I learned how to type on an old black manual typewriter using a self-instruction guide given to me by my Great Aunt Jean (yes, one and the same).
That didn’t work out too well, so I took a typing class in high school (where we had manual typewriters, which dates me for sure). But I got pretty good at touch typing … to the extent that I typed up all my mom’s recipes on crisp new index cards as a gift one year. I wonder what ever became of them … hmmmm.
Anyway, by the time I was a senior in high school, I had graduated to a Smith-Corona electric. I have less-than-fond memories of chalked correction paper for erasing typos … and then the innovative Liquid Paper that got me through college (although I have often said I was a science major for the express purpose of not having to write papers).
Then there was my first “real” job, as a library assistant at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. That introduced me to the wonders of IBM Selectrics, with their single use ribbons and self-correction cartridges. Which in turn became digital dinosaurs with the dawn of the computer age.
Somewhere along the way, my old Smith-Corona was given away to a charity that sent it to someone who could use it. I never missed its clacking racket and pulsing hum as my fingers flew on new-style keyboards, then laptops, and ultimately iPhones, where I now finger-swipe to form words.
More recently, though, I’ve been thinking it would be fun to have a manual typewriter again. A thought that became more insistent when we went shopping for Logan’s 17th birthday present and I spotted one at the local antique mall …
But a surreptitious trial revealed the keys were pretty sticky. Besides which, we were shopping for Logan, not for me.
However, that got me started looking around to see if anyone in the area sold rehabilitated typewriters. Sure enough, there was a business machine repair shop in a sketchy part of north Austin, which I talked Don into visiting when we had another errand nearby.
My reservations turned out to be overwrought … the gentleman selling the vintage typewriters was most helpful. But at $250 each, I took a pass and decided to see if I could find one to rehab myself.
My first stop was back at the Buda Antique Mall. And sure enough, the typewriter I saw several months ago was still there … along with half a dozen others. The “others” were in truly poor condition, making the portable Royal Aristocrat look pretty good by comparison. With the shop owner’s blessing, I tried every key and decided it was worth trying to make it work …
It took an entire day and a box of Q-tips, but it cleaned up pretty well …
Now all I need to do is get the keys oiled and wait for Don paint the outside of the case (it’s great having a painter in the house) …
Last, but not least, I decided to do a little research (of course), to see how vintage the Aristocrat is. In a perfect bit of synchronicity, I looked up the serial number and discovered it was made in 1956 … just right for celebrating my 65th birthday next month!
Finding the right color cloth to match the typewriter was a bear. Brown made the typewriter look gray, gray made it look green, and green made it look brown again. Ugh!
I tried every cloth I could think of, no luck. Then I remembered an old pair of gardening pants, which I still use occasionally. They were the perfect color, so I harvested a pocket patch …
Looks like I’ve got some mending to do.