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Why the typewriters?

If you’ve taken a look at my blog’s layout, you might 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, right?!).

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?

Laurel Storey, CZT – Certified Zentangle Teacher. Writer, reader, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Becky February 11, 2012

    My first typewriter experiences were also with my father’s machines, but at work. Don’t know if they were Underwoods or Royals, but very similar to the one you have pictured. If he took me with him on an evening or a weekend, I had unlimited paper and time on the typewriter. He also let me draw on ditto sheets and made those wonderful smelling copies with the purple ink for me.
    Becky recently posted… Legacy Writing 365:41My Profile

    • Dawn
      February 11, 2012

      Oh, I remember ditto sheets! Amazing how things have changed in such a short time (because we are both in our 30s, after all)! 😉
      Dawn recently posted… Life in the blogosphereMy Profile

  • Rick Buda February 12, 2012

    I remember an old typewriter at my Aunt’s home (Also my Grandmother lived there). Every visit I’d try to get some alone time with it. To feel the keys. To see the mechanics of the works (You could see all the linkages and levers inside) . I remember a secret glee when I’d slowly push a group of keys to get them to collide and jam. Admiring the precision of the works, how each little letter hammer, no matter how far away would swing and end up right in the center, ready to emboss its letter.
    When I first started writing – it was all longhand. Then when the idea of my first novel hit me, it was hand written again, then I borrowed my Sister-In-Law’s manual. After we moved I found my mothers old electric (I bough my parents home when they retired to Wisconsin) and used that for years. As soon as I could I went to Word Processing. Heck I did a lot of writing on a Commadore 64!!! Since the 1980’s I have not written anything on a typewriter. I have embraced the electrons and would die without copy/paste and all the other niceties. I guess part of it is teh fact that I went into electronics as my profession, and while I am fascinated with the mechanical, its the electronic I understand.
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    • Dawn
      February 12, 2012

      Typewriters are fascinating machines, aren’t they? Computers are far more efficient, and I’d never want to give mine up for anything, but they’re definitely not the same from an aesthetic and mechanical standpoint.
      Dawn recently posted… Life in the blogosphereMy Profile

  • The Shiny Butter Blog March 3, 2012

    I didn’t learn to type in high school- I was afraid of being pigeon-holed. (Why would an 18 year-old even be thinking like that?) So I went off to college and had to pay people to type my papers for me- we didn’t yet have computers. The going rate was $1 per page. But I had this ancient Underwood that I picked up at a yard sale that I would use for typing poetry. It added a special flair to my poems- funny spacing, dropped or raised letters, inky letters, my own faulty typing, that kind of stuff. The Underwood helped me identify my style somehow.

    Fifteen years laterI finally decided that since I had not yet been pigeon-holed, then maybe it was time to learn to type so I took a course at the community college. After all, what’s a writer who can’t type?? Well, typing changed my life and now I pretty much want to type all day. I swear I think best while typing- I absolutely love typing and good grief, I don’t know what I’d do without a computer keyboard. I look back and wonder how life would have been different had I been able to fully appreciate typing on the Underwood? I suppose it did the best it could with stubborn me in those days.

    In any case, the typewriter keys on your blog drew me in, ’cause me an those keys, we go way back.
    The Shiny Butter Blog recently posted… Yessiree, I Wear The Crown In This FamilyMy Profile

    • Dawn
      March 3, 2012

      I love this story. 🙂 There’s just something so wonderful about old typewriter keys, and the memories we each have of typewriters makes the sight of them extra special. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! 🙂
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  • G Angela May 23, 2012

    I was attracted to the typewriter of your blog, and it brought me memories of using the type writer in the church. I was not really very good at the typewriter, even though I learnt it during my college days, but I had not practiced, being regular to the church, and helping in the parish, I was fascinated by a small portable German typewriter which was in the parish, helping the parish with bulletins, announcements, minutes etc – I mastered the art of using typewriter, and today I am happy as it has helped me to use the computer without much effort. Thanks for sharing!

  • D. Ann October 5, 2012

    So I was born in ’89, way after typewriters had come and gone. But I’ve been in love with them ever since I could remember. They’ve always fascinated me and I swore I would have one when I grew up. Well, today was that day. I’ve bought my first typewriter! It’s a Royal Senior Companion but my next one is going to be an Underwood or a Smith Corona.
    D. Ann recently posted… Booty Call TimeMy Profile


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