Today, I received my new slim folio from Amazon. I have been waiting over a week to type easily using my I Pad. I was remembering our first typewriter. My Mother had a old Royal. It was big, heavy and totally dependable. I took personal typing the summer before ninth grade. I learned the key positions but I didn’t learn touch typing until I became blind. The practice with the Royal and piano playing have helped me to use most keyboards.
One of my writers friends wrote a memoir about his portable Underwood. Lennard gave me permission to re -post his essay.
I suddenly felt my stomach drop when I reached in to get my typewriter from the back seat of the Plymouth. My god, it’s not there. Then I saw, in my mind, an image of it on the University tarmac, waiting to be put on the back seat. Did I take it? Oh no, I must have left it there. I knew then it was gone forever. Somebody would have found and claimed it by now. There was a whisper of hope that a good Samaritan would put it aside out of the way, where it would be safe for the owner to claim it. Who was I kidding? After all, this was the University of Florida. Someone had grabbed it, and I would never see it again.
It was not as though I could look for it now. I hadn’t reached for it and found it gone until I arrived at my destination, which was 3 hours away in St. Petersburg. I was visiting my girlfriend in my home town. I wasn’t due to return until Monday, having left the University Friday evening. Looking for the typewriter was the logical thing to do when I got back. But, although hope blooms eternal, my hopes of ever finding it again were almost dead.
I tried to enjoy the weekend, but that faint hope was lurking behind to come to consciousness at every turn in my thinking, there to torture me with a great big maybe. Hope is the cruelest thing. I didn’t dare tell my parents about its probable loss. It had been in the family since I was about 6 years old. The Underwood typewriter was owned by my mother, who was using it to brush up on her secretarial skills.
I taught myself how to type on it. Some of my fingering was funky, but I became quite proficient. She gave it to me when I went to college, and it was part of every study I did for every test. If I wanted to remember something I read in a text, I would type it out, restating the meaning in my own words. In other terms, it was invaluable to me. I couldn’t tell my mother about my carelessness.
The Underwood was in excellent condition and was a premier portable. I could never afford another one. How I was going to get along without a typewriter, was a real problem. I had no answers.
I managed to make it through the weekend and still enjoy it. When I drove back up to the University, my thoughts returned in full force to the Underwood sitting on the tarmac. Upon arriving, I promptly searched the area around the parking area where I had left it. I was not surprised when I didn’t find it there. Then I rushed upstairs to my room. My roommate was there, and I told him what had happened. He only had condolences to offer. No other searching offered any hope.
That day, I visited a used typewriter shop off campus. I thought I might find one that I could afford if I skimped on some meals. I saw one there that fit. It was a far cry from a vintage Underwood. It looked like the first typewriter ever invented. Its action was much slower, and the quality of the print left much to be desired. The keys tended to jam, so your stroking had to be slower. It had no case to carry it in. However, it was the one I could afford. So, I bought it.
Through the years, I never had a typewriter as good as the one I learned on. They stopped making manual, portable machines. The electric ones didn’t feel at all like the manual typewriters which I had grown used to. They would stroke with barely a touch. Not for me. I found a local dealer in Charlottesville that could service and get ribbons for old ones, but I’ve never been able to find one half as good as the Underwood.
Nevertheless, the skill I develop using a keyboard has been invaluable to me. Especially now that I am legally blind and unable to see the keys on a keyboard. But I don’t have to. Screen readers will echo my key strokes and read back what I write in all manner of details. But when I use the computer keyboard, I think of the old Underwood, and how grateful I am at how it trained me. I hope it is still doing fine. Maybe someday I will find it in a pawn shop.