Total Pageviews

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Spooky Typewriter Thoughts: I'm A Daydream Believer!

Last evening I was watching an episode of the BBC's Antiques Roadshow on ABC TV, and started daydreaming about finding typewriter treasures. The first one that always comes to mind is a Sphinx for Richard Polt (these fantasies are fairly common for me, I should add). Maybe a Sphinx was sent to Australia, to try to tempt one of the major typewriter importers into marketing the model here. I first thought of the Chartres family and then I thought, no, the Stotts would be my best chance. A descendant of the Stotts would get in touch with me and offer me a typewriter. Some chance!
At that very moment I picked up my iPhone and saw a message. It read:
"Hi Robert, My husband is the grandson of Sydney Alexander Stott. We have a portable Underwood from Canada, circa 1930-40s which needs to find a new home. Any suggestions? Karen."
I swear, every word of this is true. Spooky? You betcha it is! Looks like all the posts about the Stotts on this blog might be starting to pay off.  Now I'm waiting on a message about a Sphinx.
The page below is from Typewriter Topics in 1919, exactly 100 years ago:

Thursday, 18 April 2019

THE PROFESSIONAL SPORT OF TYPEWRITERS: Scouting and Scoring of Speed Typists

Speed typing tests in the personnel office of the
Remington Typewriter Company at 327 Broadway, New York City, in 1900.
The Buffalo World’s Fair of 1901 is primarily remembered for the assassination of President William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition’s Temple of Music. Leon Czolgosz got 5100 volts on the electric chair in Auburn Prison six weeks later, but his act of anarchy had already blighted the legacy of a $7 million electrified extravaganza, established to show all that was prosperous and praiseworthy in American commerce and society. The day before he died, McKinley had said, “Expositions are the timekeepers of progress. They record the world's advancement. They stimulate the energy, enterprise and intellect of the people; and quicken human genius … They broaden and brighten the daily life of the people. They open mighty storehouses of information to the student.”
Alice Mary Schreiner
        Were two young Massachusetts ladies – the misses Mary Esther “Mae” Carrington of Springfield and Alice Mary Schreiner of Boston - there to type with Underwood standards to enhance the impression of energy, enterprise and intellect? To quicken human genius? To broaden and brighten daily life? To open storehouses of information? Not one bit of it - though a lack of loyalty to their former employers, Remington, might suggest a degree of enterprise on their part. They had been “scouted” by Underwood and were at the World’s Fair to earn their keep, pure and simple. Their occupation was professional speed typing. And as professionals in a sport of sorts, fidelity meant nothing. It was exactly the kind of perfidious behaviour that traditionalists in sport, guardians of the amateur ethos, had been warning against for more than 30 years. Chester, Massachusetts-born Mae Carrington (1878-1944) and Brooklyn-born Alice Schreiner (1878-1961) switched sides, as it were, for money, for cash inducements. In October 1906 it was estimated by the Detroit Free Press that Carrington earned up to $100 a week (equivalent to $2800 a week today). Earlier in 1901, Schreiner and Carrington had been enticed away from Remington with the lure of such rewards from the Wagner Typewriter Company, then makers of the Underwood. If they’d been accused of selling their (Remington developed) skills to the highest bidder, they might well have shrugged their shoulders and pointed to the examples in other forms of popular entertainment. 
        The Ivy League gave America its beloved variation of football. Under the unfettered guidance of Yale’s Walter Chauncey Camp (1859-1925), in the 1870s the private universities stripped away the time-honoured traditions of “English rugby” and turned the game into American mayhem. The appeal of this “set ’em up and knock ’em down” version quickly spread beyond the elite students of the Ivies, and with its adoption by the working classes inevitably came professionalism, introduced in the industrial Pennsylvanian city of Allegheny in 1892.
        The American experience closely followed a pattern set in England. As rugby moved from public (that is, private) school pupils - who had resurrected it from original “mob football” in the 1820s -  to the masses in the northern counties in late 1860s, the upholders of the old Rugby code decried the inexorableness of professionalism. Out of rugby first emerged the Football Association, which preferred the non-handling code and allowed pay-for-play, and in the 1890s professional rugby.
        1937 World Typewriting Championships at the Coliseum in Toronto
Typewriting as a “sport”, conversely, was always professional. Yes, amateurs sometimes sat beside the pros in typing competitions, but they had next to no hope of keeping pace. They were largely destined to remain anonymous, apart from the few who were “scouted” by Remington, Underwood, Royal or Smith-Corona, and offered the lonely jobs of on-the-road nationwide exhibitors, with the occasional thrill of a speed test against peers. Leading speed typists were employed by typewriter manufacturers and, like the modern day rally car drivers, they were paid to exhibit the qualities of the machine (souped up in most cases, to give the public an inflated idea of the machine’s capabilities).
Scouters and scorers, as The New Yorker sees them
        As for listing speed typing as a sport, it had all the right attributes. It did not necessarily need an arena, nor large crowds. But it had popular sport’s most essential ingredients – sustained physical exertion, wins and losses, scores, a breakdown of statistics, and the long lines of numeric tables. Louis Menand, in reviewing Christopher Phillips’ book Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball (published by Princeton last month) in last week’s The New Yorker, points out that it is “an effort to help us understand one of the oldest problems in modern societies, which is how to evaluate human beings. “Do we scout or do we score?”
Speed typing had both its scouts and its scorers. The only possible difference is that it was essentially a test of machines rather than a test of human capability. Yet it was the individual typist who was invariably vaunted – though the publicity surrounding that individual was, in the main, generated by the company which had built the machine. For example, The History of Touch Typewriting, published by Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict (that is, Remington) in 1900 (the year of Remington’s speed typing tests in the image at the top of this post), uses the stories of Remington’s individual speed typists to illustrate the development of touch typing.
        When the photograph was taken, Alice Schreiner was making her first visit to Buffalo, but this time under the employ of the Remington Typewriter Company. She was a stenographer in Remington’s Boston office when on October 23, 1900, she gave two exhibitions of touch typing on a Remington No 6 with a blank keyboard, at the Bryant & Stratton Business College and Remington’s Buffalo office. It was claimed at the time that she was fastest operator in the world using this method, typing from unfamiliar copy 97 words a minute, and memorised sentences at 144 words a minute, on one occasion while blindfolded. Schreiner was still with Remington when The History of Touch Typewriting was published, otherwise she wouldn’t have been mentioned in it. She had typed at 108 words a minute to beat fellow Remington user Edith Paulsen at the December 26, 1900, fifth annual convention of the National Shorthand Teachers Association in Detroit.

