Podcast update: still in holding pattern waiting for my voice to return…been a lousy week fighting off this head cold. I did create my libsyn account and my cover art and all that good stuff so I should be up and running very soon! In the meantime, since I’m resting up trying to get better, already did a chunk of writing today, and the baby is asleep, I’m allowing myself a few minutes to wax rhapsodic about typewriters.
I’m a kid of the eighties, so by the time I was old enough to remember most writing was done on word processors. When I was six years old my mom gave me my dad’s old manual portable typewriter, probably because he didn’t need it anymore. The thing fascinated me and I wrote a story called “Amy and the Ship,” which is…really hard to read because I was six years old and couldn’t really type. After that story, I didn’t have the occasion to really use typewriters again until I met my husband and confessed to him I had always wanted one.
My husband is a lover of all things old, which is a story for a different time, but as soon as he learned that I wanted a typewriter, he took me to an antique house where we found this old L.C. Smith Brothers model:
and I was so thrilled because I had what I had always wanted. I did not know I had just begun.
i wrote a ton on that typewriter. I was working full-time in libraries at the time and was over staring at computer screens all the time. Writing on the typewriter gave me a break, and also gave me a sense of being somewhere else in time. The Smith, which is from the 1910s, felt Victorian and I could pretend I was the heroine of books I loved as a child. With that typewriter, I was Anne of Green Gables in her hall bedroom at Redmond College. I did my first Nanowrimo on that thing. But…it wasn’t terribly portable, so I came home from a trip once and found my husband had bought me this lovely 1950s Royal portable:
As you can tell from the “action shot” complete with my can of soda and pen and paper (a photographer I am not), this is probably the one I actually use the most. I plan to feature a story written on it in episode 2 of the podcast. It goes everywhere. I’ve flown with that thing (airport security finds it hilarious.) I’ve taken it to the commons at our local indie bookstore. The case is fiberglass and the whole thing is delightfully retro, plus it is an easy machine to type on and has easily adjustable pressure settings. So I thought I had all the typewriter I would ever need, but they multiply. Hence this garage sale find:
It’s hard to convey in the photo, but this one has a flat layout, which means the key rows go not so much up as back. It is really cool, almost looks more like an adding machine. But it is not incredibly practical. The rubber is so deteriorated it’s hard to feed paper into and the shift key is heavy, so it’s not comfy to type on. I love the font, though. Royals are fun. I actually have a third Royal that someone gave me last weekend…it is quite rusty but I think it will be up and working soon. Speaking of working, this one never will
as it is simply too far gone, but it was too cool to pass up at the junk shop. My husband wants to make sure I point out it is his, but we bought it together. The guy there told us people usually take them and rip the keys of them to make crafts. I’m all for repurposing, but we had to save this. It predates the shift key so has two sets of letters, one upper case and one lower. It is also an understrike model. (The one next to it is my husband’s, it is old, and I don’t know much about it except we don’t use it so the two together make what we call the “typewriter shelf” just inside our front door.)
After watching me haul the portable on the plane, my husband fixed up an old Oliver for me to have access to at our family summer home so we don’t have to take one there. It is very fun. The type bars come in from the sides.
Probably the oldest of the bunch, and not the most intuitive machine ever, but writing in the summer home is a lot of fun. Apparently my father-in-law recently rescued his father’s old typewriter and moved it up there for me as well, so I will have options this summer writing by the lake.
My newest acquisition is the one from the header, this girl who I think I might call Bessie:
Picked her up at a Sons of Norway rummage sale (you can’t make that up.) Came with a stand, but hasn’t been on it yet because it is just my one-year-old’s size, he would like to pull the typewriter down on himself, and it is heavy and would crush him. It’s an IBM C, Standard model, which is a model or so older than the Selectric. Has type bars rather than the golf ball, but has the lovely hum and fast sound of an electric typewriter and a really long carriage so I can write on any size of paper. Finally got ribbons into it and wrote two short stories on it this morning.
I have a Selectric that doesn’t at the moment work, but there is a spare one for parts so hopefully soon. For what it’s worth, when I finally got my husband to watch the first season of Mad Men with me, his first criticism was that it couldn’t be 1960 because the Selectric didn’t come out until ’62.
I do a lot of writing on computer these days, both desktop and laptop, and they have their advantages, but you’d better believe when I feel stuck I go right back to these guys.
Look for episode 1 of the podcast coming soon where I stop rambling about how I write and start sharing the writing. In the meantime, however your creativity gets let out, I hope you find joy in it.