The Joy of Typewriting
Ross Gay, the poet and professor at Indiana University, settled on two typewriters for his collection after wheeling around our typewriter circle several times.
He is the author of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award and a finalist for National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award forBringing the Shovel Down.
"I want to realize joy as a fundamental aspect of our lives and practice. It is a discipline."
Four Strikes and You're Out
"When I was in 10th grade, the rule was that we were allowed no more than three typing mistakes on a page," recalled James Perry Wynn during his visit here. "The Christian Brothers taught my English and typing classes. At West Philadelphia Catholic Boys School, we were allowed to use Liquid Paper White Out to cover the typing errors."
"The first White Out? OK. Tension would rise with the second White Out. The third mistake meant that tension would rise as you would have to start from scratch if you made another mistake."
"Kids today cut and paste, and run through the grammar check."
Grandma was an IBM Selectric Mechanic
“It forces you to slow down. You have to attend to each word, even each letter,” Jordan Guy-Mozenter mused.
“When you have an idea, and that idea is made up of words, and you read it – or someone else reads it – they may not realize how much intention is put into each word. But with a typewriter, you’re holding a mirror up to the way your brain thinks and assembles ideas.”
Jordan is the grandson of Dorothy Guy, one of the pioneers of Weavers Way Co-op and mother of five. Jordan informed us that she worked as an IBM Selectric typewriter mechanic, carrying her toolbox from one business to another in Center City.
Love: A Bus by Any Other Name
The bus was aptly named: By the time Lori Coyle and Steve Gotzler arrived in New York, 90 minutes later, they both felt the Bolt. Strangers in Philadelphia at 30th Street train station, she had asked him where to find the Bolt bus, and then if she could sit next to him. They talked the whole ride. “It seemed like the journey just flew by.”
Now they were falling in love. This was seven years ago. Lori was 42, Steve 56.
A former English teacher, Lori is a celebrated tango dance teacher. Steve had already made a mark as a civil rights lawyer devoted to prisoner rights.
Lori describes her fascination with dance as akin to writing – a narrative in motion. He describes his past with humor, beginning with the trouble he got into for changing the margins on his mother’s typewriter. And publishing underground newspapers in high school in Milwaukee. Law school eventually followed.
Today, they share a home in Media. Their idea of Date Night is to pour some wine, then each sits at a typewriter, writing a message, story, thought or letter. After a while, they switch seats and continue the other’s thoughts. They switch back and forth as the evening wanes. “It often becomes sappy love notes,” Lori says.
When they brought their typewriters in for TLC, we promised to have them back in time for Valentines Day.
Patricia Looks Ahead
Eyes Wide Open
Mike Bzozowski came by to say he’s trading a law job in New Jersey to work for a publisher in Nashville. And to share his enthusiasm for typewriting on his 1940s Royal. Also as a musician, Mike hadn’t expected to so like the rhythm and “hearing the keys and the paper,” a happy surprise. “You think a lot more about what you put on the page, rather than ‘Delete.' Then it’s finished and right there, it’s in your hands. Done! Once you get over the initial learning curve, you can type very quickly.”
Mike usually stands when he typewrites songs and personal thoughts. And without a video screen to block the field of vision, “you look up more, out the window into the world. You are more aware of your surroundings at a typewriter.”
Net Neutrality and Typewriters
Gabby Linsalata allowed us to excerpt from her free associations, gleaned from notes on the Tower typewriter she has been trying out: “…soon we will meet again with the death of net neutrality, no wifi means the rebirth of me [a typewriter]”.
The one-time Philadelphia University fashion student
and Springfield township resident explained, “It’s going to be unaffordable, losing net neutrality. I won’t be paying for it. We never have had cable at home. They will package this up. Due to greed and corruption… Naturally, we will be using these typewriters again.”
When Every Letter Matters
Web designer and poet Zachary Rodis, of Manayunk, trained in animation at the Arts University of Bournemouth in England:
“The first time I wrote on a typewriter, I realized that I had to stop and think about every character that is coming down because it cannot be changed,” he said. “That alters how you write. It affects how you speak too: A lot of people speak the way they write.
“You have to think before you typewrite. It trains you to think before you speak too.
“On a computer, you go back and choose what’s good or bad--it’s more like you’re working with clay. On a typewriter, it’s more like marble.”
My Mother Paid “On Time”
“In high school in Trenton, I took a business course and fell in love with typing. My mother couldn’t afford to buy a typewriter so she asked a downtown jewelry store that had a few in their window if she could buy it ‘on time’. The owner agreed. She brought home a Royal portable! And for weeks, after work, she got off the bus on her way home and paid $3.