        Of the visit by Schreiner and Mae Carrington to the World’s Fair, “Lady Betty” wrote in the Buffalo Evening Times Women’s Realm page on May 18, 1901, that they were, “the two most rapid type-writer operators in the world … They have been engaged by the Wagner Typewriter Company (manufacturers of the Underwood typewriter) for the Underwood booth … where they will give daily exhibitions of their marvellous skill in ‘touch’ operation of that machine. The exhibit of American typewriters at the Exposition will be the most elaborate and comprehensive ever attempted at any exposition, and that, augmented by the presence of these two wizard-like operators, will prove an exceptionally interesting and instructive feature … The Misses Carrington and Schreiner are, in my opinion, undoubtedly the best known and unquestionably the most expert exponents of the typewriter profession in the United States today.”

        “Lady Betty” went on to hint at the change of stable, saying that for Schreiner and Carrington the Buffalo World’s Fair was their first demonstration of touch typing on a “visible writing” machine. “The Wagner Typewriter Company have certainly shown excellent judgement in selecting these two young women to demonstrate the possibilities of the Underwood …”
On August 3, 1901, The Buffalo Enquirer reported, “A most wonderful exhibition of expert typewriting is continually going on within the [Wagner Typewriter Company booth in the Manufacturing and Liberal Arts Building], which is the cynosure of the eyes of all visitors.” It added that the typing of Schreiner and Carrington was “actually startling, and possible only on the speedy Underwood.”

