Great to join this forum! – from a new student of GS, and the son of a GS court reporter

Hi, I am very happy to join the Gregg Shorthand community, and appreciate Carlos’ fine support of everyone here.  I am just now getting around to learning GS – but I grew up with it, in that my late father Morris Miller, was a GS OCS (Official Court Stenographer) at the NY State Supreme Court.  I grew up talking with Dad about his work there, learning about cases and a fair amount about what it was like to be a “Gregg Writer” (their terms for themselves, and the name of the magazine in which Dad was once on the cover).  Tidbit – court reporters always walked into the courtroom with 3 fully filled fountain pens.  That way, if a pen ran dry during a long trial, they just whipped out another one.  (It wasn’t like they could say “Your Honor, we need to stop the trial, so I can fill my fountain pen.”)  Let me know if you’d like to hear more about the life of the intense users of Gregg Shorthand, mid 20th century. Gregg Shorthand permitted my father (a winner of the Gregg Diamond Medal) to support me through medical school – I’m a pediatric rheumatologist at Chicago’s major children’s hospital.  I’m in the process of learning the Anniversary version – the one that Carlos confirms used by my father, based on plates of his notes in the GW Magazine.  Great to be here! Michael Miller

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  1. Excellent Michael, and welcome to the blog! For sure, if you want to write a post with your reminiscences as to how it was to be a pen reporter in the middle of last century and other things you remember from your dad's experience, it would be awesome.

  2. Welcome Michael,   I am anxious to hear more about the Gregg Diamond Medal your father was awarded.  I found this blog just recently and am thrilled with the diversity of posts and writings.  Welcome! 

    1. I am so gratified by all the responses, including yours!  I only found out, thanks to Carlos sending me a scan of a short article about  my father in the February 1940 Gregg Writer Magazine that the diamond medal was given to those who accurately wrote at 200 words per minute!  I never knew exactly when my father won the award, but judging from the date of the magazine, I think he might have won it in 1939 (he was 25 years old).  When we can all travel again, I'll visit my brother and other relatives in NY and visit the NY Public Library, which holds archives of John Gregg.  I hope to learn more about the Diamond Medal.  As for the diamond … my father had the diamond embedded into a gold ring with two deco style font Ms on the front.  My initials are the same, and i am wearing the ring with the diamond in it as I type this.

  3. Welcome Mr. Miller! I'm so fascinated to hear about your father–what an incredible legacy. I too am just picking up Gregg and have found this blog to be a tremendous resource. I am a high schooler who intends on going into medicine (probably as a PA)–do you forsee shorthand as something that you will use in a professional setting? I understand that these days doctors are pretty much compelled to use computers for everything. 

    On a rather off-topic note, what do you enjoy about your specialty? Do you see it as a good fit for PAs? Thanks!

    1. Best wishes to you Oliver!  Besides being a pediatric rheumatologist, I just got board certified in Clinical Informatics, the newest medical subspecialty, which deals with computers in medicine.  Indeed computers are needed for everything.  I have spent about 95% or more of my career without using Gregg Shorthand, so it's clearly not a necessity.  Having said that, in the past few weeks, I am starting to embed forms into the notes I take on hospitalized patients, just to see what it would be like.  I have found, to my pleasant surprise, that my thinking on paper even more accurately reflects the thinking in my head, thanks to my brief notes having GS forms as headers – I am using the forms sparingly, but it's been a lot of fun: "problem" (listing the diagnoses), history (abbreviated to the GS "hist") for patient reported symptoms, "exam", "assessment", and "plan" PAs are not so predominant in my specialty.  In general, children's hospitals have Nurse Practitioners in the various subspecialties.  PAs tend to be more in primary care (general pediatrics, general internal medicine, etc).  Important roles for both PAs and NPs.

      1. Thank you for the informative background, Dr. Miller! It's good to hear that PAs are especially involved in primary care–I see myself as a people person who will thrive the best with direct, ongoing patient contact. 

        It's also exciting to hear that there are opportunities to use shorthand in medicine, "new" technology notwithstanding. I've been slipping shorthand forms into my day in little ways as well. I used a few while doing some timed essay prep the other day, which filled my heart with joy! 

        God bless,

  4. I just gotta say the image of someone asking for the trial to be paused so they could fill their fountain pen cracked me up! Do you know if your father used a regular fountain pen or one of the specific Gregg ones they produced back then?

    1. My father used both regular fountain pens and the Gregg fountain pens with the logo on the top of the cap.  Near as I could tell there was no basic difference.  (John Gregg was a genius in many ways – not just inventing a system used by millions, but also his genius ranged from publishing to marketing – he saw the market for fountain pens, as well as general publications by his publishing company for secretaries).

      1. Thank you for the response. 🙂 Yes as far as I know there weren’t really any differences between the average fountain pen and a Gregg labeled one, but like you said it was a great marketing idea and it makes me want to get one to use for writing Gregg in my journal even though the other fountain pens I own work just fine! 

  5. Very interesting to hear from someone who had such close experience of an expert shorthand writer.

    When I had 2 weeks to spare after some exams in the early 1970s I visited every day the court in town (St Albans, England) and in it was a court reporter.  (I wonder, now, why he was needed as courts proceeding were recorded.)  I had some knowledge about Gregg and Pitman and judging from the rather wild way he was writing (he got through pages of notebook very rapidly, and seemed to write very big) I assumed it to be Gregg.  Anyway, it prompted me to continue my study of Gregg shorthand.

