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!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Cambridge Typewriter does Chronicle (Finally!)

Chronicle co-host Shayna Seymour and myself

     Xtra exciting news this week. The television show Chronicle, a New England institution for over twenty-five years, called Tuesday and wanted to include me in a upcoming show. The show is about (get ready for this)professions that will be extinct in the near future. Now I know that I'm a dinosaur but I plan on sticking around for awhile. Co-host Shayna Seymour said on the phone that they could come over Thursday morning and film a interview in the shop. They also wanted to interview a customer who's a writer and a office that I service. I gave her the name of a writer in the Harvard Square area that I know and the Cambridge City Clerk's office that I service. Shayna booked them both and they will appear in the story. There will be several other professions featured in the story but we don't know what they are yet. Thursday morning Ms. Seymour and a camera woman showed up at 10:20. After introductions the camera woman worked on setting up the interview location, camera angles and lighting. I was fitted with a wireless mike and we were ready to roll. Shayna asked me many questions, like how did I get into this business and how has the typewriter business changed through the years and who are my customers today. I told her a number of typewriters stories and especially how younger people are picking up typewriters and using them. She had a hard time understanding this and asked several more questions about this phenomenon. I hope that part makes the final cut. After thirty minutes of questions and answers, we walked around the shop filming different machines. Then they filmed me typing on several machines, I believe a 1930 green Royal portable and a Olympia SM3 in script. Then they filmed a few minutes of me repairing a Smith Corona Super 12 at my workbench. After an hour they realized that they were done so they packed up and headed over to Cambridge City Hall.
     They think that the show will air later in January. I'll give a shout out in the blog when I find out. Chronicle has been one of my favorite shows because its about New England. They go to beautiful locations and destinations and introduce us to interesting and fascinating people. For many years I've always said that Chronicle should come in here and do a show. Our actual part in the half hour show will be six or seven minutes. It will be interesting to see how the story comes out.

     On Wednesday a women came in a rented a Blickensderfer No.5 for a movie shoot. I actually had a Blick 5 that works with its wooden box case, extra typewheel and box of spare ink rollers. The movie is for the American Experience on PBS. The movie is about Helen Keller. In the book that the movie is based on, someone types on a Blick 5 several times throughout the story. When I get the machine back in three weeks I'll asked when the show will be on. 

     I get asked a lot what my favorite typewriter is and what do I have in my collection. I always say that I don't have any one favorite but six or seven favorite machines. Also, I'm not a big collector at all. I have to make money to stay in business and many times that means selling machines that I would rather keep for my collection. There has always been one machine that was my absolute favorite, and I sold it. It was a burgandy Corona flattop from 1940 and was brand new. I don't think it was ever used more than once or twice. My friend John aquired it on Ebay for me and I flipped when I saw it. This one was a keeper for sure. I kept it under a table and only showed it to a select few people. About four or five months later just as I came in the shop at 9AM, my immediate thought was that I had to recondition this machine because someone was going to come in and buy it. I hesitated for a minute but also knew that there was a reason for this. So I took that machine apart, moaning and groaning the whole time about how brand new this thing was. Even though the machine was spotless, it was dry and needed a thorough cleaning. As fate would have it, a lady walked in mid-afternoon looking to buy a vintage typewriter to write with. She was local and wrote children's books. I knew right away that this was the person who wanted my beautiful Corona. At first I showed her some Royals and Remingtons. Then I bust out the burgandy Corona and she gasped. "I love that machine. That looks like the perfect machine for me." I quoted her a fairly high price and she said she had to sleep on it but if I could hold it for a day, she'd call me tomorrow. Well, she called me first thing the next morning saying that she had a vivid dream about the Corona and she was coming right up to buy it. She knew that this was the machine for her , and so did I. I never regreted selling that machine because I believe that it went to the right person. But that will also be my favorite typewriter anyway.
Thats it for this week. Thanks for checking it out. Everyone have a happy and safe NEW YEAR! See you in 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Quack, Quack

anyone understand duck talk?

"Any of you guys know how to type."

