Thursday, March 24, 2016

Visiting a Neighborhood Notary in the 1960s

Old School Embosser

I remember as a small child of about six years old going with my grandfather to visit Mr. Barnhill, our local notary, a quiet old fellow who lived a few blocks from us in our small coast town in Texas near the mouth of the Brazos River. My grandparents were simple people, but on a few occasions, one of them would have a rare matter of important business that required notarial services.

The notary lived in a blue clapboard house with white trim and in his yard was planted a small white sign with black letters that said “Notary Public.” Citizens didn’t call ahead, they just showed up and knocked on the notary’s front door.

Mr. Barnhill’s notary journal was not much different than the ones we use today. His handwriting, a beautiful antique script, filled page after page of entry lines, and he kept a folded index card in it to mark his place for the next customer.

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Mr. Barnhill used a heavy metal and brass embosser that sat gloriously on the corner of his desk. The first time I saw it in action, I swear it had an aura of golden light around it. Its impression didn’t have his name or commission expiration date on it, only the words “Notary Public, State of Texas” around a five-point star. Back out in my grandfather’s car, I would ask to feel the raised impression of the notary’s seal on the thick bond paper.

Even a little girl of six could tell that a visit to the notary was an important event.

I would love to tell you that because my grandparents held Mr. Barnhill in such high regard, I decided to become a notary about twenty years later-- alas,in truth, it was the only way I knew to get my hands on one of those impressive embossers!

Do you have a notary memory from your childhood? Post it in the comments or send it to

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