Old Man Underwood

Come late Sunday night I was struck thundersick and pained and curled to sleep around our prized pink hot water bottle that makes everyone feel okay. Monday morning I swore I could do it, I was okay, I could make it to the dentist just fine. And I did. Then I came home and passed out on the couch.

Today was better, but I swear, I wear out and writing just doesn’t make it as high up on the list. And now it’s just around the corner to midnight and my fingers are going through withdrawal.

I don’t know what the skinny was, but today Twitter was all a tizzy with writers writing about typewriters. I love typewriters, the old clickity-clackity ones with deep punch letters and black and red ribbons. Thwap. Thwap. Slide. Thwap.

There is a cafe we used to frequent back in the old dating days when Sunday hours swerved around cappuccino and biscotti. The walls are painted a muted yellow, old school lockers stand ajar spilling with merchandise, the counter tops are poured concrete, the tables, brushed aluminum. And the typewriter, my favorite of them all, stood chest-puffed and outmoded next to a haystack of gluttonous ramblings.

It wasn’t my lot to ever write a serious thought on one of these cantankerous old beasts, but the satisfaction punched out from A to Z tempts the Luddite in me. I love the look–the jutted jaw, the flat-top teeth, the teeny-tiny letters. I love the feel of the thwap.

And I want one. Did you know Neko Case has a barn full of pianos? She collected free pianos, had them tuned and filled a barn. All over the place people pick a thing and collect it and it becomes their thing.  I don’t have a barn or even a room, so about as good as I could do would be to get my hands on one of these stuttering old men and sit it on a table next to my Merriam-Webster Unabridged and swoon.

What is it with old gadgets anyway? Is it a connection to the tools of a chosen trade? A passion for a certain brand of history? What old thing are you itching to get your hands on?


About E. Victoria Flynn

E. Victoria Flynn is a mother and a writer living in Southern Wisconsin. Published in a variety of venues, Victoria is currently writing the first in a series of three fantasy novels based on Cornish folklore. When not taking part in a shrieking dance party or engrossed in her own little fictions, Victoria is keen on art, the natural world and people unafraid to explore their own brilliance.
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24 Responses to Old Man Underwood

  1. Susan @ 2KoP says:

    First, I have an old typewriter that was given to me as a gift. It’s just beautiful to me. The one I bought myself, a thousand years ago, is long gone. It was an IBM Selectric II with the interchangeable ball of type. I loved that thing. It weighed a ton, but I kept it long after I got my first computer and printer because you still can’t type a single label on a printer, and that old IBM would still do a better, easier job typing an envelope. In college, I had a Smith Corona with inked film and eraser cartridges. Very high tech at the time.

    • pennyjars says:

      I have my old typewriter, but it’s nothing like the Underwoods and Remingtons. It was also very chic in its day–it has memory up to about 2,000 words, enough to write a high school term paper and a little window to read the scrolling type. It was my first baby.

  2. The last of the factories making them just closed. I would guess the value just went way up too. I want one also.

  3. Lisa says:

    Victoria, I know just what mean. There is something visceral about a typewriter that involves our whole body. I hanker after almost anything old (while at the same time appreciating the ease of the new), especially things having to do with writing–old letters, postcards, diaries.

    The next time you are in Milwaukee, you can visit the grave of the person who patented the typewriter. 🙂

    Feel better soon!

    • pennyjars says:

      Lisa, Wisconsin keeps getting a better history, or rather, I keep learning it. I couldn’t agree more about the old and the new and the writing things that inspire us. Is there a writing history museum anywhere? Now that’s a road trip I’d like to take.

  4. Lisa says:

    I know just what YOU mean, that is. 😉

  5. Julie Jeffs says:

    Oh my, I am a sucker for the old typewriter. I have one, an old Royal my mom used to use. I used to watch her as she typed, you had to have strong fingers to make that one work, not for the sissy typists that’s for sure. I once thought of collecting those old style typewriters but where in the world would I put them? And then again, they way my life has been going I couldn’t stand that I would have to keep packing them up to move them to wherever I seem to hang my hat next. And by the way, any place you can find the old ribbons?

