Saturday, January 31, 2015

Typewriters Tell Stories

I decided that my Royal KMM should live at my school and I set it out on a table in the front hallway. It got a lot of attention from students and adults. One of my teachers saw this machine and was inspired to tell me about her mother's typewriter, a 1930's Royal Model O. Later Karin sent the story behind her mother and the typewriter:

My mother Jean Alfred Leonard Lived in Burlington, with her mother and chemist/ inventor grandfather whom she adored. He supported her interests in all avenues. When she wanted to attend Pratt college to study art, he paid for it, and sent her off with a brand new typewriter and steamer trunk. The steamer trunk unfolded out to make a desk, dresser, and vanity on top, complete with a mirror. The typewriter was small enough to fit neatly inside. The money for college came from her grandfather Alfred selling off a lotions patent (which later was called Jergens Lotion), and by selling a variety of extracts he made in the basement. During prohibition times folks bought his 90 proof alcohol vanilla extract out the back door. For my mother leaving her grandfather behind at the train station was one of the hardest things she ever did. Some things in life don't change. Her grandfather (last name Hull) also helped start the Fleming-Hull Museum in Burlington. Jean's own father Frank wasn't made of the same motivated stock, and served more as a disgrace to the family by becoming a homeless drunk on the streets in town, carted back home whenever the city jail became too crowded. My grandmother would allow him to sober up at the house, feed him, and send him off with clean clothes. Frank was a gambler that lost the majority of the time, even gambling off things that didn't belong to him. One time however, he was gambling in a barn on Spear St. and won 100 acres of land. Before he sobered up my grandmother had him sign it over into her name. That land was on Shelburne Rd, where I later grew up as a child. It went on to became Hullcrest a housing development. When I went to college a small amount of money (500) came from the last sale of land there. I used it to buy books, etc. and put 150 aside for an emergency )My mother insisted that I take her typewriter to college in 1975, and I did. At least for a short while I used it, but later broke down and bought an electric one for 25. The remainder 100 I used to buy an old Karman Ghia VW. which I drove through the first half of college. As for Frank my grandfather, I had a soft heart for him and liked him, and always thought of him fondly while driving that car. As for the electric typewriter it stopped working after just one year, which is why I was in awe to see yours so functional. There is merit to something old that continues to work or run. In our house our fridge is a 1920, and up until this fall our only washer was a wringer Matag.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Smith-Corona Super 5 - Sterling

In my last post I mentioned the Smith-Corona that sparked my new interest in vintage typewriters.  I thought it would be easy to find a vintage typewriter when I spotted one on Craigslist but I was a few days too late and another one did not come along.  On a lark, I checked in the local recycle shop and found this beauty.  I told them I'd take it before I realized that almost every key was stuck and the carriage did not move when I pressed the spacebar.   On the plus side, everything was intact and it came with a classic hard case.  Once I learned about releasing a carriage lock and gave it a little cleaning and a light lube, this typewriter came back to life.  It's no wonder why the Smith-Corona "Super 5" was so popular with its 1950's style, great typing action and superior durability.  But the very best thing about this typewriter is that my daughter absolutely loved it!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Own Typer - a Royal KMM

I've always liked typewriters since the days I had an old desktop manual from the 20's or 30's when I was a kid.  But I depended on my electric typer and then computers since then.  Now the typewriter bug has bit me again.  It started this summer when I decided to get my daughter a vintage typewriter after she completed a writing internship.  I found a Smith Corona Sterling at a local recycle store and she loved it.  Then her older sister asked for a cool typewriter like that so the long search began and after months, I saw a beautiful Remington #5 Streamline on Craigslist.  After finding these two great machines, I had serious typewriter lust. I began to call local shops with some frustration - "We sold one yesterday for $5."  "I had one the other day and threw it away" - Threw it away!  You've got to be kidding.  I tried one more shop where the man behind the counter didn't think he had any typewriters, but he was watching the shop for his mother and he was not quite sure.  This shop was pretty cool, and was overflowing with vintage stuff, and there it was, a Royal KMM sitting on the floor.  It was in great shape.  The only problem I saw was a missing screw from the paper lock which was held together with wire.  As I continued to check it out, the missing screw fell to the floor- score.  I had been interested in Royals from the 40's once I saw that author David McCullough used one - the horizontal chrome strip really looked cool so I was stoked to find my own.  Everything they say about the reliability of these legendary machines is true.  My KMM only needed some dusting and a new ribbon and it types great!