Ooh-Oooh, a freshly printed ditto! Didn’t you love that smell of the wet pages just off of mimeographs?! There are some smells we never forget. Kids like us from the 50s, 60s, and 70s have our toxic favorites; the inside of a new car, Magic Markers, molten Creepy Crawler goo cooking in the metal trays, using airplane glue on plastic car models, and for me, the smell of My-T-Fine chocolate pudding heating up on the stove at my grandparents’ apartment (maybe not toxic, but “inTOXICating” for me!).
Let’s face it- the one smell we all seem to remember most is mimeograph paper and guaranteed that no matter where you’re from or what school you went to, as long as you lived through the 1970s, you can relate: Your teacher walks in to the class announcing a pop quiz. Everyone is bummed. In the teacher’s hand are a stack quizzes right off the mimeograph, or “ditto” machine.
Mimeographs and the Memories!
With a quiz looming, the dittos are the only good thing that’s about to happen to you and your fellow young classmates. The pages are handed out, cool to the touch, and if you’re lucky they’re still damp. As they are passed around, nobody is focusing on the exam, but instead are simultaneously lifting the page to smells the amazing aromas coming off the page.
Bonus for those in the first row, who would get to smell the whole pile before passing them down the row to their classmates. Many people say it’s amazing how we survived a childhood that included inhaling all those crazy toxic fumes. And while probably true, I wouldn’t have given it up for anything! The smell of mimeograph paper, glue, Superelastic Bubble Plastic and so many other smelly things makes up the memories of our childhood.
Rise and fall of a favorite
Typically, mimeographs appeared in classrooms. But anyone who encountered these in their youth actually wanted access even outside of school. They added a fun flair to any printing job. So where did they go?
Though they were the most fun way to produce printed papers, mimeographs ended up overshadowed by the rise of photocopiers. That means anything with that telltale purple ink is really worth saving!
Watch this Classic Mimeograph Machine In Action! You Can Almost Smell the Ink Hot Off the Press.