Carrington was joined at the Buffalo World’s Fair by another graduate from the Springfield Business School – where they were both coached in the touch typing technique by Barte Joseph Griffin (1863-1928). Gertrude Lillian Greeley (1880-1953) demonstrated a Cahill electric typewriter, with which she reached 200 words a minute. Ms Greeley didn’t waste time waiting on a professional typing contract – she married her boss, millionaire paper maker Samuel Raynor Whiting, the son of a congressman, in February 1906. Carrington wanted her back on the speed typing circuit, but Mrs Whiting wasn’t biting.
Alice Schreiner married Charles Morehouse Hatcher in 1908, by which time she’d bowed out of competitive speed typing. Mae Carrington, however, remained unmarried (“Romance interferes with one’s plans,” she said in 1906) and continued to compete. At the Howard Street Armoury in Springfield, on February 23, 1906, Carrington set a new world record of 2344 words in 30 minutes of typing blindfold from dictation (averaging 78 words a minute). The previous record of 2099 had been set by Remington’s Paul Munter at the Madison Square Garden on November 2, 1905. Alabama-born Munter (1880-1950), a Brooklyn-based court reporter, later followed the example set by Schreiner and Carrington by changing allegiance to Underwood in 1907.
Carrington’s crowning glory came at the National Business Show at the Madison Square Garden in New York on October 31, 1905, when she beat Rose Fritz in a one hour dictation test, typing blindfold. Carrington typed 3752 words with 20 errors in an hour (Fritz typed more words but made more than three times as many errors). In March 1906 Carrington extended her world record by typing 5221 words blindfold, exclusive of errors, for an average of 87. By October that year, however, she had been overtaken by Fritz, as well as Lillian V. Bruorton (1880-1965) and W. May Matthews in the Underwood speed team. Fritz took the first world title with an average of 82 words a minute, and remained world champion for four years. Fritz matched Carrington’s 87 words per minute to win both the 1907 and 1908 world titles. In 1924, when she travelled to Europe at the age of 45, Carrington described herself as a “typewriter expert” in her passport application.
 Mae Carrington in 1924

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Pioneering Photojournalists and their Typewriters