"There weren’t many boys in that business class, but there was one, and he brought over his portable typewriter. We put them both on the dining table and had speed drills for fun. Before I graduated, I worked part time as a key puncher. And for 25 years, I had one job or another in the banking field."
"I loved the sound, too.” – Yvonne Jenkins, our Mt. Airy Neighbor.
Katzenbach shows at W.P.M.
The Font Queen
Divorce, Philly Style
City law requires people who file their own divorces to use a typewriter on the top sheet. As in “Fruit vs. Fruit". Kristy Fruit of Germantown, formerly of West Philly, dropped by this week to typewrite a few lines on her uncontested—in fact, amicable--divorce pleadings. A coach for high school teachers, she says she "really enjoyed punching out the keys, a physical end to the process.”
Kristy isn’t the first to drop by our studio to use a “free range” typewriter to file those final papers.
Electrician John Siemiarowski shared this joke after telling us he wasn’t charging for the sound advice he’d just given us:
“A woman brought a typewriter in for repair. She watched when the typewriter mechanic got out his equipment, found the screw driver, opened the typewriter and turned a screw.
“‘That will be $25,’” he told her.
“But it only took you three minutes!” she said.
“Three minutes to turn the screw. Twenty-three years to know which screw to turn.”
John owns Electrical Wizardry Inc.
O, Happy Day!
“On the heels of returning from London, I turned 29.
My mother and I celebrated at the High Point Cafe. I had quickly found an apartment in the neighborhood, and
was simply happy. But still jet lagged, I was soon ready to go home.
"My mother, however, really first wanted to go to the typewriter shop across the street. I told her that I’d already been there in the past, more than once. She persisted, so we went inside. I called her attention to a pistachio green typewriter that I especially liked."
“ ‘Look,’ she said. ‘Someone typed something on that typewriter!’ I read it: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRITTANY. LOVE MOM. We laughed and chatted--until my mother realized that I thought the gift was the note, not the typewriter."
“‘Brittany, it’s yours!’” she said. “It was a Hermes typewriter. I hadn't told her that this is the one I would get for myself, if ever…It is really the most wonderful surprise I’ve ever gotten in my life. Now I often start the morning at the typewriter, as a meditation or centering practice. I write about what I’m feeling, or compose grocery lists and thank you notes.”
Despite her devotion to her Hermes, Brittany Barbato gave our IBM Selectrics a go. She is a multi-media content creator/videographer. www.brittanybarbato.com
My Summer Job in Typewriters
Bill Parker brought his sons by the shop this week to try out the machines he knew so well as a teenager. His father owned Maine Surgical Supplies when he bought a company that serviced business machines. Come summers, Bill and a friend would drive to schools around the State, cleaning typewriters. They used Freon (!) and alcohol to clean 40 to 50 typewriters in any given classroom.
“You opened the door and there was your day’s work in front of you. The best part was lunch break when you went outside, no one was around, and you played Frisbee. It was a simpler time. Is typing on a typewriter a lost art?”
The vintage ephemera that readers may notice in the background was on display during our annual December Artisans' Week.
When We Minded our P's & Q's
In an era that saw scant women in the news room, Molly Smith's aunt loved her job.. Born in 1915, Elinor Gaynan wrote a column answering readers general questions for Philadelphia's Evening Bulletin (1847-1982)
which for 76 of its years could boast the largest evening circulation of any American newspaper.
Actually, no one boasted at the Bulletin. This was Philadelphia! As its publisher, William L. McLean, said: "The Bulletin operates on a principle which in the long run is unbeatable. This is that it enters the reader's home as a guest. Therefore, it should behave as a guest, telling the news rather than shouting it." As Time magazine later noted: "In its news columns, the Bulletin was solid if unspectacular. Local affairs were covered extensively, but politely. Muckraking was frowned upon." And Elinor could be counted on to answer your polite questions.
Molly brought Elinor's Underwood Standard 11 in this week, for cleaning and repair. As for the Philadelphia politesse, well, come by and typewrite, friends.
The Community Typewriter in Cambridge
En route to join his contra dance band-mates, the Lamplighters, perform for the Germantown Country Dancers, Scotty Leach told this story:
Last year, he worked for the Cambridge Innovation Center in Massachusetts, a start-up incubator.
“They build out floors and rent space to other businesses. There were 600 people, encompassing many businesses under our umbrella. Most people don’t know each other.
“Everything is digital—with one exception: a typewriter, with no business purpose. You’d think it was just a relic. But people write anonymous messages and leave them in the typewriter, unsigned. When a page gets full, someone puts it on the wall for others to read. They post responses. Questions. Advice. This typewriter became a hub of community.”