on their cursive skills. My boys have to translate cursive-written notes for their friends. They are fluent. I only print for little ones in my world. If you are fourth grade or older, cursive it is. If you are in the minority of humans that seem to know how to write in cursive, keep it up. Cursive is a dying art and few are attending the funeral. 

Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.


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