Merry day after Christmas. I hope everyone had an joyous holiday. I know I did. My friend Abraham sent me the first two pictures in this blog. I like old pictures with typewriters in them. Its always fun to try to identify the machines in them. Easy enough in these two pictures, but the reporter interviewing the duck intrigued me. Why was the duck being interviewed and what did it say? After much investigating I found that the duck was trying to tell us that all allusive meaning of life. In a cruel twist of fate, there was nobody in the room that could interpret duck. So once again mankind misses another chance at enlightenment. No wonder the newspaper swept this story under the rug. Oh, the typewriter that the reporter is leaning on is a Smith Corona Eighty-eight Secretarial. The picture was published in 1959.

    This next picture I wanted to show because of all you Olympia SG-1 fans out there. I wanted to show the SG-1 in its natural enviroment. This picture was published in 1957 in a Portland, ME newspaper. Those machines look brand new.

     Last week was another very busy week in the shop. A bunch of people came in to buy vintage manuals for gifts, some at the last minute. Also many repairs in through the door. One nice thing I noticed is several people who bought a machine two weeks ago, brought in a friend to buy a portable manual for someone in their family last week. Two weeks ago, the nice women that bought the green Optima that I featured on my blog, came in with her girlfriend who bought a beautiful Corona Silent for her husband. That was probably the prettiest machine that I had in the store then. Also a women from New Hampshire came in a got a Royal KMM for her husband and also bought three KMM ads to go with it. I recently got a whole bunch of Royal KMM ads from 1940 and 1941. They were all really neat and a few were funny. A nice dad came in a got a Royal Custom II in metalic red for his six year old daughter. I know some people think that is too young but I think its a perfect age to start typing. Kids that age are facsinated with machines and learn to type rather quickly. Plus, they're going to grow up with a typewriter in the house which many kids today are not.
     I only had a few service calls last week because its like a vacation week at offices in town. But I had more than the usual amount of repairs come in for the week. That means I'll be chained to my bench all this week. And thats a good thing. I think that I'll use my Christmas money to but a scanner for the computer so I start typecasting and post better quality pictures. I've got tons of machines around here with lots of interesting typestyles. This should be interesting because I'm really not that good of a typist. Also, starting in the new year, I promise to start writing stories to help you out. Like what to look for when buying a used machine, helpful repair tips to common problems, those kind of stories. Friends and follows have been very heplful with ideas and stories they would like to see. Thanks for all the help. 
     Thats it for this week. Thanks for checking it out. I would like to wish everyone out there and around the world a happy and safe New Year. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Christmas Rush

on its way to San Francisco

     Well, the Christmas rush is going full steam ahead around here. The shop in hopping to be sure. Lots of repairs are coming through the door. Tons of people coming in to buy ribbons and supplies or ordering over the phone or emailing orders. I still can't get over how people from all over the country can order a vintage typewriter or ribbons over the computer from me. For the thirty years that I've been here, this has always been a small neighborhood typewriter shop. Now I'm the only typewriter shop around and my customers are from all across the country. Earlier this week a man from San Francisco bought a 1956 Royal Quiet de Luxe with red accents as a Christmas gift for his wife. Hope it arrives in time for Christmas. Today I shipped Matt's Hermes Ambassador down to New Jersey. Anyone who follows his blog knows he's been drooling for weeks over getting this machine. Matt thinks he'll have it Monday but the UPS driver said more like Tuesday because of the volume of packages right now. 

a 15 year old girl will be very happy next Saturday.
     I've sold alot of machines so far this week. Not surprisingly, most of them are for teenagers. Most of them, are for girls by a 5 to 1 ratio this year. So far its mostly dads coming in to pick out the machines for their daughters. I'm impressed that the dads are into it this year. In years past they didn't understand why their kid wanted an old typewriter. This year I'm getting dads in here saying that they are happy their kid wants a low tech present. I think they sounded alittle proud about it. Also finding new homes this week are a 1936 Royal Touch Control , a 1940 Royal Companion, 2- Olympia portable lightweights, a Olympia SM-3, a SM-5, a Smith Corona Galaxie 12, a Smith Corona Sterling, a Corona Silent and several IBM Wheelwriters, going to Boston area companies. I'm very happy that the vintage ads are starting to sell more and more. Remember that Olympia SM-5 in caramel from last weeks blog, well it sold in less than a week, as predicted. Ta-dah! A man bought it for his girlfriend, who is a writer, for Christmas. He originally came in with a Olympia repair that he bought on Ebay. It was unrepairable, so he was looking at some machines and was seduced by the SM-5. Can't blame him, it was a real beauty. 
     Yesterday I sold a Olympia SM-3 to a television show that films in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its a two tone model that appeared the t.v show Fringe

