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Friday, 5 December 2014

Typewriter Update

Happy Holidays from Oz
The gang-gang cockatoo is the faunal emblem of the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra). It is easily identified by its distinctive call, which is described as resembling a creaky gate or the sound of a cork being pulled from a wine bottle. Be assured, corks will be popped in the coming three weeks!

On being a 'typewriter mechanic'
Noting that I have been servicing quite a few typewriters for Canberrans lately, Richard Polt has very kindly offered to include this place on his Classic Typewriter Page list of "typewriter repair shops". I feel both honoured and apprehensive about this. Although I have often mentioned having, in 2006, left my day job and undertaken a "six-month self-funded apprenticeship in typewriter mechanics", I have done so with tongue firmly in cheek, and have never laid claim to being the Real McCoy, as it were. Still, I feel reassured by Richard, who, as I interpret it, has likened the type of jobs I do here to his work for the Urban Legend Institute (WordPlay) in Cincinnati. I have seen first-hand the high quality of that work, and as Richard so rightly added, "it's a chance to explore and learn, and to benefit people ..."
So, after a few days' rumination, I'm going to reply to Richard in the positive, to put my hand up and say, "Yes!" It's not a paying proposition for me (save for bottles of fine Australian red wine!) and I'm confident about taking typewriters apart and, in most cases, being able to put them back together again, and about reattaching drawbands and resetting mainsprings, those basic things. And I think I'm wise enough to pass on to a real typewriter mechanic those tasks that are obviously way beyond me.
I do hope, however, I don't become the Basil Fawlty of typewriter "servicemen" that I was among typewriter sellers.
Last week a Canberran came over to pick up his serviced Olivetti Lettera 32. From our conversations, I allowed myself to assume this gentleman knew something about typewriters, which is often a mistake - a mistake all too quickly compounded by rapid-fire typewriter talk that usually goes straight over the head of the "newbie".
When this chap collected his portable, we went through the basics, such as the carriage lock, the ribbon movement and colour selector, tabulation, the platen release, right-hand margin release etc etc etc.
On Monday the guy called and said his typewriter wasn't working. "It was working perfectly when you picked it up," I said. "Bring it back and we'll have another look at it". So he did.
Problem 1: He kept pressing the margin release key on the top bank, far left, thinking it was the figure "1" (although the keytop is blank). And, of course, nothing happened - nothing, that is, other than the margin release mechanism moving at the back of the machine (which apparently went unnoticed). 
Problem 2: He hadn't even unlocked the carriage.
Problem 3: He'd also paid absolutely no attention to what I had told him about the platen release or the ribbon movement, or tabulation for that matter.
Yes, folks, I did bite my tongue, hard ... and we just went through it all over again. So far, so good.

