Wednesday, August 27, 2008

True Love and a Lost Art

It was love at first sight.

True love.

Ok, well, maybe just intense, passionate desire to possess the object of my affection.

I was 13.

It was at a old folk's home garage sale.

Nothing would stand in my way.

I reached out across the abyss that separated us and wistfully, tenderly stroked it.

It was a match made in heaven and I was ready to do anything it took to be together forever.

My mother was even supportive.

She recognized the fire in my eye and turned to the gentleman to ask how much it would cost to make her daughter's dreams come true.


Twenty dollars of my hard earned baby sitting money. I would have paid triple.

The object of my affection? A 1920's #10 Underwood typewriter in perfect condition.

It was like something out of "Needful Things". Even the old guy.

The elderly gentleman who owned it seemed a little hesitant to let it go. He asked me why a kid like me would want something like an old typewriter. I told him about how I wanted to be a writer, maybe a journalist (blogger fore-shadowing?) when I grew up and I had always like antique things.

His face beamed from ear to ear and I'll never forget his words:
"Well, I've found the right person then. My father used this when he wrote for The Star back in the '20's. Kept it all those years and I didn't have the heart to get rid of it until now. (This was about 1990ish) I didn't want it to go to just anyone. I think he'd approve."

He ended up just giving it to me. He wouldn't take any money. He just told me to become the next Hemmingway. (oopps.) Apparently, his dad wrote classified ad copy for The Kansas City Star. I'm pretty sure he told the truth, because on the side of my typewriter, in white paint is "MKTS".

And thus started a lifetime love affair. I learned to type on that typewriter and by the time I reached my freshman typing class, I could type circles around everyone else.

Over the years, I've collected about 12 typewriters ranging from 1885-1940 (nothing younger than that).

I'm picky about my typewriters. They have to speak to me. They have to be in perfect working order and none of them date post-WWII. When you collect something like typewriters, everybody's got a rusting piece of shit in their basement they want to pawn off on you.

I've got some favorites:

My #1 Remington Rand Portable (complete with case)

My LC Smith Bros. #8

I've even got a few Royals that are pretty awesome.

But, you always remember your first, don't you?

Typing on a pre-1960's manual typewriter is actually pretty strenuous. Typewriters were originally designed for male secretaries who naturally had stronger fingers. Typing on them is a lost art, considering the tippy, tap ease we have today of ergonomic computer keyboards.

I've been thinking a lot about typewriters this week. With the layoffs at The Star this week, unlike others, who cheer on the demise of the "dead tree media", I'm saddened to think not only of people losing their jobs, but the fact that someday I may not be able to curl up on the couch with the Sunday paper, some coffee, my husband, cats and while away an hour or so.

It's just not the same with a laptop...

Maybe there's still a streak of journalist wannabe in me, one I haven't really fed since my days as editor of my college newspaper. Maybe it's because I just got done reading The Bonfire of the Vanities (so good!)but it's kind of sad that the "hey-day" of busy newsrooms of major newspapers is coming to an end. Bonfire, written in 1987 reminds me that only 20 years ago no one could foresee the coming of the Internet and it's power on the news. I wouldn't even have a blog 7 years ago.

Strange. I feel like getting out my harmonica, channeling my inner Bob Dylan and singing some "Times, They Are A' Changin'"

There is hope for the future though. Darling, out of the blue, asked me the other day if she could play with my keyboards.

Not knowing what she meant, I asked her to show me. She led me by the hand over to the secretary/desks that I keep my typewriters on and pointed to them with big eyes.

I saw the gleam in her eye when I smiled and told her yes.

Are passions hereditary?

*all typewriters shown are not my actual typewriters, but pictures of the ones I have. FYI...


Xavier Onassis said...

Nice post! I love those old machines. I think you would really enjoy doing some exploring on this site:

Lots of steampunkish hybrids of old school typewriters and modern computing power. Lots of oak, marble and brass! Sweet!

Xavier Onassis said...

Here is the url tinyfies if the longer one doesn't work for you.

Amber said...

I was just telling my husband that I would really like a classic typewriter. It doesn't have to be anything pricey or fancy - just organic and clicky. I used to love to type on my dad's (and hate starting over every 6 words because of mistakes). You've just amped up my urges!

(Here from ICLW)

Jessica White said...

What a collection of typewriters! I still prefer writing on paper, than with a computer. It is sad how much the printed word is changing because of the internet.

Awesome post: I think the journalist in you is wanting to be unleashed :-)


kcmeesha said...

I learned to type in the army on a mechanical typewriter and still do it proudly with 2 fingers and improper positioning, it prevents wrist problems. First time when I was assigned to type something I wasted a night and a rim of paper and still didn't finish two pages.

Brigindo said...

How cool. I love that you collect typewriters

Anonymous said...

not sure about passions being hereditary but I think it can be influenced.

For example, if you display the "keyboards", eye them adoringly and speak about it with passion, perhaps Darling has picked it up already that they are your precious!

Sugar Britches said...

This is a little late, but I found this article the same day I read this post. Thought you might like.

Martha Elaine Belden said...

i just discovered your blog by total accident while doing some internet searching for underwood typewriters (i bought my first yesterday at a vintage sale). mine looks very much like the one you have picture here. i've read around on your blog a bit... and although it's probably weird to say, this is blogland, so i feel okay... i think we'd be friends.

also... read your most recent post... i wish you the best of luck in your job search. i hope whatever you find (or finds you) is incredible and brings you as much joy as typewriter daydreams :)

oh, and i definitely envy your collection.