Many, many moons ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth & yours truly was in the 2nd grade @ Regina Pacis in Brooklyn (with Sister Mary Joseph Francis commandeering the classroom), my Dad, a long-time Citibanker, would often bring home some pens & pencils for us kids.
Yeah, I was still in the pencil phase at this age, though I was experimenting with using crude materials to draw & paint on the cave walls.
I especially loved the First National City Bank pencils he would bring me.
*** Disclaimer: I never realized that they were actually contraband nor that my Dad dabbled in that forbidden area.
Yes, occasionally, my parents would somehow come across “stuff that fell off the back of the truck”, but remember, snitches get stitches…or something much, much worse that no doctor’s gonna fix!
Besides, my Dad’s dead, my Mom’s 92 years old (and not spry) & that damned statute of limitations must’ve run out by now! ***
Note: “First National City Bank” was the name for “Citibank”, before it was officially changed in 1976.
Actually, it started as City Bank of New York back in 1812, changed to National City Bank of New York in 1865, and then, in 1955, after a merger with First National Bank, it became the First National City Bank of New York.
In 1962, it dropped the “of New York” & eventually changed to Citibank in ’76.
But it had been known informally as Citibank for over 100 years.
All right, everyone…WAKE UP!!!
Anyway, so there I was, using stolen pencils, in a Catholic school, no less, that were boldly emblazoned with “First National City Bank” along its entire length…
…along with the “number of the pencil”.
For those who believe that the world started around 1990 or so…
Numbers on a pencil.
…”1″ meant that the lead (graphite) was very hard & therefore, the writing would appear quite light to the reader.
“3” signified very soft lead & the resultant writing was very dark.
And in the tradition of Goldilocks & the 3 Bears, “2” was just right.
Oh, you don’t even know what a pencil is??? I probably have a story about that later.
Or, since they’re usually made of wood…Knot!
Whenever you took a standardized test (multiple choice) where you hadda color in the little circle to mark your answer, you ALWAYS had to “use a #2 pencil only”!
These tests were machine-read & graded, and apparently, the readers weren’t sophisticated enough to distinguish just any ol’ pencil mark, but only those made with a #2 pencil. 🤔
In reality, it also had to do with misreads caused by erasures, but that’s fodder for yet still another story.
What was particularly frustrating (at least, to me!) was the fact that the “pencil number” was printed toward the bottom (sharpened) end, instead of up top, ya know, by the eraser.
Well, after you’ve sharpened the pencil a number of times & it became shorter, the first thing that was lost forever was the number of the pencil!
And God forbid if you ever broke the “#2 pencil only” rule…it was a fate worse than death! (Trust me, you have NOT seen these nuns in action!)
I would resort to scotch-taping a “#2” just below the eraser so I didn’t feel the wrath of the Franciscan order.
Then I thought, “Why not just print the # on the top of the pencil to begin with???”
I told my Dad (who may have initially scoffed at my idea & uttered that DREADED “But that’s how we’ve always done it!” phrase, but I’m not exactly sure).
I didn’t know if he could do anything about it, after all, I would always hear him say, “I only work for the bank…I don’t own it!!!” whenever anyone left a light on in an unoccupied room.
A few weeks later, I was reading one of his work newsletters & saw that they were holding a corporate-wide Suggestion Program.
I begged him to submit my idea!
My thoughts immediately turned to what I should wear at the parade they were gonna throw for me.
Actually, they accepted the suggestion!
Not sure if there was any prize awarded (either a set amount or a % based on annualized cost savings), but the fact that the idea was accepted was great!
And they actually implemented the idea, too!
Pencils started to be produced with “CITISUGGESTIONS PAY OFF”…with the pencil # printed at the very top!
I was a star…in my own mind.
Personally, I think it would’ve been great material for a human interest story in the monthly newsletter, but alas…
Or at least a follow-up interview, article & pictures years later when I joined Citi in ’78.
No longer were waste paper baskets filled with half-sized pencils that were discarded as the users couldn’t tell what number they were…and you could never tell when you would be called upon to take a standardized test at a moment’s notice!
Oh, the agony! The pain!
And I have never gotten over this traumatic experience to this day!
Is it better to have loved & lost than never…?
As always, thank you so very much for listening.