'Finding' Paul Auster
(And asking rhimozic questions
about his Olympia SM9)
Thanks to New York typewriter lover Ray Vickers for alerting us to Scottish writer James Campbell's hilariously dry and witty Times Literary Review "NB" column item on Evija Trofimova's book Paul Auster's Writing Machine: A Thing to Write With.
I must say I feel just a little shamefaced in confessing that while Ms Trofimova is apparently Latvian, it appears she is a "student academic adviser" (?) at the University of Auckland in my native New Zealand, where an ill-advised former student and telegraphic typewriter inventor Donald Murray is about to be lionised. I have to wonder whether Ms Trofimova will now move on from her vain attempt to "find" Paul Auster and tackle the more arduous task of "finding" the "real" Donald Murray. Ms Trofimova does say on her blog, "Bet līdzās šim paradīzes naratīvam pastāv arī cits, pieklusināts, kas vēsta: tāda Jaunzēlande ir lielā mērā sadomāta, izgudrota." Yes, I am being quite deliberately obtuse here. Words like "Rhizomatic facto-fictional" have that effect on one.
Anyway, getting back to Campbell, who wrote:
Author interviews armpit in attempt to find 'the thing'. As she asks on her blog, "Vai tā ir grāmata, ja tā zaudējusi savu "kluso smaržu", kā teiktu Karls Lāgerfelds ...?" But be warned. One of her blog posts starts with a 79-word sentence. Yes, you read that right, 79 words!
Publishing event of 2015
Never mind what the Trofimovas, Austers, Rowlings or Pattersons have got planned for next year, the publishing event of 2015 will definitely be the appearance of Richard Polt's The Typewriter Insurgency, due out in the northern hemisphere fall (that is, around September-October). 
Already there's a typewriter link with the publisher. Its logos are:
 Which so remind us of:
Thank goodness Richard has not once in these past few years - to paraphrase James Campbell's none-too-subtle advice to Ms Trofimova - "countenanced the idea of abandoning" a typewriter-related book. What does this guy know about typewriters, anyway? Probably more than anyone else of earth! 
Well done, Richard, on this richly deserved success in securing a publisher. We just know this book is going to be an enormous winner. I think it's fair to suggest that it will be the most substantial, broadest-reaching typewriter book to appear in many a long year.
VariType Headliner
I'm now the proud owner of a very large, very heavy VariTyper Headliner. The lady trying to sell it on eBay in Melbourne got tired of waiting for someone to take it off her hands, for free, so she found some friends who were driving up to Canberra and had it delivered here yesterday. I'm looking forward to having some fun with it. Already I've looked through the enormous Typemasters font book, which must have at least 1000 different typefaces in it, and am now wondering how to create some online fonts using these sheets. There's a Celtic type I'm especially fond of. I figure this machine must be the cold type equivalent of the hot type Ludlow, which I last encountered in the Ohio Book Shore in Cincinnati last year.
In case anyone is wondering about the outcome of my efforts to fix from a very long distance the Olivetti Pluma 22 belonging to Francisco Pérez's grandfather, I received this email: "Great news, my Olivetti is working perfectly! Thanks to the photos you send me, I saw where the problem was. The little screw in the margin release mechanism, left side, was out of place. It wasn't inserted in the plate next to it, bending that plate and blocking the whole mechanism. Thank you for your help, you just made my day."
Thank you, DL
It's always nice to get a straight "thank you", no strings attached. So "thank you" back to author Dianna Lefas in New York. She wrote, "it must have taken a month of Sundays to get all your research done". Ah, well, it's all for the "Mere Sake of Truth" (the title of one of Dianna's books).
"I have an Underwood - was a journalist when we cut our eyeteeth on the old clunkers. Happily, by the time I retired from journalism (since in the US it is now all managed news by Washington DC), we were using computers. But I still come down heavy on the keys to make a stroke - out of habit." 
Foxtrotting with typewriters
Charlie Foxtrot has quickly established itself as Australia's leading typewriter outlet and its owners, Philip and Julie Chapman, were recognised for their efforts towards this end in an ABC Open story by Sean O'Brien, illustrated (above) by a machine that was in my own collection not so very long ago. The Chapmans have bought more than 200 typewriters from me in the past few months and now my collection is finally down below 200, at 192, of which 17 have been sold elsewhere and are waiting to be shipped. So in real terms the number of typewriters I still own is down to 175. It's made a huge difference in this house, I can tell you!
Pinnock brand name
Bill Pinnock, last owner of Pinnock Manufacturing
For those Australians who own Pinnock (Nakajima) typewriters (aka Pinnock-Craftamatics) sold by Currie Furniture Manufacturing (CFM) in Sunshine, Victoria, the following might be of some interest, in regards to the history of the brand name:
Pinnock's factory in Elzabeth, South Australia, in 1960
The Pinnock Sewing Machine Company was founded by John Alfred Pinnock (born Paddington, Sydney, 1869) in 1891, and initially operated out of the Queen Victoria Markets Building in Sydney. In the 1920s the business moved to a building down the road in Druitt Street. Pinnock died in Randwick, Sydney, in 1942 and the business was taken over by his second son, Clarence Tunbridge Pinnock (born Orange, New South Wales, 1895). The eldest son, William Arthur Pinnock, had been killed in action in World War I, at Mouquet Farm (Pozieres) in August 1916. After World War II, production of Pinnock sewing machines was sited at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. On Clarrie’s death in 1955 the company was sold, but his son, also William Arthur Pinnock (born Mosman, Sydney, 1925), stayed on as a director. With financial incentives from the South Australian Government through its Housing Trust, in 1957 the business was moved to a factory in the then newly established industrial city of Elizabeth in South Australia. It was the city's first plant, preceding General Motors Holden, and employed 50 workers.  Apart from sewing machines, it made vacuum cleaners, floor polishers, oil space heaters and lawn mowers.
The Elizabeth industrial site
It never made typewriters. The factory closed in 1967. The company's lion trademark, first registered in 1935, was re-registered by CFM in 1968 and again in 1977. CFM imported all of its typewriters, fully assembled, from Japan.
Retiring politician
A man who does know a thing or two about an Olivetti Lettera 32 is Sydney typewriter collector Richard Amery. Richard gave his valedictory speech in the New South Wales Parliament on December 12. It was a fascinating talk, full of insights and anecdotes about Richard's career and his rewarding and efficient spells as minister for agriculture and corrective services, along with tributes to his wife and family, staff and friends, and colleagues at both ends of the political spectrum. He spoke of days electioneering when it was so cold and wet that "even Sydney solicitors had their hands in their own pockets". Yet, amazingly, among 6112 words, "typewriter" was not mentioned once. But Richard was quick to tell me this morning, "The entire speech was typed on an Imperial Good Companion Model 5". And I didn't doubt him for one nano second.
Bold 1964 forecast
Rem-Sholes confusion
The Rem-Sholes 5 in the Finish typewriter museum
Martin Howard also helped me sort out some confusion that had been floating about in this country, concerning a typewriter being offered for sale by a Sydney woman. I couldn't work out why a Remington Model 5 was being flaunted at $2500. It turned out to be a Rem-Sholes Model 5. Ah, now that's a different story!
Guardian images
Tom Hanks' interest in typewriters led to The Guardian calling for contributions of typewriter images, some of which can be seen here. A 'small studio' in Nottingham, home of the Bar-Let, Byron and Petite typewriters, among others, offered up this "reconditioned Royalite by Claire La Secrétaire".  "My job is reconditioning old typewriters and giving them a new lease of life by painting them in fresh new colours and restoring them to working order," said "Claire La Secrétaire". Catch the lady who took 32 years to become a journalist. There's hope for Jasper Lindell yet.
A man who made it as a Fleet Street journalist after far fewer than 32 years, Christopher Long, now in Normandy, also sent me this image, of a robot at a Facit, from The Guardian:
ETCetera vote
The ballot for the board of ETCetera magazine is taking place via email. For all ETCetera subscribers out there, please ensure votes for up to five candidates are lodged and that receipt of them is acknowledged. The deadline for voting is January 15. It's important to get a board formally elected ASAP. Up to now, an interim board of Richard Polt, Peter Weil, Berthold Kerschbaumer, Reinmar Wochinz and yours truly has been in place, with Herman Price and editor Ed Neuert ex-officio. 
Miss Typewriter
Charlie's Christmas


Bill M said...

Congratulations on being listed on Richard's web site. I beleive he could list you as Typewriter Collector and Museum Curator Extraordinaire also.

Richard P said...

Thanks for plugging my book!

And just let me know what the wording should be for the listing on my site.