Typewriter of the moment: The Living Classroom

Typewriter donated by Anya to the Living Classroom, at the Community School of West Seattle, WashingtonSlight deviation from my usual practice of featuring the technological marvel of the writing machine of a well-known writer — these writers are not yet well known.

Someone brought in a vintage Smith-Corona typewriter to one of my favorite classrooms, at the Community School in West Seattle. Photographic evidence shows the machine is still in good working order (better than my Royal), and the students have already figured out how to make it work (see photo below).

My typing career began with my mother’s and father’s Royal, similar to the one I now own. It got me to ninth grade with no problems. I took typing classes on the classic, newsroom Underwoods, about the time that the IBM Selectric was making in-roads. In my senior year of high school I got an Underwood portable — brother Dwight was selling for Underwood-Olivetti. Later I got an old, junked Olivetti electric that was gray, would do line-and-a-half as well as double spacing, and which had a pitch somewhere between 10 and 12 pica. It was heavy and industrial, but the typeface was so readable that it was popular with my debater colleagues — we used to carry the machine with us to tournaments after I joined the college debate squad.

In my junior year at the University of Utah, on a Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Memorial scholarship from IBM, I purchased a Correcting Selectric II (no, IBM offered no discount). About 20 years later, tired of the massive repair bills and hoping word processors would forever banish it from our house, my wife donated that typewriter to the Salvation Army. I found another at a garage sale, and got it for $10.00. The mechanism on that one sprang out of the case about a year later, and we eventually donated it, too.

Perry W. Buffington found the Royal that graces my home office now, largely unused but full of sentiment. (I think Buff wanted me to write more.)

These kids in Washington — they don’t know the value of the tool they have. They can’t know.  Lucky kids.

Paper typed in the Living Classroom

Photo from the Living Classroom; work product from a student.


4 Responses to Typewriter of the moment: The Living Classroom

  1. […] comments to a previous “typewriter of the moment” post: It is so thrilling to see how the ‘little’ things such as our manual typewriter can connect […]


  2. Sarah says:

    It is so thrilling to see how the ‘little’ things such as our manual typewriter can connect people in far away places to real feelings! They are lucky kids indeed but how lucky are we that we get to be a part of it :) If you have a manual typewriter that you would like to see used and loved by “generation ?” feel free to send it to us. One just is not enough!
    CSWS 9450 22nd Ave SW. Seattle. WA. 98106
    With Love
    Sarah Airhart
    Founder of the Community School of West Seattle.


  3. Pam says:

    When it came time to buy a typewriter for college, I chose a manual, in case I was in the field without electricity. Smith-Corona.

    This worked fine until someone stole it in graduate school. I then checked with the university typewriter tech guys who said never get the clunker Selectric but rather go with the new Smith-Corona electronic. Almost nothing to go wrong and it erased the last ten words. Plus, different typefaces.

    My second cousin in England taught himself “copper hand”, a beautiful yet simple handwriting such that I even saved his mailing labels. But I would agree a typewritten name would beat a laser-printed one.


  4. onlycrook says:

    I briefly spoke to a hospital administrator who said they still have *one* typewriter which they for typing names on birth certificates. “We could print the names on the forms,” he said, “But we think the typewriter is a nicer touch.”


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