A 75 for Dad
by Dan Carmell
  Article # 446 Article Type: Literature

I have to start this story with what may have been my first venture into fine pens: the year I bought my dad a Parker 75 pen set. You see, I was off at college and was working as a janitor in the dorms. Since Dad was paying for all my expenses, suddenly I had a fair amount of pocket money--more in a month than my teen summers of weeding soybean fields and detassling corn earned in total. Of course, a fair amount of that went toward beer bashes and the like, but I was also able to save a bit for birthdays. One year, I got my dad a Parker 75 Cisele ballpoint for his birthday--and then scraped up the money to buy the matching pencil for his Christmas present.

I remember now that I was darn proud of myself, although today I recognize that I was actually buying the present I would have liked to have received. Oh, I should add that my dad was an intensely practical guy: World War II bomber pilot, trained as an engineer, and a born teacher and administrator. I would have never thought of buying him something as “impractical” as a fountain pen.

Years and years went by and my occasional use of a fountain pen became an obsessive, acquisitive hobby. Not too long afterwards, my father began to show the first signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. After a few sad years of my family struggling to come to grips with the steady decline of my always vigorous and active dad, I spend a year coming and going from their New Hampshire home, cumulating in a visit that resulted in my father entering a specialized nursing home. One of the things that had to be done was to straighten out his desk. And, yes, in that desk I found the Parker 75 pencil. Not only that, I found my Christmas card to him, proudly pointing out that I had followed through (Dad thought I had a problem with follow-through; he was right!) and gotten the pencil for him.

I brought the pencil home and cleaned it up and decided that it needed a fountain pen to replace the long-lost ballpoint. Now, at this point, I had been buying more and more pens and had just enough knowledge to be a danger to myself. Also, I was willing to spend just enough on a pen to get a nice humble pen or a battered better pen--and I often couldn’t tell the difference! But I was eager to get those bargains and convinced I had a method. So onto eBay I went and before long I had purchased a Parker 75 Cisele fountain pen for just under $100, which was a bit more than I’d paid for a pen before then.

The pen arrived and it wasn’t quite what I expected. Granted, I’d never held a 75 in my hand, but was the section really supposed to slide in and out of the barrel without effort? And that black plastic section--should it really look melted and irregular? I pulled the photo off the eBay auction listing and examined it. No, the section looked perfect. Maybe the seller made a mistake? I took a photo of my section and emailed the seller both photos, pointing out that they didn’t look much alike. I got an indignant response, disclaiming any intent of fraud or any possibility of his error. However, I could mail it back for a full refund.

Well, the cap and barrel were perfect and I got stubborn. I was sure that this seller had decided that he hadn’t gotten a fair price and found a way to compensate for that. But I said nothing more, resolving to get the section replaced on my own. I may have been wrong about what happened here, but if I wasn’t, I thought, let that dealer steep in his own bad karma.

Just a few weeks later, I went to my first local pen club meeting. I was thrilled: I was going to meet other collectors for the first time and I was going to hear THE John Mottishaw talk on nibs, the same acknowledged nib master who had several of my pens, which I would be getting back from him in mere months.

That’s where I found Roger Cromwell. I showed him the pitiful section and he announced that he had NOS Parker 75 nibs and sections. In a moment, my Parker 75 had a proper section and a converter to boot. When I got home that afternoon, I proudly placed my complete Parker 75 fountain pen next to its matching pencil. But did they match?

Fast forward almost two years. I’ve now got a few fountain pen books, I’ve eavesdropped on many discussions of the much-collected Parker 75, and, most importantly, I’ve spent some time reviewing the details on Parker75.com. And now I know something: my pen and pencil don’t match! In fact, they differ in an important detail: the fountain pen has flat-top tassies and the pencil has the later dished tassies. What to do?

Fortunately, it was pen show time. Who do I find at my very first pen show? The creator of Parker75.com, Lee Chait. I explain to him about how my pen and pencil don’t match, how the pencil was my dad’s, and how willing I am to pay a premium if he would trade me for a Cisele with dished tassies for my flat-top model. Lee looks at my pen, unscrews the section and puts a new barrel and cap with dished tassies on it. I look at it and ask, “What do I owe you?” Lee tells me, very offhandedly, “Nothing. A 75 is a 75; even trade.” I was a little stunned at his generosity but very happy.

I walked away with a perfectly matching Parker 75 Cisele fountain pen and pencil. A pencil that went from my hand to my father’s and back again. And a pen to match. If you’ve followed the twists and turns of this pen’s adventures, you will have noticed that not one piece of that bad karma Parker 75 I bought on eBay is with me today, thanks to several true-blue pen dealers! That was a lesson in honesty and integrity that even my father could appreciate.

Come on, get some ink on your hands!


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