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Saturday, 11 November 2017

My Cousin Fred Messenger, the Californian Remington Typewriter Agent

San Bernardino County Sun, August 9, 1947
About the time Doug Nichol's much-acclaimed documentary California Typewriter was premiering, in August this year, I was astonished to be told that my late cousin, Fred Messenger, had been a California typewriter agent. Fred, who died 70 years ago, was Remington Rand's man in Los Angeles at a time when the typewriter company was in the grip of an extremely bitter industrial dispute.
The Santa Rosa Post Democrat, July 17, 1947
The discovery of my close relationship with Californian typewriters helped ease the pain, by then becoming increasingly acute, that in Doug's change of direction and editing of his film, I had landed up on the cutting room floor. I was there when Doug started his typewriter movie project, at Herman Price's gathering at the Chestnut Ridge Typewriter Museum in West Virginia in October 2013. I was interviewed by Doug at the museum, and was there when Doug interviewed Richard Polt in his typewriter-laden office at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Later, Richard and I were filmed together at WordPlay (see my image of Doug filming Richard below):
I feel sure that if he knew Californian typewriters were in my blood, Doug might have kept in me in his doco. But, hey, I don't have the audience drawing power of Tom Hanks or the late Sam Shepard. Nor do I have the charm of a Richard Polt or Martin Howard. But I did have a cousin who was right there in the thick of the trade when the typewriter business in California was at its peak.
Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1947
I wasn't able to tell Doug that because I only found out myself last August. My cousin Noeleen Mulholland, a brilliant genealogist, messaged me saying, "According to my family tree you and Frederick are second cousins - once removed. So you aren't the only Messenger with a connection to typewriters."
Frederick was born in Port Washington, Long Island, New York, on January 2, 1908, the son of Albert Ayers Messenger and Elizabeth Morris (Bessie) Marston. Messenger Lane in Port Washington is named in Albert's honour, as he was one of the early property owners in Sands Point.
Frederick grew up in North Hempstead, Nassau County, where he started work as a bank clerk. Albert Ayers Messenger was born in New York on February 4, 1859, the son of Harry Messenger, a half-brother of my great-grandfather, William MessengerAlbert and my grandfather Robert Messenger were first cousins.
Frederick's nephew Albert Clay (Al) Messenger (1927-2003) had two great-grandfathers who fought for the Confederacy, one with the Army of Northern Virginia. Al had a passion for auto racing and established "Corner of Racing Memories" in his basement. He annually attended the Indy 500 and was honoured with a special award by the Race Car Fan Club of America for his attendance and contribution to auto racing. He was also a life member of the US Auto Racing, the Old Timers Racing Club of Lattimore Valley, Pennsylvania, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.   
 Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1947
Hastening Fred's premature death? San Bernardino County Sun, July 24, 1947


Herman said...

Hello Robert. I can verify that Doug interviewed you, because I listened to every word. You were specifically praising the "newfound" Masspro and comparing it to the Underwood 3 bank. I sneaked up and handed you the Underwood in the middle of your brilliant oratory. It is truly too bad that your enthusiasm did not make the cut, BUT I ENJOYED IT. I guess your interview will just remain among Doug, you and I.

Ted said...

Bummer, man, I would have loved to see your interview. I wonder if Doug might release a few short bumps utilizing some of that cut material. (:

Bill M said...

It would have been great if you had been in the movie. I have not seen it even though it was screened only about 2 hours away. With a handicapped wife I need to be certain there is proper access to everything before venturing out. It's great that you can trace your family history and to have famous typewriter ancestors. Surprising about the Benton Harbor riots, I picked up a book on Michigan history to learn a bit about my new State. One of the stories was on Benton Harbor and the riots. I only ever knew of Benton Harbor and Heathkit.

Maybe if Doug releases the movie on DVD he can add in your interview as an extra as is often done with DVD versions.

Richard P said...

It's neat to discover this family connection to the typewriter business. I was similarly excited when I learned that Southworth Paper, founded by a great-great-something-grandfather of mine, was the first to produce paper especially for typewriters.

You are glimpsed in the film, although your interview isn't included. I know that Doug had many, many hours of film and agonized over what to include and how to edit the material. The project had already been going on for 5 years or so when he came to Cincinnati and West Virginia. Anyway, it would be great to see a collection of out-takes!

MTCoalhopper said...

I've been doing some genealogical research, myself, lately. No family connections to typewriter history that I can find, yet. However, I was able to make a minor digression into the history of my favorite typewriter (a 1946 De Luxe Model 5, interestingly enough) because the previous owner had scratched her social security number into the back cover. Oh, the life these machines often have! I choose to believe this Remington accompanied the world-traveling adventuress on her journeys.

As for documentaries, a page from my blog (now deceased) appears in Christopher Lockett's "The Typewriter (in the 21st Century)" for a moment. It was one of the most depressed and desperate postings I had ever put up, and I would have gladly provided better material, if anyone had asked. However, I can proudly say that something of mine was in that movie. Likewise, you're free to claim your rightful place in "California Typewriter" without having to justify how large a part you played. :)