Charles Rollin Brainerd at his typewriter
and Henry Hamilton Bennett with his camera in 1889.
Photojournalism is said to have started in the middle of the 19th Century, more than 20 years before the Sholes & Glidden typewriter went into production. But back then the “news photographs” which appeared in newspapers and magazines were engraved from original prints, taken by pioneer photographers who were not, strictly speaking, also journalists, or indeed who were not working alongside journalists. One photograph, even perhaps one which appears in print in engraved form, might tell 1000 words, but it still needs words to describe where and why it was taken. The earliest example of a photographer and journalist working in tandem is probably the monthly magazine Street Life in London produced in 1876-77, after the advent of the typewriter, by photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) and radical journalist Adolphe Smith (1846-1925), a major influence on Upton Sinclair. Interestingly, though he was born in Headingley in Yorkshire, Smith’s only Wikipedia entry is an inaccurate one in French. 
Adolphe Smith
Another pioneering team was Henry Hamilton Bennett (1843-1908) and the wayward writer Charles Rollin Brainerd (1840-98). There are many references to the latter’s surname as Brainard, but the family name was actually Brainerd. The image at the top of this post is one part of a stereoview of Bennett working on his camera in a private rail car in October 1889, and Brainerd writing the captions on his typewriter. The pair were on a commission from the Wisconsin Central Railway Company to photograph the landscape along the company's track in Wisconsin. Bennett and Brainerd provided their own equipment, including a rifle and knife. Bennett made this exposure by pulling a string attached to the camera.
The anaglyph of the same image. An anaglyph is a stereoscopic photograph with the two images superimposed and printed in different colours, usually red and green, producing a stereo effect when viewed with appropriate filters over each eye.
Brainerd’s article, published in a guidebook after the trip, explained they had been hired to portray the beauty along the line. It described Bennett's “double-barreled” stereo camera and noted the persuasive power of images. Brainerd’s stories from the journey also appeared in pamphlets and newspapers and he later became the company’s local attorney in Waupaca.
Henry Hamilton Bennett
While Brainerd has been forgotten by historians, Bennett remains famous for his pictures of the Dells of the Wisconsin River and surrounding area taken between 1865 and 1908. They turned Wisconsin Dells into a major tourist destination. Bennett was born in Farnham, Quebec, but raised in Brattleboro, Vermont. At 14 he settled with his family in Kilbourn City, later known as Wisconsin Dells. Accidentally self-wounded in the Civil War, Bennett bought the Kilbourn City photography studio in 1865. Having set his sights on landscape photography, Bennett built himself a portable darkroom and towed it across the countryside. Dry plates enabled him to abandon the portable darkroom in 1886. Bennett made his first stereoscopic photo in 1868 and invented a stop action shutter. Bennett also built a revolving solar printing house.
Brainerd was a bit of an oddball. Born in Ravenna, Portage, Ohio on August 5, 1840, at age six he learned to set type for The Sheboygan Times before his family moved in 1849 to Green Bay, where, still a child, he spent most of his time at The Green Bay Advocate.  By 11 he could speak three languages, French, German and English, as well as the Menominee and Oneida Native American tongues. With those skills he was offered work as a clerk on a man’s wage. The family moved to Waupaca in 1853, and Brainerd joined The Wisconsin Pinery. He then worked for the Waupaca Register and at 20 entered Racine College. Brainerd graduated in 1864, studied theology at Nashotah, was ordinated to the Episcopalian ministry in 1867, and served in Milwaukee and Quincy, Massachusetts. In 1873 he switched to Catholicism and became a lawyer, being admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1876 and the US bar in 1878. He practised law in Boston until 1888.
One of three patents Brainerd took out to assist newspaper compositing.
But then Brainerd made another right turn and took up writing. The next 20 years were largely devoted to newspaper, magazine and syndicated work and the second volume of Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography, contributing 400 entries. Brainerd wrote regularly for The North American Review and The Chicago Times and travelled to Canada and Mexico. He died in Waupaca on February 2, 1898, aged 57. His local newspaper put it mildly by saying he had had “a varied career” and a “very eccentric disposition”. He had “denounced, harassed and tormented his mother” to the point at which in 1887 he was declared insane and committed to an asylum for indulging “in some very queer freaks and antics”. His obituary said that “He must have, early in life, become addicted to stimulants, which habit in the end gained the mastery over one of the brightest minds, and at middle age he died without a dollar or a friend.”
Jessie Tarbox Beals
It would very much have surprised Jessie Tarbox Beals (1870-1942) to suspect that, in death, she would be related through marriage to Brainerd. But that’s what happened in 1943, when Beals’ daughter Nanette (1911-94) married Henry Bowen Brainerd, a distant cousin of Charles Rollin Brainerd, 18 months after her mother’s death. Jessie Tarbox Beals was the first published female photojournalist in the United States and the first female night photographer. She is best known for her freelance news photographs, particularly of the 1904 St Louis World's Fair, and portraits of places such as Bohemian Greenwich Village.
Beals prepares to take a high shot from a 20ft ladder in St Louis in 1904.
Beals was born Jessie Richmond Tarbox on December 23, 1870, in Hamilton, Ontario. At 14 she was admitted to the Collegiate Institute of Ontario, and at 17 received her teaching certificate. Beals began teaching at a one-room schoolhouse in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, and in 1888, Beals won a subscription prize camera through the Youth's Companion magazine. She soon bought a higher quality Kodak camera and set up Williamsburg's first photography studio in front of her house. In 1893 Beals took a new teaching position in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and visited the World's Fair Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1899 she received her first professional assignment when she was asked by the Boston Post to photograph the Massachusetts state prison. The next year Beals received her first credit line in a publication, the Windham County Reformer.
Beals in 1904.

