About this blog

This blog is about the daily activities in a busy typewriter shop. I want to share with you the many interesting people who come in here, the beautiful machines I get and most of all the great typewriter stories that people share with me!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Family Typewriter

     As little as a generation ago, many homes had a family typewriter in it. These machines would see regular use from all members of the family. The sound of a typewriter clacking away was a familiar sound in the home. Sadly, those days are gone as the family typewriter has been kicked to the curb and replaced by the computer, video games, iphone and the rest. I have noticed in recent years that some families are bringing back the family typewriter, like the family that came in my shop earlier this week. The parents and their son and daughter of middle school age, came in looking for a machine that they all could use. They weren't sure if they wanted a classic vintage machine or a more modern style one. So they spent about an hour and a half trying all kinds of machines including many models of Olympia, Corona, Olivetti and Royal. Everyone was typing away seeing what they liked best. Eventually they narrowed the field down to a few machines and then took a family vote. The winner was a burgundy Corona Silent flattop style. It was a beauty. They left all excited and couldn't wait to start typing at home. This was a very nice family and I was impressed by the parents instilling old school values in their children along with developing a strong sense of community involvement and advocacy. I hope I'm not over stepping my boundaries here because they will be reading this blog. I applaud people who decide not to get on that technology treadmill. It was a pleasure to meet this family.
     But, several days later, Sam called to say that the typewriter had malfunctioned. It was skipping and binding up. He brought it back on Saturday and the ribbon reverse mechanism had jammed and that binds up the escapement assembly. Its a very minor problem but he expressed concern that with so many people using this machine that it might be prone to little mechanical failures from time to time. This was probably true so he looked at some Olympia SM machines that he had liked before. Eventually he decided that a green SM3 machine would be sturdy enough to hold up to heavy use. So we exchanged the machines and I feel confident that the Olympia will serve them well.
     One last observation on this story. I've noticed that many people and families that come in to buy or repair a typewriter mention that its a step in simplifying their life. I think that most of us, (myself included), get so consumed in our busy, hectic lives that we forget to slow down and enjoy the moments, that less is more. That's a huge thing. By simplifying our lives, we are enhancing the quality of our lives. End of sermon.

Ho-hum, another week, another foot of snow. 'Nuff said.

     Because of the crappy weather the last five or six weeks, people have not been able to come in and pick up their repairs. This along with the unusually high amount of typewriter donations and boxes from repairs shipped in, have created a space problem. There's nowhere left to put anything so everything getting stacked up. There are piles and stacks of typewriters everywhere. Its funny because most people that come in immediately exclaim, "Whoa, look at all those typewriters". If I think of it I'll take a picture of the shop this week and post it on my next blog. My friend John came in on Saturday and had some goodies for me. I got a Royal O Model machine along with a SM9 in great condition. We also made a trade. I gave him my SM3 two tone in technical elite and got a SM3 in burgundy already reconditioned for sale. What I really liked was a vintage ad for the new Corona Sterling (flattop style) from 1931. The ad exclaimed the machine as "Wellness in Typing". I didn't know that this style of Corona was made this early in the 1930's. 

whats in the pretty box?

     I want to go off topic here for a few minutes. Lately, I've had a few conversations with customers about hobbies and channeling your passion. Most of us have families and that 's our main passion. Many of us have hobbies that we have been into since childhood and also newer hobbies we've picked up as adults. They are an important part of life and a great source of joy. One of my hobbies is watchmaking and collecting antique pocket watches. I got into this in the early 1990's at the urging of a friend who thought it would be up my alley. Boy, was he right, it was a natural fit and I even took watchmaking classes from a local watchmaker for over five years. I actually thought that this was going to be my second career because the typewriter business was so bad, I was within a hair of closing the shop for good.  

This is part of my collection
Well, things always work out the way it was meant to be. I'm still here in the typewriter shop, but I still like to collect old watches. I'm so impressed with the quality of craftsmanship and the beautiful designs. They are a marvel to look at. I still use them on special occasions and have even lent them out for special events. I like that fact that so many of you typecasters out there have such varied and interesting hobbies. Its fun to read about every ones special interests.

a railroad grade watch from Hamilton
      I apologize to anyone who tried to check out my blog last night or this morning. I had awful computer problems last night as I was finishing up writing this post. I ended up losing most of the post and had to cancel the entire thing. I'm surprised you didn't my screams of frustration. I'm not a computer person, its a struggle for me to write this blog but I am learning slowly but surely. And I'm totally committed to continuing this blog, as long as people are interested in reading it.

