The master is made. There are no mistakes. Now, on to the copy room where the ditto machine awaits. First order of business, check to see that there is duplicating fluid in the tank. The fluid was guaranteed to give you a headache after only 30 seconds of inhaling it. Of course, the machine was always housed in the smallest room with no ventilation.
If you were the first to use it for the day, you had to prime the wick. Unless the wick was wet with fluid, the purple ink would not transfer to the paper. You would get ghost copies until the wick was wet.
With the wick prepped, it was now time to place the master on the drum. Lifting a lever would open a slot running across the drum into which was placed the top of the ditto master. Close the clamp and the paper was in place. Hopefully it was placed in straight and not angled. Now, hold your breath and run a test copy. At this point, many good masters were ruined. The machine, for reasons known only to itself, would sometimes delight in crumpling the paper as it rotated to print a copy. This would appear as a line that looked like a crease running through the paper even though the master itself was not creased when it was put into the machine. There was not a thing that could be done if this happened. How many teachers have said unkind words to the machine when this happened?
Sometimes the drum would become purple from all of the masters that were made. At this point some lucky person had to clean the drum. This involved pouring some of the duplicating fluid onto a paper towel and wiping the drum clean. This was sure to tattoo your hands a lovely shade of purple that would hang around for weeks.
Most of the time, the copies that were made were just fine. Sometimes, though, the papers seemed to get saturated with duplicating fluid. When this happened teachers could be seen waving papers like a flag getting them to dry quickly. The scent of the duplicating fluid permeated the paper and often students would sit and sniff freshly duplicated papers.
I can’t begin to put a number to how many ditto masters I have made or how many purple copies I have run off. It was what was available at the time and all teachers used it. Of course, dittos were not the only way to make copies. There was the stencil – but that’s a whole different story.