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Friday 24 February 2012

The Crocodile Dundee Typewriter

Smith Premier only ever made standard-size typewriters, right?

Yes, that’s right.
Standards only?
Umm, yes, I think that’s right.
Never a portable?
Umm … OK, so you’re going to surprise me now …
I surprised myself when I walked into a Canberra antique shop some years back.
I was still pretty fresh in the typewriter-collecting game, but I still felt sure I was on to something very special. And I was.
A Smith Premier portable in a most striking green paint pattern. OK, so the drawband was unattached, but that shouldn’t be a problem, I figured.
More importantly, the price was right.
Next to it was an Olivetti Lettera 22 with a more substantial price tag and the carriage lever turned upside down.
“You know,” I said to the shop owner. “You might just jag a sale at that price on the Olivetti, but only if you grab a screwdriver and turn that lever the right way around.”
“Oh, really?” the owner. I knew in a flash he knew better. Or thought he did. So I paid what he was asking on the Smith Premier portable and skedaddled.
The first thing I did when I got it home was photograph it and send off an image to Richard Polt.
The reply came straight back: “The Crocodile Dundee portable,” pronounced Professor Polt.
And the “Crocodile Dundee” portable it has been ever since. It even appeared under that name as the page two pic of the quarter in ETCetera.
The Croc Dundee has been on display for most of its life with me. But having read a reference on a US website to Mr Dundee – don’t believe all Australians are like that, it rightly warned – I decided to finally take the Smith Premier portable down off the shelf and fix it.
Five minutes later I had one very snappy crocodile, its jaws opened in the typing position, ready to strike and take big bites out of the waiting page. And it did.
I love this typewriter, and even more so now than ever. First, it was a rare find. Second, it was a bargain. Third, it looks so very different (even if it is just a common old Remington portable).
 Fourth, it was christened by none other than Richard Polt. And last, it now writes so fantastically well, as sharp and snappy a portable as I have ever used.
Go Croc Dundee!
PS: The serial number of NP87270 indicates it was made in January 1928 – by Remington, of course.
PPS: A few years later, the antique shop where I found Croc Dundee closed down. Before it did so, the owner invited me to go back there one last time. I went, and I noticed the Olivetti was still there, same price. And the lever was still upside down.
PPS: I used the original ribbon for the typecast. Just sprayed some lube on it.

1 comment:

Richard P said...

Go Croc!

Nice to see it in action, and to see the actual process of creating your typecast. It seems to be working great.