At the Business Forms and Labels Hall of Fame | HumorOutcasts

At the Business Forms and Labels Hall of Fame

February 5, 2018

A recently-deceased Boston-area man was a member of the Business Forms, Labels & Systems Hall of Fame.

                                                                       The Boston Herald

“He created the ubiquitous pink ‘While you were out’ telephone message form.”


This time of the year always makes me nostalgic for that fateful day, nearly four decades ago, when I started out in the world of business.  I remember the way things were back then; fax machines were new, and an incoming transmission smelled like a high school basketball player’s gym bag soaked in kerosene; word processors ran on floppy magnetic cards; and there was no phone mail, so when you came back from lunch you’d be greeted by a little pile of pink slips that said “While you were out . . .”  If you were lucky, the distrait receptionist named Regina would draw a smiley face on it–if not, a little glum face.

“That’s an invoice, and that’s a petty cash slip, and that’s a . . .”


And so I’ve brought my boys, who are about to graduate from college and begin their own business careers, to the National Business Forms & Labels Hall of Fame, to get a sense of the rich history and tradition of America’s national pastime; shuffling paper and covering your butt in order to make enough money to buy a house in the suburbs.

“Do we have to?” Scooter asks as he pokes at his iPhone, checking his bank balance to see if he needs to cash in some options in order to cover his date for tonight.

“Your kids are driving me crazy!”


“It’ll be educational!” I exclaim, the words that I’ve used to dupe them into attending everything from the Museum of Science to an Edvard Munch exhibit.

“Is there a snack bar?” Skipper, his brother asks.  That’s been part of the deal, ever since time immemorial; if they’ll endure a few hours of cultural uplift, I’ll buy them greasy pizza and sugary soft drinks to soften the blow.

“I’m sure there is,” I say as I hand our tickets to the elderly usher at the entrance.  “Like Napoleon said, an army marches on its stomach, and a business marches on the stomachs of its workers, or something like that.”

Napoleon:  “There’s a Wendy’s–let’s grab a Chocolate Frosty!”


We stop for a second to get our bearings before the “You Are Here” directory, which shows the various permanent collections and current exhibitions.  “I don’t know, whadda you think,” I say, propping my chin in one hand.  “Do you want to take in the History of Mimeography wing, or go straight to the ‘Filing in Triplicate’ exhibit?”

Neither seems to catch their interest, so we start a random walk through the cool marble halls, allowing our fancy to flit from form to form like some kind of business butterfly.

“You know, guys,” I say, lapsing into the fatherly tone that I first used when they were infants and couldn’t sleep, “you’ll find that the right business form is like a key that opens up the doors of productivity, sort of like what drugs did for Aldous Huxley.”

“Is that the book that The Doors were named after?” Scooter asks.  He played drums and was briefly a member of a power trio that covered songs by The Who, so he’s fairly well-versed in drug rock from his father’s era.

“That’s right Scoot,” I say, rightly proud–as only a father can be–of his knowledge of American history.  “Strangely enough, there’s never been a rock band that celebrated the contribution that business forms and labels have made to our culture.”

“Why am I not surprised,” Skipper says as he “tweets” for the 123rd time today.  Probably something like “@ stupid museum with dad call 911 I am about to die of boredom.”

“Look guys–a working mimeograph machine!”

We gather round–or rather I gather round–that relic of my undergraduate years, with its purple ink and crinkly paper.  Boy, does that take me back!

“Dad,” Scooter says.

“What kiddo?”

“Are you at all concerned–in the twilight of your career–that you might not make it into the Business Forms & Labels Hall of Fame?”

I look at him with a wistful sadness, a poignant melancholy.  It’s a bittersweet moment; I know he has it within him to surpass me in terms of top-line revenues and bottom-line profits, and yet he’s still concerned that a paper cut here, a jammed finger there will keep me from taking my rightful place among the immortals of business forms.

“I don’t know pal,” I say, and I hang my head.  “It’s getting tougher and tougher to get into the H-O-F.  You need 3,000 hits . . .”

“Johnny Damon is 231 short . . .”

” . . . or 300 wins, or 3,000,000 pages of copies of forms filed in triplicate, pink, yellow and white for alphabetical, chronological, and accounting department.”

Con Chapman

I'm a Boston-area writer, author of two novels (most recently "Making Partner"), a baseball book about the Red Sox and the Yankees ("The Year of the Gerbil"), ten published plays and 45 books of humor available in print and Kindle formats on My latest book "Scooter & Skipper Blow Things Up!" was released by HumorOutcasts Press last year. My humor has appeared in The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe and Barron's, and I am working on a biography of Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington's long-time alto sax player for Oxford University Press .

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One Response to At the Business Forms and Labels Hall of Fame

  1. February 5, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    So, you were the cool dad taking your boys to this fine museum? LOL

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