Typewriter store closing puts the faithful in a jam

JD Salinger used to bring his typewriter into the Twin State Typewriter store in Vermont three or four times a year with a key crisis. So did people you’ve never heard of.

And soon, it will be no more; a metaphor for the passage of time.

Its now elderly owners are giving up and closing the store, the Boston Globe says.

“There was a child in here the other day with his mother. And he says, ‘Can I type on this?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ And he’s typing and he calls his mother over and I heard him say: ‘Where’s the delete button?’ ’’ owner Wanda Nalette, 68, says.

“My customers are calling me, and they’re like: ‘What are we going to do? Where are we going to go?’ ” Wanda says.

They represent the invisible among us. They’re the people who eschew the digital wave that’s made us more productive and less connected to each other.

“It’s the tactile satisfaction,” author David McCullough said in the documentary, “California Typewriter.” “It’s part of our humanity.”

Humanity. So old school.

Good writers love typewriters. That should tell us something about the rush to create quantity and declaring it good. Quality still matters to some people.

Typewriters provide the sound of things getting done.

“Those keys pop up. You can see what’s happening. I mean in a different way than you see it electronically on the screen. Much more personal. You’re really involved. You roll in the paper. You scroll it in. You know what’s happened,’’ Laura Waterman, whose first novel, written on a 50-year-old typewriter, is about to be published.

The typewriter store could be a melancholy short story, the Globe says.

It could be the tale of a beloved machine — once a fixture on every office desk — that atrophied into an anachronism, useful now as a prop in a period movie, or a piece in a museum.

Its devoted followers here are determined to keep their sturdy writing companion alive as long as they can still pound the keys and hear the bell that calls for another carriage return.

Then they’ll tap out another line of type. More ink pressed into a piece of paper. Something they’re certain is more durable and more tactile than alphabetic pixels dancing across a bright electronic screen.

Farewell.

  • Gary F

    Send them to Vale Typewriter on Penn Avenue in Richfield.

    • boB from WA

      Going to be difficult if your in VT

      • Jack

        There’s always Fed Ex.

  • Dad was a typewriter repairman. In the middle of the last century, every office had typewriters, which meant that his skills were in demand far and wide. I remember him traveling in a company car around southern Minnesota, making sure that schools, businesses, and government offices had working machines. At his shop near the back of an office supply store he would spend his days cleaning and fixing Smith Coronas, Underwoods, and every other make and model of this so essential device. He retired before computers pushed typewriters off the desk and into the closet and eventually to the curb. When he died in the early 1980s the first inklings of what was to come in the digital revolution were just barely visible. I often wonder what he would have thought about something that could “type” as you spoke to it, and I suspect that he would have been delighted. People who love technology as he did do seem to understand evolution in its many forms.

    • Gary F

      I had a friend in grade school whose dad fixed cash registers. File that one under Farrier.

  • ec99

    “Its now elderly owners”

    “owner Wanda Nalette, 68,”

    How old was the kid writing this? 15?

    • 64.

      Her husband is 74. The current life expectancy of men in the U.S. is 78.

      Websters:

      “a : rather old; especially : being past middle age”

      • wjc

        I contend that middle age runs until 75. 😀

      • ec99

        Why defend the author, just because he writes for the Globe? The connotation of elderly is much older.

        • *I* wrote the line you’re questioning. What’s your point?

          • ec99

            My point is that if you believe 68 is “elderly,” perhaps you should pony up the millions to have lunch with Warren Buffet.

          • I didn’t make the definition . I take it you’re 68? :*)

            I’d love to have lunch with Warren, but I’m guessing by the time he came back from the men’s room, I’d be done.

          • Rob

            As a person on the verge of old age, I prefer the term “geezer.” Which makes me a pre-geezer, I guess.

          • X.A. Smith

            Preezer.

  • wjc

    Don’t cry for me, Smith Corona!

