Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tales of the Typewriter - Chapter One

At last, a forever home for little Underwoody.

Our story begins some time ago when I bought something I always wanted to have: a solid old Underwood typewriter, just like the type I remember being old when I was a kid.   In fact, I started my first Fiona Silk mystery on an Olivetti many years ago. 

This Underwood seemed so iconic that I had to have it and so I scooped it up for fifty dollars at an antique shop.  So far so good.  It wasn't as though I'd be doing my Camilla MacPhee WIP on it or that Victoria and I would create the next book collector mystery.  No. I was thinking small: I will type envelopes with it, I decided. I decided that would be much less aggravating than setting them up on the printer.  Or writing them by hand when even I can’t read my writing. 

But when I slipped in that first envelope and clicked on the keys, nothing happened. That ancient ribbon was dry and useless.   

Of course, no one in our region of just under a million people sells typewriter ribbons anymore. Time passed and the typewriter lived as a mere decoration.  Then I decided to try to find the right ribbon.  I was surprised to learn that there were ribbons out there all right. For around $25 plus delivery!

Does this hat make me look useless? 

The typewriter went back to being a charming decoration.  Sometimes I dressed it up. Or gave it accessories.

Gnome Sweet Gnome

Meanwhile we moved to our little village (that’s actually part of Canada’s capital – although that’s a story for another day).  Now we can walk places including Office Pro Manotick, the small but mighty office supply shop where you can get pretty much anything (Knitting needles? Buttons?  Artists’ canvasses? Sure thing)  
But they had no ribbons for the Underwood.  However,, Sheila, (who I now think of as Mrs. Fix-it) said, “We just sell people ribbons for calculators and show them how to re-spool. That will be $3.99." (Canadian!)

You can see why I’d be happy about that.  Thrilled, I carried home the ribbon in triumph.  I was thinking that those other ribbons were a bit of a rip-off. 

My husband decided to re-spool for me.  He likes to be the one in charge of engineering and public works and leave the arts and entertainment to me and there are good reasons for this.

Of course, all  good stories need a bit of conflict and some obstacles.  Ours was coming.  Things weren’t entirely perfect.

Here’s a peek at the back of our first envelope and my note.

 And here’s a shot of DH’s hands after they’d already been washed twice.  

But never mind. 

We'll keep at it for a while.  Yes, yes. I know. It's $25 not $250, but it's the principle of the thing!

So what do you think? Should we visit Sheila again for help? She is quite remarkable at solving problems. Should we cave in and buy the new ribbon?

Got any typewriter tips or tales of your own? How about some time-saving tricks that didn’t quite work out?  

We'll pour a cup of tea and wait to hear from you!


Gram said...

I'd say go back to Mrs. Fix-it :-)

Mary Jane Maffini said...

That's what we think we're going to do! We this far in. Thanks for the advice, Gram.


anneL said...

Hm, and I was going to say get the real thing. Mrs. Fix-it still may not have the right ribbon, so you may have to break down and get it.

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

I love typewriters! I even have one that has no letters on the keys--ti was used in a typing class. They're fun and real conversation pieces.

Anonymous said...

I used one of those typewriters, years ago (let's just say back when you could get the real ribbon) and the type was still iffy...guess it was due to the pressure on the keys, while typing. Just changing the ribbon made your fingers look like DH's fingers. My favorite typewriter was an IBM Selectric, though. :)

Diane said...

Try cleaning the inside keys with a toothbrush and some alcohol, rubbing not drinking. LOL
Sometimes they are so dirty they can't hit the paper right. I learned on similar typewrites, We learned to type with a shield over the keys and to this day, I can't type if I look down at them. That was in the early 50's.

Karen in Ohio said...

Actually, from my own experience with those cranky old things, the ribbon looks like it's working pretty well.

An artist friend makes these witty drawings that she then types stories to go with the image onto them, using an old manual typewriter. The result looks a lot like this.

Mary Jane, I'll send you a link to her website, using your Facebook account.

Nancy said...

Could be that the letters are just worn, or need cleaning.
I had an antique typewriter. My husband gave it away because it was "old". ::sigh::

Mary Jane Maffini said...

You may be right, AnneL. I am prepared to do that if that's what it will take!

Thanks for coming by. MJ/VA

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Too funny, Mary! I think it would be. Not sure if I would pass that typing class.



Mary Jane Maffini said...

Patricia, I remember those glamorous Selectrics! State of the art.



Mary Jane Maffini said...

We will do that, Diane! What a great suggestion. I'll speak to 'engineering,'



Mary Jane Maffini said...

Thanks, Karen! I look forward to it, although it may mean there is no hope for my envelopes.



Mary Jane Maffini said...

Thanks for the laugh and the suggestion, Nancy. We'll try cleaning the keys.

Hugs, MJ/VA

Duffy Brown said...

I have one just like it!!! Love it.

Rachelle21 said...

I do remember that typewriters did need to have keys cleaned, so I would not give up on it, yet. Can you get silicon glove in Canada - it helps keep your hands cleaner.

Unknown said...

I have my mom's old Underwood. I think it's a little bit newer than yours, but the ribbon and the type look the same. One thing that I found when I've type on it in the past is that I have to do more of a two finger typing because I have to come down squarely and hard on the keys in order to get the letters to type clearly. I am so used to typing on computers that I no longer have the strength in my hands to type normally on an old manual typewriter.

One unusual thing about these old typewriters is that they have CAP and FIG keys. If you want to type punctuation (or numbers), you need to use the FIG key. And if you want to type an exclamation point, you have to type the top part, then Backspace and type a period for the bottom. We've come a long way - but I still like the old typewriter (although I would not want to have to type much on it). Envelopes would probably be enough for me.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Do you use it, Duffy? Or is it just for 'pretty!?

Mary Jane Maffini said...

I will look into this, Rachelle! Thank you!

Of course, I can always drive to the US. 40 minutes from here!



Mary Jane Maffini said...

I hear you, Lynda! I do love the modern keyboard. Like you, I have to use the 2 finger method with the typewriter and often backspace and do it again!



Lindsay W said...

Oh My Gosh! I wish I had a type writer. I would love to use it for my project life crafts. I see them being used all the time on Pinterest. So jealous...