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Monday, 17 January 2022

Setting Up a 1940 Remington Portable Typewriter From Right Across the Continent

Long distance information, give me Freo WA

Help me find a party who’s 2000 miles away

She did not leave a number, but I know who placed the call

'Cause I saw her little typer sitting right there in the hall

Last evening, just as I was settling down to watch the cricket Test on TV, a photo of a typewriter popped up on my Facebook page. Nothing unusual in that. Facebook friends often post typewriter images on my page, or otherwise draw my attention to them, which is very thoughtful and nice of them. Usually they have come across a typewriter at a market or an op-shop or bric-a-brac store, or on display somewhere. They’re not interested so much in the typewriter itself, it’s just that they know I’m interested and they’d like to encourage my interest.

It turned out the typewriter photo that landed up on my Facebook page last evening was different. It was owned by a Facebook friend, a former colleague from my days working for West Australian Newspapers in the 1980s. In fact, my old friend, Jolly, had only just received the typewriter herself. I had belonged to her mother, a former country correspondent for West Australian Newspapers and for what was back in the day the Australian Broadcasting Commission (since 1983 a corporation).  The typewriter had been stored in a garage since her death in 2002, and was handed to her daughter, Jolly, only last week.

It is a 1940 Remington Standard Model 5 portable (which in itself raises some questions*). Jolly asked for my advice, given my “expertise” on the subject of typewriters. What did I think? I wasn’t sure what to think at first, apart from making some observations based on the photos. The case was obviously water damaged, and its clasp was clearly rusted. But the typewriter itself looked to be in very good condition for its age.

I suggested Jolly should go to Richard Polt’s Classic Typewriter Page, click on the link to his page of detailed information about Remington portables, and get some idea about the age of the machine.  Then I noticed the typewriter was sitting in the lid of the case and the base, with its two clasps to hold the typewriter in place, was acting as the lid. This is a very common mistake people make – they assume the thinner of the two case sections is the lid.

Anyway, this observation lead to a exchange on Messenger that lasted a good hour or more. In the end, not only was the typewriter clasped in place in the base of the case, but it was working and Jolly was thrilled to be writing with it. In the meantime, we had worked out such things as the where the carriage lock was, the correct threading of the ribbon, the ribbon spools movement, getting fresh ribbon through Richard Amery, if needed, where the apostrophe was (above the 8), the right margin release key, the back space key, the ribbon colour selector switch and the touch control switch.

At first I had wondered what use I could be in offering any technical advice from a distance of 2000 miles, one side of the Continent to the other. Jolly still lives in Western Australia, I am in Canberra, and our means of communication was Messenger. But it all turned out fine, with the best possible result at the end of the evening – Jolly so happily typing away on her mother’s old Remington portable. During our exchanges (37 in all) a group of mutual friends joined in – mostly by simply reading our messages – and they too expressed their delight in following the whole procedure.

And I was left of a feeling of satisfaction that all this could be achieved over such a vast distance.

*I'm a bit curious about how this 1940 model reached Australia. After tariffs had been doubled here in 1932, imports were greatly restricted four years later. The Australian Government, reacting to a yawning imbalance in trade between this country and the United States, barred fully assembled American typewriters from being imported. Remington assembled US-made parts in Sydney and sold the machines as "Australian built", but these were confined to earlier portables, such as the Model 4. I know of a former West Australian editor who brought a Remingon Rand Model 1 back home from the US for personal use, but by and large it would have been very difficult for an Australian to get his or her hands on "new" Remingtons during the early years of World War II.

1 comment:

Richard P said...

Well done!

I note that the Remington logo is '50s style. Maybe the typewriter was reconditioned at that time?