A SMELL TO REMEMBER

kids ditto            ditto

If you have ever seen the movie, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, there is a scene in the beginning of the movie where the teacher, Mr. Hand, kicks Jeff Spicoli out of his class for arriving late the first day. He then passes out to the students the course outline on a piece of paper. Upon receiving his or her paper the whole class lifts the paper up to their noses and takes a big whiff. Why? If you went to elementary school thru high school in the 60’s and 70’s you would know the answer. Those that don’t understand probably started school in the 80’s or after and would have no clue. The answer is in the smell. Photocopying machines as we know them today were not in existence for the general public. They were still in the developmental stage and very expensive to own. Schools, churches and other public buildings relied on the Ditto Machine, which was the King of all childhood smells. It was also known as a Spirit Duplicator as alchohol was a major component of the solvents used as ink. The teacher would have to create one master copy of what was to be copied on a smooth waxy piece of paper that attached to the ditto machine and then it was heavily inked. Purple ink was the color of choice because it stood out the best on white paper. The ditto machine was hand cranked, no electricity needed, and copies from the master were cranked out one by one. When they got to class they were still slightly wet and had a smell so unique that it is a smell memory that lasts forever. The first thing each student would do is hold up the paper and give it a good sniff. It wasn’t a good smell or a bad smell, just a unique smell that you had never known before. The closest thing I could compare it to would be a mixture of ammonia and gasoline. We learned later that the solvent used for dittos were toxic substances that could cause a host of medical problems…and we were putting it right up to our noses and sniffing with deep breaths. In fact a teachers assistant was sent to the hospital after being in the ditto machine room for half a day with poor ventilation…straight methanol going to the brain. The teachers assistants were just fellow students who became very popular if they were dittoing tests as just a few extra tests printed out and given to the right students could be a great study aid. Copy machines now are so common it is hard to remember them not being a part of our daily lives. They can print in color, two sided, collated, stapled and be done in seconds. It is common to have one or more at home…heck they give them away if you buy a computer. Copying at home used to be done with Carbon Paper which is another story. The smell of ditto paper is remembered by all who experienced it…one of only a few smells that jogs your memory like cut grass, home baked goods, napalm in the morning, or driving by a cattle stockyard for the first time.

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2 thoughts on “A SMELL TO REMEMBER

  1. I can definitely relate to this one…smells are incredibly powerful mind stimulants…..I will NEVER forget the first time I stepped off of the plane in Hawaii….the smell of flowers was intense….I was involved in a Home Tour in college for the All Souls Episcopal Church, I put “stuffing” in the oven for one of the homes (with the oven on low) and in another home, I had hot mulled cider on the stovetop…..Sometimes people overdo the scent idea~ potpourri in every room, plug in air fresheners, room sprays, and some can be quite nauseating, like perfume or cologne……Also, the science of pheromones is amazing….explaining why certain people are naturally drawn to each other…Smell is one of the senses I love….reminding me of intense feelings and memories, all good!

    • I also remember getting off the plane for the first time in Hawaii, what a pleasant aroma and the tropical winds are unforgettable. You have a good nose for ” smell memories “. I’m going to look in to pheromones, it’s new to me, but sounds interesting. Thanks for the comment.

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