     Well, that's it for this week. Thanks for checking it out. Everyone have a great week.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Typing Class at Harvard

     A pretty neat thing happened earlier this week. I got a call from a teacher at Harvard University saying she had a group of students who wanted to learn to type and would I be willing to rent out twelve portable manual typewriters for the week. I said I gladly would and was excited that a group of college kids wanted to learn typing on old typewriters. She said she was excited about this development in her creative writing class but the students were over the moon excited and couldn't wait to start. We arranged to deliver and set up the machines Wednesday morning in the classroom and everyone there would help carry in the machines. She mentioned that she would like a good mix of different kinds of machines in different typestyles if possible. So I delivered a bunch of Olympia SM 3's, 4's and 9's, several black Corona's, a Olivetti Studio 44 and Lettera 35, Olympia SF and Royal Touch Control Model. A good mix of machines and in pica, elite, italic and script. The typing class would run for three days and I would pick up the machines on Monday. I said that she should have some funny stories for me when I pick up the machines Monday. On Friday we had a snow storm and my daughter had no school so I stayed home. But Saturday I called Jen to see how the typing class went. She said that it was incredible. Her students loved typing so much that they begged her to come in over the weekend so they could type some more. On Friday they had a party to celebrate the end of the seminar. Many students and faculty attended and the typewriters were a big hit. Everyone wanted to type on them. Now all the students want to get their own typewriters so we'll see if any of them buy some of the machines from the class. I genuinely get excited about younger people taking up the typewriter. It makes me feel hopeful about the future. That not everything is about the newest, fastest, latest and greatest technology. Let's hope that younger people continue to see the value in vintage technology, albeit the typewriter, sewing machines, fountain pens, antique watches, vinyl records or whatever inspires you.

     Now a quick word about the weather. YUCK!  Three and a half feet of snow in the last two weeks and more on the way. I think Mother Nature is confusing Boston with Buffalo. I really do like the snow but too much at once is terrible for business. People put off their chores and errands, like spending money at the typewriter store.

a nicely decorated Royal case
      This past week has been slow in the money making department but a lot of people have been in the shop. I can't remember a week when more people have come in and given me typewriters to recycle. At least a dozen machines were gifted to me, including a Russian keyboard Underwood 21 (really a Olivetti Studio 44), another Studio 44, a Royal 0 Model, Royal Safari, a Royal KMM with a twenty-one inch carriage (yikes!), several Smith Corona electrics, several Royal portable electrics, a IBM Selectric 2 and IBM Wheelwriter 3.

a 1936 Royal 0 Model a.k.a. the touch control model

     Earlier in the week a young girl came in with a Erika typewriter for repair. It was a more recent vintage, not as well made as the older ones. All the original packing material was still on the machine but it was still pretty beat up. After checking out the machine, she saw the Russian Royal Standard  typewriter from last weeks post. I just finished reconditioning it and the customer hadn't picked it up yet. She remarked that she would love a Russian keyboard machine for her friends. I said that this one was sold and I very rarely see them. So two days later, someone walks into the shop and gives me a Russian Underwood 21 saying if I can use it great. It never ceases to amaze me how these things work out. You always get what you need.
     Thanks for checking it out. Everyone have a great week.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Foreign Language Typewriters

Two youngsters will learn to type on this.

      I get of lots foreign language typewriters in the shop. I think mostly because of the area I live in. People come to Boston from all over the world to go to school, seek the best medical care, work or raise a family. Lots of families have a typewriter from their home country. I mention it this week because I sold a Russian keyboard Royal typewriter. It got me thinking about all the wonderful and strange foreign machines that have come through here over the years. I even have two machines in the store right now that I don't know what language they are! One is a Olympia SM 2 that I was told was a Polish language keyboard but last year someone who was Polish said it was not. 
    The man who bought the Russian Royal on Thursday didn't come in looking for it. He brought in a IBM Selectric 2 for repair. We got talking for a while and he said he had adopted two children from Russia and explained the difficult process. I happened to mention that I have a Russian machine in the shop. He looked at it and smiled and asked how much is it? He thought that it would be a good tool to help his kids learn their native language. While he was at it, he became smitten with a green Olympia SM3 in Congress Pica type and bought that one too. We ended up having a long chat after we concluded our business and found out we each like to read. He says he just started reading something interesting and went out to his car to get it. He gave it to me and said he'd pick it when he came back for his IBM repair. I said I have something here you might like and and gave him my copy of The Iron Whim. So, I took in a repair, sold two machines, made a new friend and started a book club. Have I mentioned how much I like my job. By the way, The Iron Whim is a interesting read. It came out a couple of years ago and was well reviewed. It's not a book about the history of typewriters but about the history of typewriting and how typewriting changed the course of history in this country.