In 1901 Beals was hired as a staff photographer by the Buffalo Inquirer and the Buffalo Courier. Beals could be seen carrying out assignments in her ankle-length dresses and large hats, with her 8 x 10-inch glass plate camera and 50lb of equipment in tow. She had a different style than most news photographers of the day, focusing on series of pictures that would later be used to write stories, rather than vice versa. In 1905 Beals opened her own studio on Sixth Avenue in New York City. She moved to Greenwich Village and opened a new photography studio and gallery in 1920. She died on May 30, 1942, at Bellevue Hospital, aged 71.
Beals at her Oliver typewriter in 1906.
Beals' photograph of her one-year-old daughter Nanette
 in a wooden box by Beals' studio window, April 10, 1912.
Beals' photo of Norwegian-born author Henry Oyen (1883-1921) in 1913.
He died suddenly in his studio of a cerebral haemorrhage, aged just 37.
Beals' photo of Emily Post in 1927.
Beals' photo of a model at a typewriter,  1911 

Thursday, 11 April 2019

The Ace Irish Swindler & Me

The man at the Olivetti Praxis 48 electric typewriter, with W.C. Fields looking over his shoulder, is the Irish dramatist and essayist Hugh Leonard (1926-2009). He’s working in his studio in Dalkey in Dublin. I knew Leonard (real name John Joseph Keyes Byrne) when I worked in Ireland through the 1970s. We weren’t close friends, but he and I wrote articles on Irish sporting matters for the London Sunday Times, and I had the good fortune to attend stage performances of some of Leonard’s plays. I also got to know the TV and radio host Gabriel Mary “Gay” Byrne (1934-, no relation to Leonard), and it was through Byrne’s TV show that I got to meet the world heavyweight boxing champion Floyd Paterson.
        Last Thursday, late on the night before my 71st birthday, I was reading an engrossing New Yorker short story by Yiyun Li called “All Will be Well”. In it, Li made reference to a fictional character called Michael Furey. “For all I knew,” she wrote, “Michael Furey had been a figment of Joyce’s imagination …” I correctly assumed she was referring to James Joyce, and that fuelled my imagination. Sure enough, Furey is a young man in “The Dead”, a 15,952-word novella which completes Joyce’s 1914 collection Dubliners. It turns out Hugh Leonard adapted “The Dead” as a one-act play in 1967. Finding this led me to Leonard, and to a surprise that forced me, instantly, to start reappraising every single day of my life for the past 40 years. As one might imagine, I didn’t get much sleep that night. And I haven’t thought about much else since. So far, all I’ve managed to convince myself of is a slight step up to a higher moral ground.
        The epiphany came in two lines of Hugh Leonard’s entry in Wikipedia: “In 1984, Leonard discovered his accountant Russell Murphy had embezzled £258,000 from him. Leonard, who came to see this breach of trust as pitch black humour, was particularly upset that Murphy had used his money to take clients to the theatre and purchased expensive seats at some of Leonard's plays. Murphy, it transpired, had also ripped off his “dear” friend Gabriel Byrne to the tune of £73,000, and in total £2 million.