    I wrote my college papers on my trusty Smith Corona portable. I’d never go back. Remember the time that you realized that you had forgotten a paragraph on page 4 of a 15-page paper. Despair!

    • Jack

      I was applying for jobs and retyping resumes to have different objectives. Luckily, I didn’t have pages of experience back then.

      Argh….

    • Jeff

      Yes, this only brings back my PTSD (Post Typewriter Stress Disorder). The long, exhaustive nights typing up a paper with the smell of a bottle of whiteout at my side comes back in a flash. The production of the document often exceeded the time it took to write it. There is nothing nostalgic about it.

  • Al

    1. Completely unsentimental here. Typewriters were around, commercially and widespread, for what… 100 years? We were fine before, and we’ll be fine after.

    2. Did McCullough mean the tactile satisfaction of getting things done is what’s linked to our humanity? Not typewriters themselves. There are plenty of other things out there to scratch our tactile itch. And believe me, I love a good keyboard. (For those of us who learned to type on Selectrics, though, they weren’t so much tactile as smash-your-fingers-against-keys-and-hope-something-comes-out. No love lost there.)

    3. Sorry we’re not buying typewriters, guys. We’re still trying to pay off our student loans (incurred partially while not using typewriters) and figuring out how to simultaneously afford houses and avocado toasts.

    • I’m still waiting for voice input typing to be better than my awful keyboard performance. It’s better than it has been, but hilarious mistakes are still all too common.

      Good luck on those loans. Drink instant coffee and watch the other expenses. Most stuff you really don’t need. Try to spend less than you make. You’ll get there.

  • Rob

    Let us not forget that, no matter how silent and sophisticated a keyboard-centric device may get, it will still possess the typewriter’s key (pardon the pun) characteristic: QWERTY.

  • Rob

    If anyone needs a quick sonic fix of typewriters clacking away, check out Brian Eno’s “China My China.”

  • Jerry

    Writing just went downhill when people stopped using goose quills

    • It’s interesting to me how many teachers report they get “term papers” lifted out of Wikipedia with cut and paste. At least with typewriters, you had to actually READ what you were stealing.

      • Jack

        Anyone else remember the vertical files of research clippings?

        • I remember the pages razor-bladed out of the books and magazines in the stacks. The thieves definitely had the “cut” part of cut-n-paste down.

  • AL287

    My mother was a stenographer at Standard Oil during WWII. She could type 80 wpm on a manual typewriter.

    She had an ancient electric IBM typewriter in her kitchen that she used to type catalog cards for her middle school library and her many recipe cards. This was before the days of the famous rotating ball of the IBM Selectric with the automatic correcting ribbon.

    While being able to type as you speak is very efficient, many government agencies and a lot of private companies still use hard copy forms to apply for jobs and government benefits.

    I used my bank’s IBM Selectric to fill out my court documents to begin my pension payments from my divorce.

    While I have excellent handwriting (Thank you, Catholic nuns) I still need a typewriter to fill out forms and type addresses on envelopes so they are clearly legible, especially to the US Post Office address scanners.

    I had an overnight letter go to the wrong post office because I had to write the address by hand and the scanner got it wrong. It went to Bemidji instead of the Minnesota Department of Education.

    Even in this age of digital technology there is still a place for the useful technology of old so don’t throw out those still serviceable typewriters just yet.

    • You *can* fill out a standard legal envelope’s address fields with a PC and print it on a printer, but you could do the same job a half dozen times on a standard typewriter in the same time it took the computer version. (Not owning a typewriter, I’m stuck with the computer printer.)

      • PS: I also have legible handwriting thanks to the Catholic nuns. But some young’uns can’t read it – let along telling time on analog clocks.

      • AL287

        Amazon has IBM Selectrics for sale as well as the ribbons and correcting tape and also the interchangeable type balls.

        I’m tempted to buy one myself as my son can’t read my cursive writing either, beautiful as it is.

        I think I might even remember how to change the ribbons.

        Imagine that.