    As for pens, I write with a fountain pen, but all mine are rather short to hold.  Writing longhand I put the cap on the end, but I am told that it is best not to do that writing shorthand (perhaps during rapid shorthand the cap could fly off and disrupt your writing) but I find it a little awkward to hold the shortish pen.  I wonder if the once advertised Gregg pens had a longer barrel than other fountain pens?

    1. Even now, recordings of court proceedings aren't reliable. In another group, there's a court reporter who now works off recordings and hates it. No one notices if the speaker walks too far from the mic or mumbles. They don't even notice if the equipment is turned on and working.

    2. Thank you, Nicholas, for your reply.  I have one of my father;s Gregg fountain pens – it was identical in size and shape to standard fountain pens of the day (slightly shorter than current fountain pens).  It likely will not surprise you that I am a fan of fountain pens and know all about their history.  Improvements in fountain pens undoubtedly propelled the success of Gregg Shorthand starting just before WW1, when some of the first fountain pens that could be placed in shirt pockets were developed. (Prior to that, fountain pens had to reside in a cap-shaped holder embedded in a rectangular block of wood, placed on an office desk).  What allowed portable fountain pens was the use of a "sac" or bladder – a rubber tube residing inside the pen.  A lever in the barrel was pried up and depressed, decreasing the volume – then the pen was placed in the ink bottle, and the lever released, permitting the sac to suction up the ink.  Problem was that sacs had relatively short half lives – may a few years at the very best, before they dried up and needed replacement.  Ergo, in large cities with many stenographers, there were "hospitals" for fountain pens!  My Dad and his colleagues would regularly go to the NY Fountain Pen Hospital, for sac replacement.  That store went on to become a high end store for fountain pens, not far from Union Square, in New York City.

      1. Thanks for your information about the pens.  So, I won't be buying one from the internet then.  (I saw one some while ago but it cost too much.)

        1. Don’t counts vintage pen out just yet! You can get sacks made of sturdier material these days that last much longer and it doesn’t cost much to have one replaced if it does go bad. It is a bit troublesome to find a Gregg fountain pen that isn’t overpriced, so I am with you on that.  Also I wonder how hard and fast you have to be writing to have the cap fly off the pen! 

          1. One usually writes without the cap so that it won't be flying around! Plus the pen is lighter without the cap.

            I have 2 or 3 Gregg Shorthand fountain pens that work very well. There are people that service fountain pens, so if I need a new sac or a realignment of the nib, they can do that kind of job.

  6. Neat story, and welcome to the blog! I would also be very interested in hearing more about your father's experiences. I wonder if any of the existing scans on the blog contain your dad's plates. Or perhaps you have a hardcopy that could be scanned?

    1. Thanks for the query!  I don't have any of my father's notebooks (I think they were considered property of the NY court system) – but Dad was on the cover of the March 1940 Gregg Writer Magazine, and I will scan and upload the plate with his writing.  It was a court case.  I grew up as a kid listening to my father dictate from his notebooks into a Dictaphone – one of the early tape recorders for office use popular in the 1950s.  The tapes would go to a typing pool in the court building, and typists would produce the official transcripts.  The only times my father would directly type from his own notes would be when lawyers needed the transcript within 24 hours, typically for emergency appeals (rare in a civil court, but it did occur).  This happened around 3 or 4 times per year, I recall – and apparently was lucrative, as a high charge was made for these services.

    1. Thanks, Sherry!  It's very gratifying to read through the many responses – this is such a fine community.  Here's another tidbit – I found Dad (and when I asked him, he told me this was the case for most eperienced reporters) could predict early in a trial which side would win.  Court reporters were not only busy writing, but they also were keen observers of the trial.  They got to know judges in terms of personalities and styles of running a case, as well as how well the lawyers were doing (e.g. when they were in trouble, when they were doing really well).  I would regularly ask Dad, "So which side is winning?"

    1. Thanks, Sherry!  It's very gratifying to read through the many responses – this is such a fine community.  Here's another tidbit – I found Dad (and when I asked him, he told me this was the case for most eperienced reporters) could predict early in a trial which side would win.  Court reporters were not only busy writing, but they also were keen observers of the trial.  They got to know judges in terms of personalities and styles of running a case, as well as how well the lawyers were doing (e.g. when they were in trouble, when they were doing really well).  I would regularly ask Dad, "So which side is winning?"

      1. I apologize for the duplicate posting – I meant the above reply for the preceding post.  

        But I do have an observation about Anniversary vs Simplified and welcome comments on this – to me the McGraw Hill text (I think by Rader) on Simplified is the best text out there.  However, it uses full forms for words for which Anniversary uses abbreviations.  I'm going to learn the Anniversary versions of forms, but it means double checking every entry and exercise in the text for Simplified.  One example: "paid" in Simplified is the form "p-a-d" whereas in Anniversary it is the easier to write "p-d'"

  7. Very interesting for me to see actual Gregg notes that were written at high speed in court reporting. There is a scene in The Big Sleep the Humphrey Bogart movie (the alternate movie) where up close Gregg shorthand is shown being written in an interview in the police station. Is it possible to upload some samples of you dad's work? I would love to see Charles Swem, and Martin Duprauw notes also but there aren't many around, I imagine after trials they just tossed them away or had to give the notes to the clerk or something or stored them where they became forgotten. thanks.

  8. Thanks, yes I will upload a plate in the March 1949 issue of Gregg Writer, which has a page of my Dad's notes.  Actually, the notes were stored – they were property of the NY State Supreme Court, which is why I don't have any of my Dad's notebooks.  

    Enjoy your reference to The Big Sleep – I'm going to try to find that scene on YouTube.

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