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