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Dear Garrison, In your role

March 20, 2006 |

Dear Garrison,
In your role as chronicler of Americana I suggest research into the role of mimeographs. The youngest people likely to have direct experience with them are in our generation. Our father's generation, which had the most experience, is disappearing fast.

The most famous user of the Mimeograph machine, of course, is ex-PFC Wintergreen of the novel Catch-22. He is the snotty little punk who was always being busted back to Private for insubordination, but he was the most powerful man in the European Theater because he ran the mimeograph at Headquarters. He set the schedule for which orders and plans got published next. The ones he didn't like he marked "Prolix", and threw in the wastebasket.

I know from personal experience that churches of the Misery Synod used these machines to control their flocks. They not only published church programs that told you which hymn to sing next, but also lots of other data that pointed out the True Path. I suppose the Sainted Brethren couldn't afford them in the midst of all that schism activity, but you could ask some of your Lutheran contacts to tell you about them. A schism must be something like a divorce, except that you get to argue about who gets custody of the Mimeograph machine rather than the dog.

For us whippersnappers who ran the machines, it was our first experience with mood-enhancing drugs. The chemicals that were used in the toners for those things were at least as potent as glue, for sniffing. You had to be pretty sharp to get anything useful off those machines, unlike the Xerox machines in use today that will give you double-sided, folded, stapled documents with less skill than is needed to use a TV remote.

Move fast, while the live accounts are still available.

Mike G.
Northridge, CA.


You've done it, my boy: memorialized the mimeograph. From now on, anyone who Googles "mimeograph" is going to find, among the 3,497,256 entries, this very page and they will read your account with dull interest and then go somewhere else. I do not mourn the passing of the mimeo. I mourn the passing of the hectograph, which preceded it, a large tray of gelatin on which a master-sheet imprinted ink which then you could print onto 20 to 30 copies. The first paper I ever wrote for, the Sunnyvale Star, was printed from a hectograph. I wish I had one now.

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