Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I am focusing on a nifty little item I picked up on eBay recently, this child-sized ruler sporting these animated and instrument playing Felix-es. As I write this I pause to wonder if children are even expected to have and use rulers today – it seems so old fashioned. Yet really it isn’t like the functionality or need has much changed much in the decades since my childhood. Someone with children, please do weigh in on this.
This item, made by the American Pencil Co. made in the U.S.A. has seen a lot of wear and the inked Felix-es are blurring on one side a bit. The numbers still read clearly, but the edges are a bit soft from use. Our friend Google tells me that the American Pencil Co. is alive and well today, eventually purchased by Faber-Castell, which was in turn swallowed by something called the Sanford Corporation. A variety of American Pencil Co. pencils are still available today.
For my part this ruler brings back memories of a series of 1970’s neon colorful plastic rulers – not nearly as nice as this one. Additionally, I remember being asked to purchase the occasional compass which I don’t remember ever really using or learning to use. I was always sort of vaguely waiting for that day. However, my childhood was before the time of long lists of specific school supplies being issued annually. Generally we bought the same thing from year to year with the occasional specific request. (I do remember once in high school being kept after school for having purchased the wrong sort of divided notebook, as if it were a wanton act of civil disobedience on my part. Yep. And that was public school folks. Edith Holton was a piece of work.)
My relationship to measuring things is actually dubious. What I mean is, I have never learned to use a ruler well or probably properly. Once you get below the half inch mark it all blends together for me and my ability to be precise seems to swim a bit. A sixteenth of an inch you say? Hmm. An effort was made to instruct me in this, I know. At some point, there was even a somewhat ham handed attempt to shift us to metric measure – although more of a sort of ambidextrous, you should be able to do both things which probably didn’t help the mental muddle I already had with the subject. I never could have had a career in graphic design as a result and have never cut a precise mat either. When something needs to be measured perfectly I readily and preferably defer to others.
Still, that is not to say I don’t depend on rulers and, to some degree, tape measures. I constantly reach for one at home to check sizes for frames and the like. At work I keep a wooden ruler on my desk primarily to help me proof copy. I have never found anything as effective as proofing each line of text with a ruler under it, a trick a friend taught me many years ago now. As my eyes age it is something I am more not less dependent on over time. I purchased this fine one with the intention of taking it to work for that particular role. Although I’m not sure that I will depose the one that I have been using for many years, of wooden and of simple long ago anonymous school brand, metal edge along the top, this jolly Felix one will entertain me. People seem to be surprised at the omnipresence of the old wooden ruler on my desk, probably because my job doesn’t require much measuring, not by inches at least.