A Lifetime Relationship With Words

By Board Member Bruce Yernberg


Perhaps it was the third grade when I became interested in words.  I remember learning cursive.  The faded multi-line writing paper was thin and smelled like our overshoes drying under the cloakroom radiators.  The line of cursive neophytes was long as the hand-cranked pencil sharpener ground away.  “Hurry up”, the teacher said.  We put long lines of different squiggles on paper. We were learning how to write.

We were told to practice at home.  My dad left most of my early education to my mother.  But he took an interest in my learning cursive.  Dad was an artist when it came to writing.  He told me that when you sign your name it should be something you are proud of.  “A scribble means disrespect to yourself”, he said.

In junior high (middle school today) I entered my reading years.  Every morning I delivered the newspaper.  I would read the paper as I delivered it.  I read all the contents.  I developed a general knowledge that was mostly useless in school.  And I scribbled. 

It was in the tenth grade that I used my general knowledge to challenge teachers or some would say smart off.  One particular teacher took an interest in me.  She said she liked the way I did my book reports.  She also lent me her personal books written by “muckrakers”.   I read them and discovered how the written word could change things.


I wrote letters in the service.  They would record my views of strange places and things I did not understand.  My dad was in WW ll.  I was told he wrote the most beautiful letters during his journey to the Battle of the Bulge.  Unknown to me, my mother kept many or our letters.  Shortly before her passing, she gave me the letters she saved.  Someday I will merge them.

During my work years, I never had a computer and would write long hand.  I was a voracious note-taker.  Sometimes I would redo my notes if I didn’t like the way they looked.  I was fortunate for many years to have access to secretaries. They were union. They then typed my work and kept track of my hand-written files.

It was about 20 years ago I drifted back to my newspaper delivery days.  I started writing letters to editors of papers.  I also helped others write letters to congress people, the VA, and tax assessors to mention just a few.  Tip: I think a letter is not effective without a little passion.  It shows we are human.

As we age our writing returns to scribbles.  But our general knowledge is always improving.  Now I use a used computer connected by DSL.  Smartphones, similar devices and methods are not in my site.  But who knows?  And what is ZOOM anyways?

Seniors have an enormous amount of talent.  Our words will be our legacy.