a future television star

on Fox television, during the first show of the first season. They don't have that machine anymore and needed it for a show in the upcoming season. So I got the call from the prop master to duplicate the machine for a scene to be shot in a typewriter shop. Sounds pretty cool to me. When this show originally aired two years ago, the day after the first episode, two different customers called me up all excited saying, " Did you watch that new show Fringe last night. They did a scene in a typewriter shop and I'd swear it was your shop. It looked exactly the same. Are you sure nobody took a picture of the inside of the store."  

     So thats how my exciting, busy and fun week ended for Christmas rush. Hope you all had a good week too. Thanks for checking it out. See you next week. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Luddite Alert!

     Many customers that come in the shop tell me a familiar complaint. Their family, friends or co-workers make fun of them for using a typewriter. It can get pretty rude too. What made me think about this now was a conversation I had with a customer earlier in the week. He's a writer in the Harvard Square area who has written all his books on a Smith Corona typewriter. He happily calls himself a luddite and thinks that the people hooked on technology are the clueless ones. We have had lots of interesting conversations over the years usually along these lines. He calls up about a problem with one of the typewriters and soon starts to talk about how his sister is always teasing him about his always writing on a typewriter and not a computer. She says he should just throw away all his machines. He responds that he could no sooner throw out his typewriters than she could throw out her cats. To this she got very mad and slammed the phone down and hasn't talked to him in a week. "She just doesn't understand my relationship with my typewriter" he says. "Typewriters are like close friends to me. They are a part of me now." We talked for awhile about this, then I had to go because a customer came in. So he says, "I think I'll call up my sister now and mend fences."
     I'll bet I hear this kind of story at least once a day. I know that I get teased alot, especially on service calls when I'm in a office fixing a machine. People will walk by and make comments like OMG, whats that! The suits are the worst. "Don't you feel like a dinosaur" or " Boy, you're a dying breed." That doesn't bother me because they're walking back to their cubicle to stare at a computer screen for six more hours. Take that! I think that there's a lesson for tolerance in there somewhere.
     I happen to think that people who use typewriters are amoung the most interesting people I ever meet. They are creative people doing fun and interesting things in their lives. Its always fun to talk to people coming in the shop for the first time.
Shop news- I wanted to show this picture of a red Royal Quiet de Luxe because its just a knockout. A mom got it on Ebay and needed it cleaned up and repaired so she could give it to her daughter for Christmas. I wish I had a truck load of these machines.
     Super exciting news. Ames has typewriter oil again. The rumor was true. I got a package from Ames yesterday and when I opened it up, OIL! I'll try not to bum out so much next time something gets discontinued on me. Must remember to keep things in balance.

     Earlier in the week Matt sent me a link to Pimp My Typewriter. A site put up by mpclemens that features typewriters that people custom painted themselves. WOW. This was awesome. I had never thought about painting machines wild colors and combinations of colors. But it works and has given me lots of ideas. I've already picked out a handful of machines I'm going to experiment on this winter. I'll post the results. Matt's already come up with some color schemes for me. It might make for a neat contest. See who can come up with the most original creations. The link is http://www.flickr.com/photos/mpclemens/galleries/72157622673443179/

     I had a Dad come in this afternoon and buy a mid 1920's Remington Portable Manual typewriter today. He was pretty cool. He totally got the vintage typewriter thing and was going to give it to his daughter for Christmas. She just went off to college this year and wanted an old typewriter to write her poetry on. I would say that this fits the bill. Sorry about the poor quality of the picture. Where's Abraham when you need him. 

    Well, thats it from the shop this week. Thanks everyone for checking it out. Next few weeks should be very busy in here. Have a great weekend.

