A Brief History of My Typewriters (part 6)
Odds and Ends
There are a few other typewriters in my collection that don’t fit into the three main brands of Royal, Olympia, or Hermes. I’ll wrap up with them.
First off is truly the odd man out, the Oliver. When I first saw it, I could hardly believe it was a typewriter. The form of the typewriter has been fairly well set for most of the latter decades in which they were ubiquitous, but they didn’t start out so uniform. The Oliver appears to be one of the last truly odd-shaped typewriters to have had an extended period of success. As I’ve come to learn, they are not particularly rare machines, no matter how weird they look. I mean, it looks more like a steampunk Mickey Mouse hat than a typewriter. It looks like something that should be on the console of the TARDIS, but apparently when the Doctor needs to type, he prefers the Olympia, which the TARDIS absorbed borg-style at some point.
Anyway, my Oliver is not a fine specimen, but it was cheap–another typewriter I found on Craigslist while out of town, this time in Florida. It’s missing the two little wings under either side of the carriage, which I presume are decorative, the finish is as much rust as paint, the ribbon spool covers are missing, and the drawstring is gone. The typebars still work, so I could probably add a new drawstring and have it working again, but I don’t see myself using it regularly, so I haven’t been tempted to try.
My fond memories of typing with my mother’s IBM Selectric when she worked at the bank meant that I’d had a nostalgia for them for quite a while. In fact, she gave me one that she’d inherited when she retired from the bank, but it was not working, and this was long before I was brave enough to tinker with typewriters, so I sent it off to Goodwill. The second Selectric I found was a little first generation red number. Unfortunately, I was brave enough to tinker with it, and ended up breaking the metal band which controls the typeball and rendered it completely nonfunctional. Before I could do something with it, the flood of 2010 filled it with river mud and it went into the garbage heaps.
About a year ago, I found another couple of Selectric II’s on Craigslist locally. One was in terrible condition and immediately got donated. The other was a great-looking red machine that would power on, but would not actually type. Having learned my lesson, I didn’t attempt to repair it myself, but found an old man who still runs a typewriter repair business out of his garage. Frankly, I probably could have just have bought one in working condition for what I paid for repairs (that’s the sad thing about the typewriter repair business–in a generation, not one person in a million will be able to fix ’em), but it was nice to give him some business. Not to mention he probably did twice as much work as what I paid him for. It types great.
My mother-in-law gave me a Remington 5 portable for Christmas. Before that, I had had another Remington portable, the # 2. I loved that you had to throw a little lever to lift up the typebars before beginning to type. It was in decent if not great condition. Unfortunately, it was also a victim of the 2010 flood.
The Remington 5 looks great, and the key action seems to be very smooth and solid. The drawstring is rotted and broken. The feed rollers have sat too long against the platen and are now flat, so that paper will no longer feed through. Originally, I thought I would just leave it as a decorative piece, sitting on the desk in the living room. After all, I don’t need another working typewriter–I already have some 9 others to choose from. But every day when I walk past, I wonder how it would type. It would be such a simple matter to repair the drawstring. And now I’m eying the feed rollers, searching for a way to get them free. Apparently, you can recover them with automotive rubber hoses or shrink tubing…
What’s worse, since I started writing this retrospective, I’ve been occasionally checking eBay and Craigslist again. There’s an antiques’ mall in town with a few machines that I should probably go check out. They’re overpriced, but maybe I could haggle. Not that I really need another typewriter to shove in the closet.
I think I have a problem…