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Leading The Charge
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Leading The Charge
An Interview with William Parsons, AAERT Member
by Gail Malm Armstrong, CER, CET

The steed was still a marvel of muscle and beauty in motion. Albeit, there was gray in the mane, and he stepped a bit more cautiously these days. He was stiff in the mornings and the cold went straight to his bones more these days. The blanket became an oft-needed accessory to keep his shivering at bay. One could imagine back to his younger days when he fiercely went forth to the call of battle, wind rustling in his mane, every muscle exploding with speed and purpose. A war horse is a horse used for fighting, including light and heavy cavalry, reconnaissance, logistical support, or in individual combat. Many veteran court reporters and transcribers have led the charge to champion the use of digital recording despite mountainous odds and obstacles. Let me introduce you to William Parsons, Court Reporter and Transcriber.

Gail: Hallå, Bill.

Bill: Hallå, Gail.

Gail: I feel honored to be able to interview you and introduce you to our AAERT membership. Give us a bit of your work history, Bill.

Bill: I was employed as a court reporter in the Connecticut Superior Court for thirty-five years. I took down many jury trials, contested divorces, and legal arguments.

Gail: When did your court reporting career begin?

Bill: My court reporting work history goes back fifty-three years to when I was a Marine private, and at my first assignment at Camp Pendleton, California I was asked, “You can type. Do you want to work in a legal office?” That was my very first encounter with office clerical work, and I became a stenomask reporter and recorded court martial hearings. I also worked transcribing audiotapes of hearings in the Marine Corps.

Gail: What different legal venues have you worked in?

Bill: Besides working in the courts, I have worked recording a variety of public hearings and arbitrations. Over the course of my career I have worked as a stenomask court reporter, a stenotype court reporter, and an electronic court reporter. When I retired from the Connecticut Superior Court as a stenotypist, I returned to work in that court on a per diem basis as an electronic reporter using the recording equipment, keeping the logs, and transcribing those audio recordings.

Gail: What methods and equipment were used in those early days to record and transcribe?

Bill: In 1962, I used Dictaphone recording equipment which involved the Dictaphone machine cutting a mechanical groove into a Lexan plastic belt. The transcription was done with a foot pedal to play and replay the audio. We typed using manual typewriters with carbon paper and typed as many as five carbon copies with each copy getting lighter and lighter. We also prepared mimeograph stencils. The typewriter keys would cut a stencil which would be placed on a mimeograph machine to run off copies.

Gail: Was the job difficult?

Bill: The early jobs were all very difficult because we didn’t have that wonderful, wonderful computer technology in order to correct mistakes on the computer screen and to use spell check. That meant that the original and carbon copies had to be corrected using an eraser. To correct mimeograph sheets, we had to use an ink brush to cover over the mistakes and then type over the mistake. The court reporting jobs were always very difficult before the use of audio recording. In those days, there was so much pressure on court reporters whatever method was used. The stress is somewhat less today due to the use of audio recording.

Gail: What is the strangest location where you ever reported?

Bill: I would say the strangest location I ever reported in was as a Marine Corps stenomask reporter recording a hearing in the meat locker of a supermarket. Another unusual location I worked in was accompanying a jury to the scene of a negligent homicide case and recording the remarks of the judge and counsel standing on the sidewalk of the street.

Gail: How have you adapted to changes in technology through the years?

Bill: As a stenotypist I totally integrated electronic recording into my work and electronically recorded all the hearings I took.

Gail: Have you created a special Internet site for court reporter history or collectibles?

Bill: Yes, I did. I was on a vacation and visited a New York Adirondacks outdoor museum many years ago, and I was totally inspired by that museum. I had a wonderful wife who exposed me to museums and wonderful cultural things such as music and art. At that New York Adirondacks outdoor museum, I was hit with the idea to start a court reporting museum website. I was later able to hire website expert who had taught computers at a college, and Mr. Dick Evans created my Court Reporters Museum website. My website specializes in making inspirational things for ALL court reporters including electronic court reporters, stenomask court reporters and stenotype court reporters. My website also features several inventions of mine related to court reporting including the Box Lid Diagramming Filing and Inventory Control System that can be used to file audiotapes and CDs. The system does away with backshifting of records and saves rearranging boxes of stored court reporting records when records are taken from the storage boxes and later reinserted into the boxes. That system is a cost-free system and turns storage boxes into filing boxes.

Gail: Tell us briefly about the Saint Cassian of Tangier and the Court Reporter’s Blessing. Why do you believe this blessing is important to distribute?

Bill: I have had the privilege to spread the word on St. Cassian of Tangiers, patron saint of court reporters. This saint was virtually a totally unknown patron saint of court reporting never mentioned in any of the histories of court reporting by the court reporter associations. I learned of this virtually unknown patron saint on a court reporter forum. I believe it is extremely important to publicize and distribute the St. Cassian of Tangiers patron saint’s card because that patron saint goes back to the year 298 A.D. where St. Cassian of Tangiers was a Christian court reporter martyr. New generations of court reporters should realize the long, proud history and great contributions court reporters and our predecessor scribes have made to mankind in preserving history. To have a patron saint of court reporting mentioned in all the histories of Christianity is something all transcribers and court reporters should be aware of and celebrate.