        The full extent of Murphy’s crime only became apparent after he’d committed suicide on April 12, 1984, aged 59. It’s the 35th anniversary of his death tomorrow. Leonard, upon moving some shares, first discovered Murphy, left, had forged his signature for a bank loan Murphy had taken out. Days earlier he had written a glowing obituary for Murphy, calling him, “the kindest man I ever knew … I have liked him enormously. As a companion, he was charming, courtly and often richly funny.”
“The fact is that Russell was one of those rare creatures who loved their fellow men. One of the reasons – a selfish one, admittedly – that I was proud to be his friend reposed in his unfailing good taste, for if he was fond of you, you could not wholly dislike yourself. His death gives the lie to the canard that no man is irreplaceable. Russell is.”
Oh, how Leonard must have blushed and cursed when he found it was his own savings that were irreplaceable, thanks to Murphy’s grand theft.
For 35 years I had known nothing about any of this. Why should have I have known? Because I knew Murphy well, and was very often the beneficiary of his largesse, including attending Leonard’s plays. Utterly unbeknown to me, I had frequently been the receiver of ill-gotten gains, of what amounted to stolen money. As well, I knew and wrote glowingly about Murphy's son, Henry Murphy, a leading rugby player who had toured Argentina with the Irish team in 1970.      
As a sort of hand-me-down confidant, I was also privy to the intimate details of Murphy’s private life. Married with two children, he was in a term-long affair with the comely widow Bronwyn Conroy (left, 1938-), who ran a well-known beauty school in Blackrock and wrote a column for my then newspaper, the Sunday Press. I was caught up in the illicit affair (there was no such thing as divorce in Ireland back then) in as much as I helped scout hideaway hotels for the couple’s "dirty weekends", and I relieved Conroy of her Yorkshire terrier, a gift from Murphy. Conroy’s first husband, Liam Malone, had died young – in 1996 she married again, to Robert Davitt, grandson of the Irish Republican leader Michael Davitt, in Somerset, England, and the couple lived in Wales until 2006. Interestingly, the two lead characters in Joyce’s “The Dead” are Gabriel and Gretta Conroy.
Bronwyn Conroy was no lap dancer. But as someone once wrote, in reference to Russell Murphy’s vainglorious style of dress, that it was “merely a strand of the American business principle that says if your money manager starts dating a lap dancer, it's time to find another money manager. If he starts dating a lap dancer and wearing a cape, leave the country.” Murphy didn’t leave, but I did.
In 1979, increasingly concerned about my ongoing welfare, and about “knowing too much” (as I was told) in the then terrorist haven of Ireland, I made a quick dash from Dublin, safely zig-zagging across the world to Copenhagen, Düsseldorf, Bahrain, Singapore and on to Australia. Afterwards, Russell Murphy passed on word that “he was envious of me, for having managed to break free, to escape”. Now, for the first time, I understand why he said that.
But Murphy loved the theatrical life of Dublin. He was very much a part of it, and a man prone to his own theatrics, like occasionally hiding under the massive desk in his office. He wore a black cape with red silk lining, the billowing type favoured by Count Dracula, and he carried a silver-topped cane. After all, Dracula was the product of fellow Dubliner and theatre man Bram Stoker. One of Gay Byrne’s profilers noted, “Some might choose an accountant partly on the basis that they don't wear a cape. Or avoid taking on an accountant who looks like the kind of person that could decide one day to buy a cape. Still others would simply tell him, ‘You're an accountant. Stop being so monstrously vain’. The profiler added, however, that Murphy would almost certainly have enjoyed spending Gay Bryne’s money more than Gay Byrne did. “To Gay and his generation, money had perhaps a mystical quality that not only needed expert handling but needed to be handled by people who looked like Edwardian-era surgeons. They stood back deferentially and let the people who looked like they knew better make them richer.” Instead, of course, Russell Murphy made them a lot poorer, an awful lot poorer.
Russell Murphy loved the high life – like Scott Fitzgerald, he loved it much more than he could afford to live it. Once a rich old lady left a tatty umbrella in the reception area of Murphy’s office. After she had made much fuss about getting it back, Murphy snorted, “No wonder some people are so rich - it’s because they’re so damned miserly.” What became of the old lady’s money I do not know, but she did get her umbrella back.
I have been fascinated by the lives of audacious conmen since, as a youngster, I heard of the story of New Zealander Murray Beresford Roberts, left, an unrepentant Frank Abagnale way before that American imposter’s time. But though Roberts had started his outrageous career in my home town, and had once “edited” a newspaper I had worked on, it was way before my time. So I never thought I’d actually met one of these duplicitous villains. Oh, I’ve known some low-down scoundrels in the typewriter collecting community, if I could call it that, but this couple of cheats are small-time swindlers compared to the major operators. This pair cost me four-figure sums, nowhere near the same league as Russell Murphy’s £2 million.
        On reflection, I can see that Charles Russell Murphy, born in Dublin on August 11, 1924, had always held aspirations above his station or, more to the point, his means. In London on August 29, 1947, he married Marie Thérése Fawsitt (1925-), the Cork-born daughter of Diarmuid Fawsitt, above, far left, a founder member of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Consul in New York at the time of the Irish Civil War. Fawsitt later became a circuit court judge.
Russell Murphy went on to establish an accountancy service for the rich and famous – many of them American and British notables in the music and movie worlds. Murphy’s clients were covered by a “creative” exemption in the Irish Income Tax code, which meant their royalties were tax free. This applied, for example, to those who lived in and restored old Irish estate houses and paid no taxes at all. On one occasion Murphy wrongly advised them that they were also exempt from Value Added Tax, but such were Murphy’s high-level connections that the Irish Tax Office wrote off more than four years of VAT, just from his clients on “a concessional basis”. Murphy was certainly well connected, as a Governor of the Bank of Ireland and a member of the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. Hugh Leonard and Gay Byrne (looking unimpressed, above) took High Court action against the Institute of Chartered Accountants but received no compensation.
My compensation in all this has been much different - financially, I lost nothing, and owed nobody one brass tack. Yet the process of reappraising my life of the past 40 years goes on unabated. It already feels good to know that, in comparison, I was something of an angel among such sinners, someone whose actions were at least somewhat justifiable. On top of all that, I do feel far better informed now than I was back then. It helps to attain a more balanced view of one’s past, to feel somehow finally redeemed. After all, as Hugh Leonard wrote, "if [Russell Murphy] was fond of you, you could not wholly dislike yourself". Thanks Ace Swindler!

