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Friday, June 8, 2012

All Keyed Up

So hands up, friends.
How many of you remember when this:

looked more like this:

Okay, so maybe not exactly like this, as this keyboard, above, is pre-1926.
You remember Smith Corona typewriters?
This one is from L.C. Smith -- before it merged with Corona.

A few weeks ago, I acquired this odd old typewriter
from a guy who had a car trunk full of them -- all sorts.
"I need to get rid of these," he said.  "You want one?  Two?  Ten?"
He explained that he still had 65 old typewriters at home, and was tired of restoring them.

I took this wacky, gorgeous one, which is probably an office model that was used for ledger work.
To me, it looks like a piece of sculpture; it is art.

I have a long history with typewriters.
In fact, the best thing I ever learned in high school was how to touch type.
It was on a manual typewriter, and I remember how my pinky fingers ached at first, using the shift keys.
Thank you, Mom, for insisting on that elective course, even though I didn't want to be a secretary.

The first time I spent more than one hundred dollars on something, I was 18, and I bought
a portable Smith Corona typewriter at Abraham & Straus department store.
I sprung for the electric, although I could not afford the extra ten bucks for the automatic return.

I met Howard when we were both sitting at manual typewriters in a radio newsroom,
and we conducted our early courtship with typed notes we left for one another.

Howard brought an big old hulking black Underwood manual to our marriage;
it sat on the counter at the store we owned for awhile in Pittsburgh,
and I banged out letters, menus, essays on that during quiet times.

I still have a stack of recipes I typed out on that Underwood.
They are squirreled away in the fold out desk of our dining room breakfront.

The ribbon had been recycled several times; our budget was very lean,
and cloth ribbons get lighter and lighter with each use.

Remembering XXX-ing out mistakes?  Yeah, I had a lot of those;
my fingers always ran ahead of my brain,
which meant I was often unsticking keys that had jammed together because I typed too quickly.

Now why did I write out a recipe for Scalloped Rhubarb?

As I mentioned to Anne today as I was putting together this post,
typing gives you a more visceral connection to your writing than does a computer word processor.
In the same way, writing by hand is more immediate and personal than using a typewriter.

 Would I go back to writing with a manual typewriter?
Not on your Nellie.

Word processing on a computer is like magic.
And I can always print out in Courier to fool myself that I've actually typed something.

To Mr. L.C. Smith and his Brothers,
thanks for the beautiful, wacky big typewriter that's going to sit on the radiator
next to my beautiful, wacky (and now old fashioned) desktop computer.

Computers may be faster, more efficient, labor saving and all that jazz,
but they are not as pretty as the old machines, are they?

For Howard and for me, typewriters hold a special place in our life.
Words bought our houses, put food on our table,
educated our daughters; words are how we made a living.

Years ago, Howard and I bought a big poster of an old typewriter
to remind us of our past.

It's next to the computer, maybe a reminder to me of real writing,
as opposed to the writing I do that floats off into the clouds and is so easily lost.

Now the poster will have a fierce old typewriter to keep it company.

Next week:  Another typewriter culled from that car trunk.
This one will remind you of Hemingway . . . .

Have a lovely weekend!  -- Cass

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  1. OH Cass!
    we each have memories of the elective typing course..which I too detested!
    My ambition was to be a Cosmetologist..
    The typing teacher sent me to the principal's office because I refused to cut my nails super short..
    (something I never did once my nails had sufficiently recovered from years of chronic nail biting)..
    She did not(refused) see things my way..
    I dropped the course..learned to type on my own!
    I too had no desire to be a Secretary ever!
    warmest hugs..
    smiles too

  2. I'm in love with the typewriter poster! Very nicely framed too! My mother could type 80 words a minute on an old black manual typewriter back in the day. Even when she was sitting and doing nothing I would see her fingers practicing in thin air years after she was no longer a typist. :-))

  3. Learned to type in high school, manual typewriter ... thanks for dredging up that memory. Touch typing has become a lost art, I guess. It's actually the main reason that I can't give up my laptop computer in favor of an iPad. No feel to the iPad keyboard, so I don't want it. I will tote around my wide-screen Dell laptop.


    P.S. My first job out of high school was as a ... are you ready? ... typist. I typed all day, 8 hours a day, and made decent money doing it. It sure was monotonous, though.

  4. Love it and yes, I certainly remember the manual typewriters!

  5. Well, that took me back. I can hear them...and of course remember untangling the keys. Probably more often happening when I just hit a bunch at a time out of frustration or just for fun, though. I was never speedy on those.

  6. I learned to type on a manual and if I remember correctly our WPM was how many words less mistakes? I typed a PERFECT 50 wpm in my Typing I. Typing II we had electrics and I quickly went to 90 wpm and then even got up to 120 (I have fast fingers) Now I'm not sure WHY fast typing was a skill but it was! But I was always bad and looked at what I had typed as well as what I was typing -- a computer and computer screen is PERFECT for me!

