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American History
Chilocco Forever Functioning


      Youth gave me a blissful escape from worrying needlessly over having been gone from work for one whole day instead of the permitted half a day for my cousin's funeral.

      When I walked in the door, Dr. Wall, the principal, was draped over the large, black machine which looked like a small printing press while he studied it. The very old piece of equipment was so out of date, actually, it could have been classed as an antique. He had his coat off and it was obvious the man was most perplexed. The Dr. looked like someone who was attempting to do an oil change on a car but had no oil. When he looked up as I came in the door he looked relieved and glad to see me. I was sure there would be no mention of the extra half day I took off.

       “No one seems to know about this machine.” His sheepish smile had to be a request for help. “It must be valuable for making copies. I found a manuel and it literally can make 1000's of them. We need that for a monthly report, you know. The thing does legal size, too.”

       “I'm the only one who knows how to operate it. I learned when I was in high school. The woman who worked here before knew how to operate it and she taught me.” My confidence in using the machine was not just a whim. All my life I had watched the men in my family work on machines and this was relatively simple.

       “Is it so difficult no one else can do it?”  He wanted to know.

       “It isn't. The fact is that it uses this ink that is like black syrup; no one wants it on their clothing. One tiny drop and it clings like glue. Nothing takes it out. Not even the cleaners know a formula for removing it. It is not impossible to operate but does have forty little things you must learn. If all is in order, one thing after another, the machine will work.”

       So began Dr. Wall's learning to operate the machine. He was like a boy with a new toy. When he finally mastered the order of the things to be done it lumbered along with rhythm. With a slick and smooth movement the sheets of legal size paper zipped out as easily as they must have done when it was new, sometimes in the late 1890's. It was a great time saver for them. The print shop did many things as far as flyers that were professional and clean looking with well-designed copy. But for the reports to the staff of 120 employees this was perfect. The paper was rough, and it was true there were sometimes tiny gaps but this didn't matter. The information was easily printed and sent out to the employees so that each and everyone knew what the other departments were doing. It was a private newsletter of sorts and it was a good thing.

      As the department heads turned in their reports these all had to be compiled. Some of them were mundane and held nothing that was that interesting to a stranger.  To the other people working on campus it was better than a gossip column except these weren't half-trues. All these newsletters were factual reports of what was happening on a daily basis at the school.  I wonder whatever happened to them? It would be nice to think some of them were saved in the archives at Fort Worth, Texas.


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