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

"Cracklin' Remie" Portable Typewriter

I've been experimenting with a couple of new types of spray paint (new at least to me) in the past few days. First I tried a "marble effect" paint without really knowing what I was doing. The idea with this, apparently, is to create the effect of dark veins running through white marble, but I didn't start with a light background and finished up covering all the parts in black. It didn't look too bad, actually, very much like the "crinkle" paintwork we're so familiar with, as used on typewriters from the 1930s. I was going to stick with this look and went back for another can this morning. But then I decided to change tack and try a "crackle effect" white spray. Initially it looked like a bit of a disaster, but when the paint dried and "crackled" I really liked the look. I'm calling this my "Cracklin' Remie" portable typewriter, in honour of Neil Diamond on a Cold April Night. It's what I hope will be the first of my 71st birthday presents-to-self (or maybe, just maybe, gifts from others!).
Last week I was given a Glasgow-made Remington portable by a lady who was downsizing. It had belonged to her mother. The case was in pretty good shape and with the typewriter came some spare new ribbons and the original manual. Everything showed signs of great care. At first glance the typewriter itself looked in excellent condition, very well looked after. Usually these models look a bit shabby, especially as the pale grey paintwork shows every little dirty mark, and they're impossible to clean properly. I've never yet received one that I didn't want to immediately take apart and repaint (the more so because they are so easy to take apart and put back together again).  I thought at first this one might be the exception. But on closer inspection, it wasn't to be. It needed a whole new, tidy look. And as it turns out, a very different look.
Happily I had a functioning spare parts machine, almost complete except for the mask. It came in handy, as I found I had to replace the space bar lever, which runs all the way through to the back of the machine, as well as a few other bits and pieces (I put in the space bar from the spare parts machine as well). Other than that, the machine was working perfectly, and still does in its "cracklin'" new livery.
 She got the way to make me happy
You and me, we go in style
Cracklin' Remie, you're a store-bought typer
You make me sing like a guitar hummin'
So hang on to me, girl
Our song keeps runnin' on
 Cracklin' Remie, get on board
We're gonna ride till there ain't no more to go
Taking it slow
Lord, don't you know
Have made me a time with a old lady's typer