    Because you are SUPPOSED to look at what you have just "input"!

    Have you seen that funny that's been circulating on email about the women who hadn't worked in an office for 30 years and she types the first line and then wacks the computer off the desk because she was used to the "return lever"? I said it's not 30 YEARS it's more like 50!!!!

    It's been a long long time since office computers had returns!!!!

  7. Oh I LOVE old typewriters. I have one that my Aunt used since her college days in the late 1940's. She became a missionary in the Belgium Congo when it was that, and the typewriter went around the world with her. I often wish it could type out it's own story. I never had the opportunity to know my Aunt in my adulthood, just young childhood. Can't wait to see the next one! **happy weekend** Deb

  8. Yes, keys jammed. That white paper to correct mistakes, ohhh then liquid paper. What an improvement! If you went to college with an electric typewriter you were very rich!

  9. Thanks for the flash back ! My father had and used one of the very old Underwoods. I learned to type on a manual and first job used one, Every job I had required a typewriter even after computers came on the scene.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  10. What I want to know is how did Dion DePoochy miniaturize himself, hop up there by that old TW, and cuddle down for a long nap?

  11. I learned on the old Smith-Coronas back in the Ice Ages. I, too, typed too quickly and was always having to unstick my keys. THEN I moved on to an IBM Selectric...Way UPTOWN, girl! xo Diana

  12. You hit all the memory keys on their one! I have quite a history with typewriters, too. I have searched and searched for a old one that looks good, still works, and that I can afford. My father had one he used till he died, but my dear brother absconded with it. Do you know how to contact the man who sold you those? Wonder if he would ship?

  13. What a cute post! Love the typewriter and the "reminder of days gone by" poster! Have a great week!

  14. Wonderful memory-stirrer-upper! How many of husband's papers in graduate school were typed by me on first the older model but then the electric. Thank goodness for erasable bond paper that came along, beat white out or the x'es. That typewriter you got is a beauty and thing of the wide documents it could type for an office....

  15. I learned to type in Paoli, PA at a high school night course. I'd missed typing when I was in high school (I took Latin and Greek....yikes!) and my younger sister typed all my university papers for me (tho' we were, back in those dark ages, allowed to submit hand-written papers). I learned to touch type on an electric machine and am SO glad I took that course! Go back? Now way. I love the word processing too much, and it's so much easier when my mind gets too far ahead of my fingers.

  16. Cass,
    I never took typing and I regret it to this day. Oh, I wish I had had a computer in college - those term papers for one who was a hunt and pick typist were a challenge. My thoughts go much faster than my fingers so now I just click away and then go back!

    The poster and the typewriter are wonderful!


  17. What a great typewriter!
    Typing was the only clas that my Mom insisted that I take in high school. Thanks Mom!
    I am not the best typist but I get the job done. Thanks goodness for the backspace button!


  18. Oh goodness! I also took a typing course in high school. On a manual. Wow, that was hard work! Only when you got really, really good could you advance to the electric one. There were only a few in the classroom so it was a real privilege when you got to use one and I can say that I did get to use them on occasion. Glad I took the course as it was needed in some of the jobs that I held. Those were the days, huh?
    I've never seen one like your ledger style typewriter. Now, that's a real gem!!

  19. The click-clack sound of those keys hitting the paper. G H F J D K S L A ;. My little hands could never do the top row properly and to this day I can't type the numbers. And the manual carriage return. How many times my hands did not end up back on the home row correctly. Start over at the beginning. Arrrgghh.
    I picture a beautiful old desk with one of those typewriters on it and a vase of hydrangeas.... oh yes and my laptop front and center. Lol.

  20. I learned to type on an IBM! They had just come out with the one that the little ball moved around and around! I then moved on to Wang and then a desk top! My daughter laughs because she thinks I am so old! I love the story of you and your husband. I laughed when you said a man was selling typewritters out of his car, sounded like a drug dealer!

  21. I learned to type, properly using the middle row of keys, on a typewriter at college. I don't remember the brand name. My uncle owned an office supply store and gave me an old portable typewriter (again, the name escapes me) that I used for years. I love your new old typewriter! And I love the photo of the script "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog". Perfect!

  22. Your typewriter is lovely! I had the chance to get one once at a local thrift store and I passed it up, but they sure are fun in photos! Thank you for joining me at Home Sweet Home!

  23. I believe your old L.C. Smith typewriter was an old military issue. The extra long roller was used for maps if Im not mistaken. Those can be very valueable to the right collector. Best of luck!


    1. Hi Allen!
      Military issue? I will have to look into that. How interesting!
      Right now I have no intention of selling this old guy; he has settled in nicely next to my desk, and the computer and he have no issues with one another.
      He is just so beautiful, that for now at least he's a resident of That Old House.

      Unless of course, the REALLY right collector came along.

      Have a wonderful weekend, and thanks for stopping by and giving me more to research!


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