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Why the typewriters, revisited

If you’ve taken a look at my blog’s layout recently (rather than just reading my posts via e-mail or RSS), you may have noticed that I have a bit of a “thing” for vintage typewriters (as an aside, I suppose it’s valid to say that all typewriters are vintage!).

So, why the typewriters?

When I was a kid, my dad had this wonderful old Underwood typewriter, similar to the one in this photo. That typewriter absolutely fascinated me, quite possibly more so than any of my own toys, and being allowed to use it (a rare occurrence) was, in my little mind, the Greatest Treat Ever.

I have happy memories of using that typewriter, but one in particular stands out in my mind, formed in part by my own recollection and also from the many family tellings and retellings of the story.

I was very young, somewhere around age three or perhaps even younger, and asked Dad if I could use the typewriter. He was probably in the middle of something else and didn’t want to go downstairs to set it up for me, so his answer, much to my dismay, was, “No.

Undaunted, and with a persistence not uncommon in children of that tender age, I kept pestering him to please let me use it, just for a little while, puh-leeeease, Dad! At that point I was probably starting the transition from polite begging to annoying whining, and so, in an effort to move me along and get me out of his hair, my exasperated father firmly said that the only way I was going to be allowed to use the typewriter that day was if I could bring it upstairs from the basement by myself.

I’m sure he thought that by saying this, I’d be discouraged by the magnitude of the task, give up, and go find some more suitable toys with which to amuse myself.

Not so.

As long ago as that was, even today I distinctly remember the relief I felt as soon as I heard those magical words. The despair that had been filling my young heart immediately lifted, because suddenly I’d been given a way to make this happen. My destiny was in my power!

I immediately raced downstairs to the desk in the corner of the basement on which the typewriter sat and, though I have absolutely no idea just how I did it, somehow managed to get the massive (at least in comparison to my frame) machine off the desk and onto the chair, then from the chair down to the floor, then across the basement to the stairs, then (deep breath, heft, drop) up onto the first step, then (deep breath, heft, drop) up onto the second step.

I don’t know how much time had passed at this point, but I’m pretty sure that as soon as I’d disappeared from his sight, Dad had forgotten all about me and gone back to whatever it was he was doing. He was brought back to my reality, however, when he heard the sounds of his stubborn three-year-old’s exertion as she hefted that beastly heavy typewriter up the basement stairs one… by… one.

Dad was completely stunned that I’d managed to make it as far as I did, and quickly realized that there would be no way he could go back on his promise to let me use the typewriter now! He took pity on me and carried it the rest of the way up the stairs, and as a result of my stubbornness and efforts, I enjoyed a happy session of typing on my beloved machine.

Old typewriters always brings this memory to mind, and the sight of one never fails to make me smile. To me they are a symbol of persistence, of an anything is possible attitude, and they remind me of how an adoration for the written word has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember.

Do you have anything from your childhood that’s a positive symbol to you today?

(Originally posted in February, 2012, reposted for the Old-Post Resurrection Hop)

Laurel Regan – Writer, tangler, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, cat herder, needle felter, iPhoneographer, Growlita, iFan, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.

{ 14 comments… add one }

  • Kimberley
    Twitter:
    December 10, 2012

    Hee. What an adorable story! I have a thing for typewriters, too – even the sound of them. Kerouac and his long On the Road scroll comes to mind – pure, unadulterated creation. I always hope I’ll find one tucked away in a dusty corner of a thrift store, but no dice thus far.

  • Barbara Storey
    Twitter:
    December 10, 2012

    This is a great story – thanks for sharing it again!
    Barbara Storey recently posted… SunsetMy Profile

  • Lorinda J. Taylor December 10, 2012

    I have several portable manual typewriters, one of which is probably the same vintage as the one in your picture. I think I learned to type in high school on your model! And this post made me remember something from my childhood (maybe age three or four). When I wanted to play with the typewriter, I was told, never, never hit more than one key at once. And yet I had seen adults type and they always hit lots of keys at once (or it seemed to me!) So I believed this was one of those mysterious restrictions that pertained only to children and I thought, “When I grow up, I’ll get to hit a lot of keys at once!” Imagine my surprise when I found adults didn’t hit more than one key at a time either – it’s just that they could hit them really fast!
    Lorinda J. Taylor recently posted… The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, Ch.4My Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      December 11, 2012

      I love the some of the misperceptions we have as children. And I’m envious that you actually own several manual typewriters!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Why the typewriters, revisitedMy Profile

      • Lorinda J. Taylor December 11, 2012

        Well, they’re only portables! One of them belonged to my grandfather, I think. One I actually bought back in the ’70s because at that time I was partial to typing on manuals (I’m slow to adopt new technology!), so it isn’t very old. And one is a Hermes Baby – a very thin, light, flat typewriter that was made in the ’50s, I think. A good friend of my mother’s bought it for her so it wouldn’t take up much room whenever we moved (which we did frequently thoughout most of my life). They are all just taking up room in a closet – I really need to get rid of them!
        Btw, I have a new Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/Termitewriter and I could use another like because I’m stuck on 13! LOL
        Lorinda J. Taylor recently posted… What You May Not Know about "The Termite Queen"My Profile

  • Jenn December 11, 2012

    I loved this post and it brought back a memory of my own.
    When I was young (4-5) I enjoyed my mother’s typewriter too. One day I typed away on a sheet of paper that was in there, trying to “make my words”. Unfortunately, the paper that was in there was part of a college paper she was working on, Whoops!! However she often let me type away making those nonsensical words. I remember the smell of the ink from the ribbon. Something very distinct in my mind even today.
    Jenn recently posted… Stepping into ArtMy Profile

  • Rennata
    Twitter:
    December 11, 2012

    I love typewriters! This is a great story. My daughters loved to type and when I read stories like this, I know lettting them do so was the right choice.
    Rennata recently posted… Making a choiceMy Profile

  • sandra tyler December 19, 2012

    I have similar memories of my Dad’s own typewriter! I remember it was Royal and had a red button you’d push that would make the top pop up — that was my favorite. My father was a professor and author of several history books and he typed them all on that typewriter (actually, my mother typed them; back in those days that was a wife’s job….) great post to dust off!
    sandra tyler recently posted… Tale Tues: True School Trip ConfessionsMy Profile

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