a hebrew Remington

     I get tons of what I call European keyboards. That is machines that will type French, Spanish and German. Hermes 3000's, Olivetti L22 and 32's, Olympia SM's and many other brands of machines fit that bill. Here's a picture of a Remington Standard in Hebrew. Someone brought in this repair several years ago. As you know, hebrew and arabic machines type right to left. This machine had some serious history. It was used for many years in a Manhatten newspaper office that published the largest hebrew paper in New York City. Then this machine was used  by a famous writer (who's name escapes me), for thirty years in her Cape Cod home. The young woman who aquired it was super excited about the history of this machine and desperately wanted to get it working again. However, thirty years of salt air severely damaged the machine. I didn't have much hope for it but it actually came out ok. I kept this machine for about three months and asked many people to interprete the writing on the paper table. Nobody knew, then one day an elderly gentleman came in the shop, saw the machine and read the writing without thinking. He said it means Remington instrument of printed writing. Now that I keep a camera in the shop all the time I will document all the neat machines that come in.
     Thats it for this week. Thanks for checking it out. See you next week.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Love Typewriter Stories

     Typewriter stories come to me in lots of different ways. The most fun way of course, from people that come into the shop and upon seeing so many machines, immediately recall typewriter stories from their youth or about their parents or a relatives machine. Then from letters people write to me or thank you notes that people send explaining their devoted attachment to their favorite machine that I just rescued or resuscitated from the dead. And finally, via emails from all over the country, which is what I'm going to share with you right now.
     Earlier this week I got a email from a gentlemen in Bellingham, WA. He's the director of a little oddball museum (his words) called Mindport Exhibits (http://www.mindport.org/). His daughter found my blog and forwarded the link to her father. He totally identified with the "Luddite Alert" post and wanted to tell me how he felt about typewriters and computers. He told me a very nice story about how he found a Underwood Standard (circa 1906) discarded in a alleyway next to the museum. He took the machine and cleaned it up, did some repairs and had the platen replaced. Then he installed the machine by the front desk in the main exhibit area. Well, the Underwood became a huge hit with the kids and a popular attraction. Its all part of his belief that typewriters are showing a grand resurgence of popularity. I couldn't agree more. He then wrote about a friend of his who recently went up to Vancouver, B.C. and discovered a cafe with a row of typewriters in it instead of computers, all manned by people busy typing letters to their friends. I thought that this was just so neat! What's next, people typing in Starbucks. I smell a new trend here. Anyway, I love that people will take the time to write a letter or email and tell me a heartfelt story about how they feel. Or more importantly, how typewriters make them feel. I checked out the Mindport Exhibits website and it looks like a really cool place, full of interactive exhibits and activities. For people out in the Great Northwest, it sounds like a fun place to take the kids for an afternoon.

     I needed to make a correction in last weeks blog. The picture of that beautiful burgundy machine was wrongly identified as a 1940 Corona Silent. Anyone paying attention saw that I goofed. It is a 1948 Smith Corona Silent. Whether it says Corona or Smith Corona on the faceplate ( above the top row of keys), the rule of thumb is, if it says Corona its pre-WWII, if it says Smith Corona, its post-WWII. I'm glad I straightened that out. These are gorgeous typewriters that are fun to type on. I personally love the touch on these keyboards. They are widely available and if your lucky, in different colors.

     I tried unsuccessfully in my very first post to attach a story about the shop that was on the radio. Because I'm not computer savvy, its a problem trying to attach an audio file to this blog. Its a great story and I had a blast doing it with the reporter. There are several good typewriter stories in it. My daughter has just figured out a way now to add the audio file but it has to be done on a separate post. If it test out ok I'll post it right after this one. Wish me luck. See you next week.