18 November 2009

Canned Beer - Church Keys - Mimeograph Machines

Do you know what is a church key? Better yet, do you know what is a mimeograph machine?

OK, here I go with the phrase that validates the gray hair on my head...Back in the day, both were ubiquitous and necessary items. Much like number two pencils and legal pads.

I come to this because while at work I happened to mention both in passing to the quizzical, eyebrows raised look that tells me when my younger colleagues (which actually means all of my colleagues) are convinced that I'm setting them up for a punchline at their expense.

So, I found myself explaining that back-in-the-day nary a church basement where the ladies club held its meeting or school office from hence the daily lesson plans and cafeteria menus made their way to cork bulletin boards or to be Scotch-taped to classroom "black boards".

OK, since there is a likelihood that you have no clue at all as to what is a "mimeograph" machine, here goes: It is a mechanical duplicator that produces copies by pressing onto paper through openings in a stencil.

Aha! The stencil was created by loading it into a typewriter--you do know what that is...right?--and typing on it what ever it was you wished to be circulated. The typing created holes in the stencil which was then tightly wrapped around a drum or cylinder and secured in place. The cylinder was then turned (back in the days before back in the day, it would have been hand-cranked--more modern ones had...gasp..electricty) pressing against an ink saturated roller which forced ink through the stencil onto sheets of paper.

Yep, you got it. A handy-dandy primitive printing press of sorts.

Now, as I mentioned these devices were immensely popular with church clubs and school offices and were ubiquitous. And, the responsibility for running them were ALWAYS assigned to the nerdiest kid or sternest most humorless staff member.

Which brings us to "Church Keys". No, they were not keys given to the trusted person who ran the mimeograph machine. Au contraire', these people probably to this day do not know what was a "Church Key".

Come back into time with me to a period when beer was, for the first time in history, being sold in cans. Those early cans were not soft aluminum and did not have pop tops or pull tabs. They, instead, were made of a heavy metal requiring that they be punched open with an opening device which was no more than a sharpened triangular point which was levered into the can top opening a Vee-shaped hole from which one could "suck suds".

This opener was called a "Church Key".

There it is, and you'd be amazed at how many people, who "suck suds" never heard of a "Church Key". And you can put that in your mimeograph and circulate it it where you will!

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