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Thursday 29 November 2018

Seeing Stars with a British-Assembled Remington Compact (Model 2) Portable

Royal Society fellow, astronomer Jack Arthur Brecknock Palmer, could see through the mists of distant time to when the planets of our Solar System were formed, 4.6 billion years ago. But he couldn't see back six years or so to remember who it was who regularly used to write about typewriters in The Canberra Times. So he emailed my former editor, Jack Waterford, and Jack II forwarded Jack I's kind offer of two typewriters on to me. That was on Monday afternoon. By this morning both machines were in my loving care, sitting on my new, you-beaut typewriter workbenches.
The first one I tackled (the Olivetti Lexikon 80 is going to be an absolute nightmare!) was a 1929 Remington Compact portable (No 2), assembled in Britain from US-made parts. When I first contacted Jack Palmer about picking up his typewriters, he simply said it was a "Remington portable". I allowed myself to think this would one of the Glasgow-made early 1950s machines, and started thinking about what colour I would paint it. What a pleasant surprise to find it was one of the shiny black pop-up typebasket models.
This little treasure sat inside a very badly battered case - Jack had the bits of it strapped together with a three-inch wide white belt. So, at least outwardly, the signs weren't great. I have seen some of this wonderful typewriters so badly treated they have been left in a truly dreadful state. But once Jack took this portable out of its case, I could instantly see it was in pretty decent shape for its age.
Jack, a one-time lecturer in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Manchester in England, explained that he had bought the typewriter in Scotland in the 1950s to write his university thesis, titled "The Origin of the Planets" (for which he got top marks). The Remington was obviously at least second-hand, if not third- or fourth-hand, when he acquired it, given it was assembled in 1929. I was anxious to find out exactly when it was first sold. The serial number was difficult to decipher under some corrosion, and at first I thought it read "6V287273". This confused me to the point that I hurriedly contacted Richard Polt in Cincinnati for guidance. We soon worked out it was actually CV287273. The Typewriter Age Guide listed the CV line - C for Compact and V for the No 2 Model.
After getting it home, and giving the Remington a closer look, I realised it needed some quick TLC. The insides and back mechanism were coated with cobwebs and very thick balls of lint and dust, signs of at least 60 years of neglect. The typebasket couldn't pop up because of the left side guard was twisted out of shape and was sitting under the top of the ribbon spool. In situations such as this, the arm which holds the ribbon in place more often than not damages the paintwork on the top of the spool, but this can be easily repaired with the right paint.
The carriage lever was loose, having sprung a screw.  In a typewriter workshop, where there are many hundreds of spare parts, typewriter screws abound, so I guess it wasn't a 1000-1 shot that I found the right-sized screw at first pick. And that got the Remington fully functional.
The two things that I can't fix are the paper bail rollers, which have flattened out from sitting on the platen all these years. But that's really a minor thing and I'm thoroughly delighted with the way this typewriter now looks and works. I have to say that for a machine nearing 90 years of age, and obviously much neglected over the past six decades (since banging out a major thesis), this Remington is in remarkably good order. That says a lot about the design, engineering and manufacture of the time.

Monday 26 November 2018

The Typewriter Steals the Show at Canberra's National Capital Orchestra Concert

Canberra’s National Capital Orchestra performed Leroy Anderson’s 1950 composition “The Typewriter” during a concert under the direction of conductor Leonard Weiss at the John Lingard Hall, Canberra Grammar School, yesterday. Percussionist Veronica Bailey (née Walshaw, seen at the typewriter below) "played" my poppy red 1971 Adler Gabriele 25 portable typewriter. It was brilliant!
The hall was packed for the concert, called "Melodies for Kids: A Musical Tour of Favourite Melodies". Although the children were held spellbound by the performances  - which included pieces by Tchaikovsky, Grieg and Sibelius - they were even more greatly appreciated by the hundreds of adults in the audience.  Apart from "The Typewriter", the pieces included "March" and "Dance of the Reed Flutes" from The Nutcracker, "Dance of the Swans" from Swan Lake and "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt. Charles Hudson (seen seated bottom left below) narrated a traditional-style children's tale which, according to his story, was written on a typewriter by "Miss Scribble" (Veronica Bailey).
At the end of the concert, children interested in music were encouraged to meet orchestra members and take a close look at their instruments - in some cases even to play them. However, by far and away the greatest drawcard for the youngsters was the typewriter, and even long after the musical instruments had been packed away, children were still milling around Veronica Bailey as she explained the workings of the typewriter to them. The typewriter literally "stole the show"!

Sunday 25 November 2018

The Wedding Typewriter Gets a Solid Workout

The Olivetti Valentine got plenty of use at my son's wedding yesterday, ending with an hilarious limerick writing competition (the results of which I won't be scanning here!). The typewriter was passed around while wedding photographs were taken, and everyone killed the time by joining in the typing fun. Reading out best wishes telegrams is, of course, no longer a part of wedding receptions - I don't think telegrams exist any longer, do they? Apart from the loss of the necessary machinery and the service, the traditionally bawdy wedding telegram would no longer be considered PC (as if it ever was!). Anyway, best wishes messages for the happy couple were typed and provided on technology even older than the telegram:

Friday 23 November 2018

The Wedding Typewriter - a Valentine!

