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Homework: Obsolete Skills

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Homework: Obsolete Skills

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Homework: Obsolete Skills

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

Last week on this program, we asked you to send us stories about your obsolete skills, and you obliged. We heard from celestial navigators, masters of the slide rule and from a classical composer who wrote his musician's parts by hand. And then we heard from Fran Hill(ph) of Ephrata, Pennsylvania.

Ms. FRAN HILL: My obsolete skill is folding a nurse's cap. In the late 1950s, all nurses wore caps. Most of the caps had to be folded and each school's cap was unique. I attended Presbyterian Hospital's School of Nursing in Philadelphia. Six months after the start of our training, there was a capping service held in a church and filled with pomp and ceremony. From that day on, we were deemed to wear the cap.

We were also responsible for folding the cap. The caps arrived from the hospital laundry clean and starch-stiff. Our cap arrived as a flat, stiff semicircle, and our job was to transform it to a three-dimensional hat. Ten straight pins with pearl ends were required for the job. The 10 pins represented the Ten Commandments. First, we folded the long flat side back on itself, then began folding 10 pleats, each one equidistant along the back of the cap. We stabbed fingers and refolded many caps before the skill was mastered.

After graduation many of us stayed on to work at Presbyterian Hospital. We moved into shared apartments and quickly realized that the laundry no longer washed and starched our caps. We were on our own. An older nurse told us the best way to achieve the proper degree of stiffness was to wash the cap, dip it into starch and slap it onto the refrigerator door to drive. I cared for my caps this way for years.

Caps eventually became passe. And mine lived for years in a dresser drawer until I was cast to play a nurse in a local community theater production. I washed and starched the cap, slapped it on to the refrigerator door, and when it was dry, I began to fold it. It took me three hours to accomplish the task that 30 years earlier had taken 15 minutes. During those three hours I realized that I missed the ritual of cap-folding and the young nurse who learned the skill.

ADAMS: That is listener Fran Hill of Ephrata, Pennsylvania. She completed last week's homework assignment on obsolete skills. When we talked with her she gave us the idea for this week's assignment. She told us how nice the weather was in her part of Pennsylvania this month. And that got us to wondering, of course, whether March indeed still comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. And that got us wondering about the fate of many of the other great old weather proverbs. And so for this week, we're asking you to update your favorites. Some may need a rethink because of climate change. This well, maybe they just got old.

Send your new weather proverbs to homework@npr.org or call the Homework hotline; it's 202-408-5183 - 202-408-5183. You will hear the happy voice of our regular host, Andrea Seabrook, welcoming you. And be sure to tell us your name and how to contact you.

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