A Brief History of My Typewriters (part 3)
The Royals: In Which I Begin to Type a Book
Many years after I picked up the Royal #10 at an antique store, I found another Royal Standard (code-named KMM, though I would not know that for some time) at a neighborhood garage sale. It has a metal tag on the back labeled “METHODIST PUB. HOUSE 2242”, so it apparently came from the offices of the official publisher of the Methodist church. The Royal KMM is not as sexy as the #10, but after trying my hand at several other typewriters, it remains my second favorite one to actually type on.
(A brief aside: there are two kinds of manual typewriters, Standards and Portables. Standards are much like our desktop computers, not meant to be moved from one spot because they are heavy as a mofo and cumbersome. Portables were the laptops of their day. Even the portables seem pretty heavy by our modern sensibilities, but maybe they had bigger muscles in the past.)
Which brings me to the Royal Arrow portable that my brother-in-law Tyler got me for Christmas about 5 or 6 years ago. It was supposedly the same model that Hemingway used in Key West.
I had run up against the 20,000 word wall in the novel I was working on, and in an attempt to shake up my routine and free my brain from its block, I decided to tap out a few words on the old manual. It was a learning experience. For one thing, I soon discovered that portables do not sit still very well while you type. They need a typewriter pad of some sort because they do not weigh enough. Tacky kitchen drawer liners were the cheap and easy solution that I eventually came across. Still, a portable will simply not remain solidly in place if you type with any speed, which eventually led me to the full size standards. But this little gem was the one that got it all started.
I don’t have the Royal Arrow anymore. For about a year, I haunted Craigslist regularly, looking for any cheap and interesting typewriters for sale. Mostly, I discovered that people assume old crap is worth more than it actually is, simply because it’s old. But one day I noticed a listing from someone seeking a typewriter for their little girl for Christmas.
Apparently, she was making up stories, a budding writer, and had gotten it in her head that she needed a typewriter to put them down on paper. How could I resist? I wanted her to have a good, working typewriter rather than the piece of crap that her parents were most likely to find on Craigslist, so the Royal Arrow became a Christmas gift for a second time. I hope she enjoyed it even half as much as I did.