~ As a schoolchild in the late 1950s and 1960s, I exclusively used pencils for all homework and notes in class.
I preferred softer leads, as the shading appealed to me, as opposed to the harder leads used for mathematics proofs and such.
Growing up in a medical family, plastic promotional ballpoint pens distributed by pharmaceutical corporations were readily available.
As ballpoint ink wasn't erasable, and didn't shade as soft pencil lead did, it was less appealing to me.
The oily ink in the ballpoint pens around the house smudged without aesthetic effect, looking messy on homework assignments.
Finally in high school, in the late 1960s, a couple of ballpoint pens became part of my standard school equipment, but without inspiring any special loyalty, let alone passion.
My father gave me a Cross ballpoint pen for high school graduation, which was little used, serving more as a symbol than used as a writing tool.
I'd noticed other students with fountain pens, which were different than the older Parker and Sheaffer fountain pens in my father's desk.
Around 1970, with funds earned from working part-time as a kennel-boy in a local veterinary hospital on weekends and during vacations, I went to a local drugstore and bought my first fountain pen.
It was a Sheaffer Cartridge Pen, sometimes called a School Pen, in chrome and black with flat ends on the cap and barrel.
Not knowing anything about fountain pens, the M nib satisfied my modest requirements.
The ink cartridges of choice were blue-black, although I went through a phase of using peacock blue.
The character of the ink on paper had a crispness which I liked, but the greatest pleasure was a sense of writing as the ancients had, water-based ink on paper.
Fountain pens struck me at that time as being a link to more traditional, tested ways of communication.
The era was replete with social change and cultural upheaval, which was unsettling at times, therefore the calm stability of ink strokes was reassuring.
When heading off to university at age 17, I wanted to somehow upgrade to mark the transition, so I purchased another Sheaffer fountain pen.
A No Nonsense pen in brown, also with an M nib, it's larger size better suited my large right hand.
With two fountain pens, my practice was to have both inked with different cartridge colors, typically blue, blue black or peacock blue.
Seeing Pravda's recent images of his Tropic Brown Heritage B nib fountain pen reminded me of the brown No Nonsense pen which I'd used for several years.
With the completion of graduate school I drifted away from the familiar tools of a student lifestyle, including switching over to ballpoint pens.
With passing years, I discovered and liked felt-tip pens, and later also used gel pens. Pencils remained part of my life, but more for sketching than for writing.
I have no recollection of ever having read or heard of Montblanc as a brand. As far as I know, no one in my limited sphere was using Montblanc products at that time.
The familiar Montblanc white star was a wholly unfamiliar trademark to me for decades, without ever having knowingly encountered it in my reading or travels.
As I've described in detail in another FPN Montblanc Forum thread, in 1987 I was given a Meisterstück 149 M nib, 14K, with ‘Germany’ on the Clip Ring.
Although it was an exceptionally generous gift, I was unsophisticated, not recognizing the value of what I'd received.
It never registered in my muddled consciousness that Montblanc was an esteemed brand, such that for over two decades I was unaware that I owned a genuine Montblanc fountain pen.
Consequently, the 149 was stored as a friendship keepsake, but never inked or examined. Gradually it was forgotten, remaining unseen in a small white presentation box.
My career took me many places to far-flung university settings, eventually leading to Beijing in 1999.
Around 2007 I spotted an unfamiliar name in the ‘Malls at Oriental Plaza’ by Beijing's Wangfujing, a ‘pedestrians only’ shopping street.
It was a Lamy pocket boutique, the first of its kind in Beijing. Curious, I looked over the merchandise, settling on a bright red M nib Safari pen.
I'd never heard of Lamy, but had dim memories of the pleasures of writing with a fountain pen while attending college and graduate school.
The choice of bright red was a not-so-subtle acknowledgment of working and living in mainland China.
Using the Lamy pen was satisfying, such that several other Safari pens joined the first one, inked with converters rather than using cartridges.
I tried several local fountain pens, which invariably clogged up, skipped, and failed to start the ink flow every time.
In 2011, during a household cleaning and reorganization, I encountered the long-forgotten Montblanc 149 M nib. Removing it from the box, I wondered how it might be inked and used.
For the first time I took the time to look at the brand name — Montblanc — which still meant nothing whatsoever to me.
Looking on the Internet, I found that there was a dedicated Montblanc outlet, called a ‘boutique’, in the same mall where I found and purchased the Lamy pen.
Taking my gift pen downtown, I asked the boutique staff to examine it to determine if it was an authentic Montblanc pen.
They smilingly confirmed that it was, presenting me with two outdated bottles of ink as a gift.
I tried to ink it, but nothing happened, so I gave up, putting it away for one more year.
In 2012, I thought about the 149 again, pulled it out and asked myself why it wouldn't write.
A search on the Internet suggested that it might benefit from soaking the nib in lukewarm water.
The dried ink which had long clogged it came out with a watery burst, some time after the pen was in the water.
Within weeks I returned to the downtown boutique, bought more ink, made friends with staff members, and began my Montblanc journey.
Many pens later, I now own various Montblanc fountain pens, ballpoint pens, a rollerball, a wallet, two belts and a fine document case.
There are even two Montblanc umbrellas in my home office, both gifts from the Montblanc boutique.
I still use pencils, but now they're large charcoal pencils for sketching. I also have a half dozen gold-filled cap Parker 51s on my desk.
One month ago I looked in a small box which had been with me for more than thirty years, but perhaps opened no more than once or twice.
To my great surprise I found the two original Sheaffer fountain pens that I used as a kid.
Using a syringe and needle from a biology laboratory, I filled the empty cartridges with ink, after having thoroughly cleaned all parts of the two pens.
They both write very well. I've used them in recent weeks in classes I taught, pleased to use them towards the close of my career after they served me as a student.
Today jar kindly replied to my inquiry about how to remove the wedged-in cartridge in the chrome and black Cartridge Pen. It easily came out, so now I'll know how to regularly re-ink it.
Below are several images of the first fountain pens that I used, as well as the initial Montblanc 149, which started me out on my Montblanc journey.
I'm interested how others originally came to know Montblanc, even if it was long before they acquired their first Montblanc product.
Two Sheaffer Fountain Pens Revealed
My First Three Fountain Pens
Fountain Pen Series