    • pennyjars says:

      Julie, I found this great website last night for classic typewriters and accessories: http://mytypewriter.com/ribbons.aspx Check out the jewelery! (Excuse me, I got a little sidetracked.)

      I think collecting them may be out, but I bet we all have room for one. Do you keep yours out on display?

      • Julie Jeffs says:

        I used to, now I don’t have a good place for it. I keep hoping to find it the perfect spot in the perfect writing room. It is a beautiful thing to look at, makes me want to write … a novel, on a typewriter … and reminds me of my mother.

      • pennyjars says:

        I think our fingers aren’t used to the strength required of writing on one of those old codgers anymore. Writing a novel on one would cause me to be more contemplative of every word. The entire process might change.

  6. Beth Hoffman says:

    Before becoming a novelist I was an interior designer, and I bought many old typewriters at estate sales and used them as accessories in my client’s homes. There’s something so lovely about their shape and weight, and the nostalgia they evoke.

    Loved your post!

    • pennyjars says:

      Beth, I’ve been able to talk myself out of buying one of these for some time–no room for it, frivolous, dust collector–but I think those excuses are what need to be socked away. You were onto something when you were buying those typewriters, things of tarnished beauty and a pathway to a brilliant writing career.

  7. kario says:

    My mom collects so many different things – old glass apothecary bottles and cast iron toys, nests and antique dressers. For years she tried to get me to have a collection – any collection, so she could poke around dusty shops and find treasures for my birthdays and Christmas, but I just can’t do it. If there is one thing I have a lot of, it is photos of family and I am nostalgic for the days when I would drop off a roll of 35mm film and, a week later, come pick up a fat packet of glossy pages that made me smile in remembrance.

    • pennyjars says:

      Kari, as much as I love the ease of digital photos, I follow that nostalgia. All our photos are on computers and we have beautiful family albums of nothing but empty pages. My girls love hearing about their little selves and seeing their tiny faces, but I’d rather snuggle on the couch and page through books than sit at a glowing screen.

      I’d be so happy to be a collector like your mom, but I don’t have it in me either. Although, I do enjoy the search.

  8. I want my hands on an old typewriter. Manual, all the way. I don’t know how much writing I would get done on one, but I would let it guide me somehow. There’s the nostalgia part that Beth mentions, and there’s a feeling that somewhere in the rubber of that typewriter wheel sits the imprints of wise words, emotional letters, flat responses, and witty tales.

    Hope you feel better. xoxo

    • pennyjars says:

      Christi, what a great image–stored words and poetry hidden in the inner workings of the machine. And you also have me thinking of old typesetting tools laid out in ink stained boxes, bookbinding tools, letter presses, fountain pens. Worlds within worlds within words.

  9. Weathered chauffeur driving opiniated yet respectful housekeeper who bakes delectable breadpudding from day-old bread, in Rolls Royce; a pair who will live in the ancient gatekeeper’s house, love heirloom gardens and know how to keep them, like to see their reflection in body of vehicle, hard wood floors and every reflective piece they encounter.

  10. Pingback: Misc. Links for Writers | Writing Life

  11. Patricia says:

    I became a writer because I loved typewriters before any other kind of toy.

  12. Katie says:

    Oooh I share your love of typewriters. I find it really difficult to write on a laptop, I need the sensation of the paper in front of me filling up with words so I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a typewriter for a while. Keep having a look on ebay, every now and then there’s someone willing to sell one for next to nothing. Let us know if you take the plunge! x

  13. pennyjars says:

    Katie, thanks for stopping by! I’m keeping my eyes open at flea markets and resale shops. I have nowhere to put one yet, so it will be a slow, but welcome search. I will be sure to write a great post when I do finally break out ribbons. Be sure to also pass it on if you find one of your own.

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