I had a moment of panic this week—well, one of several, since it is deadline time. In getting any issue of South Dakota History or an SDSHS Press book finalized and handed off to the designer and printer, there are a hundred little details and nagging questions, it seems, that have to be sorted through and figured out. I jot mine into the margins of every editorial draft. By the time I am ready for the last go-round, many of those nagging questions have answered themselves, but others still take digging.
In one article for the Spring 2012 issue, I knew that a confusing sequence of events could be clarified by linking dates to days of the week. Easily done, I thought, as I reached into the desk drawer for my handy perpetual calendar. The panic set in when I had to dig and dig some more. I don’t use the device often, but, like a Phillips screwdriver, if you need one, nothing else will do.
Luckily, I found my indispensable tool, which has a history in itself. Years ago, after one of us here in the office had struggled with a similar puzzle, our then-editorial assistant Laura Ries presented each of us with a copy of the perpetual calendar that she kept squirreled away in her desk. They were photocopied from her original four-by-six-inch card, which carried the heading “Outdoor Life Book Club” and a copyright of 1952. She had “laminated” each of our copies with a couple of strips of clear strapping tape.
I had never seen such a thing. One side was filled with a row of numbers from which you picked the first three digits of the desired year. From there, you followed a line that intersected with the last digit of the year, where you found a letter of the alphabet. Then, you turned the card over, remembering the letter, and followed an arrow to one of seven small calendars, which would give you the correct match of date and day. Since then, I’ve used the perpetual calendar for all kinds of puzzles, like the one that confronted me in this issue, and for others, like dating old photographs in which a day calendar is visible on a wall.
I’ve never seen another perpetual calendar like it. Sure, there are online versions in which one simply inputs the date and hits a button, but it’s much more fun to have to remember a letter, follow a maze, and then wonder, “How did they do that?”
I’d better make another copy.