Friday, December 3, 2010

In the Zone

Early 1950's Optima

     Today was one of those days, you know, where everything clicks and your in that zone. It starts off I as walk through the front door today at 9am. My eyes immediately look at a green typewriter case sitting in the corner where its been for four months. Its a green Optima from East Germany in early 1950's. I hadn't thought much about it since I got it but just then a clear voice inside me said  you need to recondition this machine now. Somebody wants it today. No kidding. This happens from time to time. Your inner voice is always right as you shall see. So, after I settle in for the day, I stripped the machine and clean, oil and repaired it, replaced the platen and ribbon and thoroughly tested it out. As you can see, it looks great, hardly a blemish on it. It types great and in Congress elite too, one of my favorites. When I was finished I set it on the table in the front of the shop, intending to take a picture of it to put on the blog tonite. A half hour later, a women walks into the shop and says "My ten year old son has suddenly announced that he wants a manual typewriter for Christmas and I have no idea why." She sees the green Optima on the table and says " I love that typewriter. I want that. Is it for sale." With a big smile I say that it sure is. And I'm thinking, boy the universe sure does work fast. 
     This kind of thing happens alot to me in here. It just reminds me of how tuned in I am to the energy of this place. As anyone whose been in the shop will tell you, this place has an aura, a energy that you can feel. I mean you've got hundreds of old typewriters here with all their history and stored energy in them. Its no wonder that people react so strongly when they come in here. I wish I could record the reactions of people when they first walk in the door. Lots of OMG's and this place in incredible. Its no wonder that I always look forward to coming into work.
     That was the first half of the day. I had several other sales and several repairs come in also as well as many people coming in for ribbons and just to look around. I sold a IBM Wheelwriter 6, the women sent a courier over to pick it up and also a man came in at the end of the day and bought a beautiful 1936 Royal touch control model for his ten year old hockey playing daughter. Now here's what really put the day over the top. Anyone who read last weeks post, knows I was upset about not being able to get typewriter oil anymore. Well, late in the day a friend of mine came in to visit and say hi. He's an 87 year old retired typewriter tech. He brought in his friend from Connecticut, also a retired typewriter tech, and he says he's got a present for me. Out of a bag he pulls a gallon of typewriter oil and says Merry Christmas. I took that gallon of oil and hugged it tight. Bill was laughing so hard because he knew I was desperate. I kind of hated to see this day end but tomorrow's another day.

     About a month ago I got a call from a Martin Howard in Toronto. He was looking for an item to use in a exhibit he was commissioned to do for the Smithsonian in D.C. I couldn't help him out but we talked about typewriters for awhile and he told me that he collected early American typewriters from the 1880's and that I should check out his website. I did and so should you. These are the first American machines restored back to their original condition and professionally photographed. They are simply stunning. How he got his domain name I'll never know. Check it out at http://www.antiquetypewriters.com/

     I got this machine in last month and just got around to reconditioning it this week. I wasn't sure which model it was at first. After checking Olympia websites I figured out it is a SM-5. They called this color caramel. The picture doesn't do it justice. This thing shines. It has a luster that is just gorgeous. I predict that this machine will be sold within a week.
Check out the red Royal Quiet de Luxe in the background. That repair came came in around lunchtime. Some lucky girl is getting that for Christmas.

     O.K. one more story. Early in the week a elderly gentleman came in to get a ribbon for his typewriter. He look around at all the antique machines on the shelf out front. A big smile came over his face as he pointed to an old Remington 6 Standard and he said I remember that machine. You want to hear a funny story. I said oh yeah and moved in closer. He was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas during WWII training to be a code breaker which he said was a really cool job. There were about twenty-five other men in the class and they had to take a typing class first thing every morning. They were typing on these old Remington 6's that had been modifyied for code breaking class. He said that the platens easily snapped out of the machines in two seconds. A few nights every week the guys would be out till 2am and had to get up at six to go to classes. It wasn't unusual for someone to fall asleep over the typewriter during typing class. When this would happen, the instructor would sneek over to the sleeping soldier and quietly snap the platen out of the machine. Then he would stand a few feet behind the soldier and loudly clap his hands. The man would snap awake and immediately start typing as fast as he could. The whole class would roar laughing as the soldier had no idea what was wrong.
     Just picturing that happening is making me laugh. Well, thats it for this week. Thanks for checking it out. Everyone have a great weekend. Go do some Christmas shopping.