January 4, 2013

Aide Memoire

Filed under: found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 5:40 pm

What’s a good way to keep track of facts and details at work, when it is no longer possible to slip a written reminder into a paper folder?  Key in a reminder to an iPhone?  Scribble something on a sticky note and stick it to a computer screen?  Send an e-mail to oneself?  Or, more formally, write a memo in WORD and file it in an electronic file?

I’ve seen notes in paper folders in the past that called themselves “note to file”, but I’ve recently come across two documents addressed to “Aide Memoire”, really to the writer’s memory.

Jerome Saltz was the longtime Federation Budget Director, holding that position from 1941 to 1971.  I have no idea how he remembered all that he had to remember.  I think a good staff helped a lot, including what we imagine was a huge clerical/typing/filing staff, which probably still existed through 1971 but which most certainly disappeared during the long, painful budget crisis of the 1970s.  A glimpse into the brain, and the memory, of Mr. Saltz can be found in his 1966 Aide Memoire regarding the United Fund of Long Island, pictured below:

Jerome Saltz "aide memoire", 1966

Jerome Saltz “Aide Memoire”, 1966

Clearly, he was thinking through a problem, perhaps in preparation for a meeting or for a report to a committee or agency executive.  Nothing was decided in this memo, but he could return to it whenever necessary to refresh his memory as to what he had already thought through in solving this particular problem.

Jack Applebaum followed Jerome Saltz as Budget Director of FJP, promoted in 1971 after about 20 years in the Budget Department.  Applebaum has his own example of an Aide Memoire from the year of his promotion.  He was attempting to wrestle with the meaning of a report that had landed on his desk, coincidentally concerning another form of a United Fund:

A Systematic Approach to United Fund Allocations

A Systematic Approach to Planning United Fund Allocations


And below is his Aide Memoire:

"Aide Memoire" by Jack Applebaum, Budget Director

“Aide Memoire” by Jack Applebaum, Budget Director

It may be that only leadership in the Budget Department wrote such memos to place in their own files, or it may have been the Federation style in the 1960s and 1970s.  We’ll continue to look for more of these documents, which are simple windows into a different way of working, and of keeping our thoughts in order and in the right place while those thoughts are still incomplete.

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