Gail: You and I both share a Swedish background. I understand one of your hobbies involves activities with the Swedish Vasa Board in Meriden, CT. Please give us a few interesting details.

Bill: My mother’s parents were Swedish immigrants to America. I had the privilege of visiting my family homestead and relatives in Sweden. I was told that my grandfather and his family were tenant farmers. In the immigrant tradition of hard work, my grandfather and grandmother came to America and worked hard to raise my mother who became an Registered Nurse in the 1920’s.

I never had much to do with my Swedish heritage aside from the Swedish customs and traditions enjoyed in my parents’ home. About fifteen years ago a Swedish American cousin mentioned the Vasa Order of America to me. After having learned of the Vasa Order of America, I searched the internet and found out the details about the Connecticut Vasa lodges. Connecticut was the state that the Vasa Order of America was founded in by Swedish immigrants to Connecticut. Thus, we have the first Vasa lodge formed in the world as Vasa Lodge #1 in West Hartford, Connecticut.

I became the secretary of the Karl the XII Lodge, and my wife Sandy became the treasurer of the lodge. I was then asked to be Vice District Secretary of the State of Connecticut Vasa District. The Vice District Secretary would only perform duties in the event the district secretary couldn’t perform her duties. The district secretary became disabled, and I then became the District Secretary for the Vasa Connecticut District. I recorded the Vasa Connecticut District Convention using my court reporting skills and gave them long minutes, many, many pages longer than the minutes ever taken at a Vasa convention in the United States. Some people loved and praised those minutes while others didn’t want all the details. Today I am no longer the Connecticut Vasa District Secretary but am again the Vice District Secretary and a member of the executive board of the Connecticut Vasa District executive board.

I have never seen members of an association so readily and eagerly take on jobs and work so hard as the members of our Connecticut Vasa, but I am sure and know that AAERT’s leaders have the same great dedication to AAERT and eagerly take on jobs for AAERT and do a tremendous job.

Gail: What philosophy in life has helped you stay focused on your work yet maintained happiness and balance?

Bill: What has helped me stay focused on my work and maintain happiness is the spiritual component of my life. About thirty-five years ago I became a Christian, and the principles of Christianity are the mainstay of my success and the success of so many American endeavors. You will see many secular philosophies expounding on the keys to success, and we Christians always point out that the secular philosophies of success can often be shown to have previously been presented to the world by the Judeo-Christian religious teachings. Whatever your religious persuasion, you really need bedrock principles to bolster your life in the tumultuous and hard times of life.

Gail: How long have you been an AAERT member?

Bill: I would say I have been an AAERT member about fifteen years or so.

Gail: Do you believe that AAERT membership is valuable?

Bill: Yes, AAERT membership is very valuable by providing a means for the electronic reporters and transcribers to come together and to share their knowledge with each other and to help each other. Also, AAERT sets the highest of standards for the court reporting profession. AAERT stresses excellence in court reporting, treats court reporting as a profession, and educates the public and the courts as to the best electronic recording and transcribing methods. It’s the court reporters in the trenches at AAERT who will lead the country in developing the best court reporting technology and techniques.

Gail: How has AAERT helped you to connect with other digital reporters and transcribers in the reporting industry?

Bill: Yes, the networking opportunities at AAERT are essential and very important. Recently I referred an AAERT member to a freelance agency who direly needed a good worker, and that referral worked out fantastically for both the agency and the worker.

Gail: Is there a funny court reporting story you would like to share with us?

Bill: Yes. When I was a student court reporter I went to a national convention of court reporters and was taught at a seminar that “When you read back, shake the ceiling.” I once read back in court so loud that a slumbering juror nearly jumped out of his seat. Also, I was once asked to read back all the questions a witness had refused to answer at a grand jury hearing where the witness’s lawyer was not allowed in the room. The witness’s lawyer was in the hallway, and he came into the grand jury room and said he could hear his witness being yelled at and objected to it.

Gail: While technology has changed drastically, what ethical standards do you believe will never become obsolete and should always be part of the court reporter’s work kit?

Bill: The greatest technology change has been the super excellent quality audio recordings that are now available to all court reporters. All court reporters, whether digital reporters, voice writers or stenotypists, can use digital audio recordings to produce the finest work product. Regarding court reporting ethics, I believe all reporters should strive for excellence and be a valuable and integral part of the legal profession.

Gail: Tack, Bill. Thank you.

Bill: Du är välkommen. You are welcome.


 

Bill Parsons grew up in the Naugatuck Valley in the Town of Seymour, Connecticut and now lives in Meriden, Connecticut. He enjoyed 48 years of marriage to his wife Sandy before she passed away. Sandy was a legal secretary and helped Bill with typing his court transcripts. Bill has two daughters who teach public school in Connecticut and Texas and also has four grandchildren.


 

 

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