My youngest son Martin is getting married tomorrow, to Laura James. The wedding will take place at Tuggeranong Homestead, where Charles Bean from 1919-25 typed the first two volumes of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18. Instead of a Corona 3, the portable which Bean first used, it seems more appropriate on this occasion that the typewriter is an Olivetti Valentine: 

Tuesday 20 November 2018

'The Typewriter' Comes to Canberra

Leroy Anderson’s famous piece “The Typewriter”, composed in 1950 and the theme for one of the late Jerry Lewis’s most watched comic efforts, will be performed in Canberra for the first time next Sunday.
The typewriter to be used will be my poppy red Adler Gabriele 25, which I refurbished earlier this year.
The typewriter will be “played” by one of Canberra’s top percussionists, Veronica Walshaw, above, principle percussionist with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. Veronica will be playing with the National Capital Orchestra as a guest soloist specifically for this piece. 
The NCO first tried out a “playable” typewriter which belongs to the 97-year-old father of one of the orchestra members, but found the machine wasn’t fully functional. So Steven Strach, timpanist and percussionist with the NCO, came to me for help. Steven, a forensic document examiner by day, was the man who organised my typewriter workshop at the Australasian Forensic Document Examiners’ Conference in Sydney a few years back.
My first thought for “The Typewriter” performance was the poppy red Adler, but I offered two other machines, including an Oliver 5. And after Veronica also tried an Olivetti Lettera 32, she settled on the Adler.
There will be two performances on Sunday at the Canberra Grammar School, John Lingard Hall, Red Hill. Each will feature a theatrical component to “The Typewriter” piece.

Saturday 17 November 2018

The Rise of Female Political Journalism Down Under (I)

Pioneering Canberra political correspondent Gay Davidson - born Miringa Gay Yandle at Aranui, Christchurch, New Zealand, and a product of the Christchurch Press - has been inducted into the Australian Media Hall of Fame.
The hall, a promotion from the Melbourne Press Club, was yesterday expanded to include Australian Capital Territory journalists. Apart from Davidson (above), those added include World War One correspondent and historian Charles Bean (below, at a Bar-Let portable) and former Canberra Times editor Jack Waterford.
Davidson (1939-2004) was the daughter of immigrants to New Zealand: Dulverton, Somerset-born Geoffrey Allan Yandle (below) and his Cork, Ireland-born wife Abina (née Hegarty). Abina raised the baby Gay alone while Geoff served overseas with the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a pilot officer in World War Two.
Gay was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Name School, Christchurch Girls’ High School from 1951 and Canterbury University from 1957. She started her 46-year journalism career as a cadet with the Press in Christchurch in 1958 and two years later married fellow journalist Naylor Hillary (below).
 In 1967 Hillary won a Commonwealth Scholarship to the Australian National University in Canberra, to work on a PhD with a study of guerrilla conflicts in Southeast Asia. Gay settled here with him, but the marriage ended and Gay joined The Canberra Times. She had contacts in the newspaper through former Christchurch colleagues Robert (below) and Jeannie Ferris, with whom Gay and Naylor at first lived. 
Gay pioneered the "Gang Gang" page 3 column in The Canberra Times and graduated to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Press Gallery, becoming the first female head of bureau for any major Australian newspaper and the first woman president of the Press Gallery. She was later leader writer and senior columnist for The Canberra Times, a stringer for The Associated Press and a pioneering screenwriter on Telstra’s Viatel, a precursor to the Internet.
During Gay’s coverage of the infamous November 11, 1975, dismissal of the Labor Government by Governor-General Sir John Kerr, Gay was photographed beside sacked Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, trapped in a media scrum as David Smith, Secretary to the Governor-General, read aloud the dismissal proclamation. The image found its way on to a souvenir tea towel. 
She is better remembered today in what is known as Old Parliament House, or the Museum of Australian Democracy, with a display or her Adler Contessa semi-portable typewriter and tributes to her liberation of the lavatories.  One objection raised to her being appointed a political correspondent had been the absence of a ladies' lavatory within easy distance of The Canberra Times office in the Press Gallery. Gay assisted a female teleprinter operator in the adjacent offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, who had broken her leg, to use the men's lavatory by standing guard. Gay pressed a case for a shared toilet, saying there would be “no embarrassment” as most of the men in there would be “facing the wall”.The Parliament's Sergeant-at-Arms was informed, and the lavatory was re-designated and appointed as a uni-sex facility.
Gay’s second husband was Walkley Award and Journalist of the Year winner Ken Davidson (below), economics correspondent for The Australian from 1965-74 and economics editor of the Melbourne Age until 1993.
Gay Davidson’s elevation to the Australian Media Hall of Fame – she is only the 32nd woman inducted among 212 members, completely disproportionate given the rich history of female journalism in this country – caps a notable year in the history of female political journalism in both Australia and New Zealand.
Across the Tasman, 2018 marked a year when “Political reporting, like the country’s political management, underwent significant change.” One summary of the situation there said, “In much the same way that Jacinda Ardern has brought a different approach to political power in New Zealand, the changing of the media guard could see a different style of political reporting emerge. The political bureaux of all our main media organisations will be led by women for the first time ever. It was once true that women held few senior editorial or management positions in the media, but those days are long gone. Being ‘pale, male and stale’ is so 2017.”
In 1930s Australia, there were just two accredited female members of the Federal Press Gallery, Lynn Denholm from The Sydney Morning Herald and Norma Jones from the Melbourne Herald (above). In 1941 the Australian Journalists’ Association decided “the admission of women members to the Press Gallery is necessary in the general interests of the association”. By 1981 there were 25 female Gallery journalists among 180 Gallery members, and by 2015 that number had climbed to almost 100, or about one third of Gallery members.
NEXT: Stella May Henderson.