Sunday, March 8, 2009


Keetha's wistful thinking in yesterday's blogpost,, plus a lovely letter from a dear cousin, who thinks she'll write HER book on an old manual typewriter for authenticity's sake, whilst sitting among piles of books in a library---both got me to thinking about my own love affair with keyboards of all types.

It began long before Mrs. Spearman's typing class, with the clickety-clacks of a thousand locusts pouring from that door and out into the hall when class was in session. And I went into it with the determination and fury of a woad-smeared warrior. Aside from "getting some secretarial training to fall back on" there was the magic of putting words to paper in orderly lines and margins and paragraphs---Grail, and for ME.

Yes, Ma'am---66 words a minute on an old Royal manual, which felt like an anvil when you had to re-center it on your workspace. That was in high school, and I was quite proud of my speed and accuracy, when the requirement was 40.

When I see one of those heavy old dinosaurs, I always picture a movie with maybe Clark Gable, the rushed, filled-ashtray newspaperman, squinching his right eye against the smoke of a lit one clamped in the corner of his mouth, clacking away on one of those old Royals to beat the deadline, writing about Tammany Hall or Wall Street or maybe Hearst's little booboo on the yacht.

I learned on one like that, and when I went off to college, I carried a darling little turquoise Olivetti, in a matching case like a hatbox Marilyn Monroe might carry as she tripped those stilettos along too fast for her tight skirt. It had the neatest little almost-script typeface, and I did many a term paper and other writing on that little quiet machine.

When I met my first electric, it felt like stepping onto a runaway escalator---that thing could get away from you FAST and throw your feet right up over your head. I felt stifled, somehow, though the medium was so speedy---as if to get it RIGHT, I had to be much more careful, for fear that the "T" would be held down too long and strike four times in "Matttter" and I'd have to start over---no WAY could you erase that much and come out even.

And then my first Rollerball. That was even worse, and at my first job, I was lucky to have a nice regular-type machine that stored two sentences at a time, and you could open the top and proofread before you went on. THEN you could print the whole page all-at-once---what a marvel, and what a convenience.

But a lady across the room didn't get her rollerball clicked back in very well after cleaning it, and that little silver missile flew across the room and made a DENT in the wall. After that, I didn't wanna play any more; that thing was dangerous. Sounded like if a motorcycle's insides all came apart and rattled around in there, and then a big BANG THUMP!!! Coulda really HURT someone.

Now I'm so spoiled to a keyboard, I just fly and hope for the best---my mind just clickety-clacks along too fast to make a coherent idea most of the time, so I just type down what I'm thinking.

But there's SUCH a romance in a PEN, especially one with real ink and maybe a golden cap that you lift off and stick on the other end while you write on beautiful paper. I used to write letters every night of my life, to Mammaw for YEARS---she loved getting mail, and would write right back, though we were on the same phone line and no long distance. And to boyfriends and old college friends. At one time I had a pen pal each in France, Italy, England, Australia, and four missionaries in Tanzania.

I'd sit on my bed before sleeping, propped on the big green "Herman" pillow---one of those backrest things, and I have no idea why we called it that---nobody outside our family seemed to. Little lapboard and a writing-case full of pretty paper and cards, and away I'd go. It WAS a gentler time, wasn't it?

And Libraries---well those go without saying. We were moving to Alabama years ago, and Chris went over and found us a little rental house, everything in it but the towels---the owner had gone into a nursing home and her children rented it with everything intact. He came back with two polaroids of kitchen and front porch, the key, and my new library card. I was all set. And we loved living there---we used to ride through everytime we'd go through Atlanta.

Just the scent of books and the ideas and the endless vistas down those shelves of treasure---Dorothy's Door and Aladdin's Cave and Garden of Delights all-in-one. I DO love books. And whatever it takes to make them, idea to The End.


Tonja said...

I have said many times that if I could just get my hands on an old manual typewriter, I'd be a happy woman! I learned on one, too. And LOVED the sound of all those clicks coming out of the typing class.

I am a newcomer to the computer, and do not think I could write a proper letter on one if my life depended on it. I only know as much as my boys have time to teach me...s l o w l y.

Now books...I love them...and the way they smell. I love going into a library. I think to myself..."Here, I can find out how to do anything in the world I want to...and learn about anything I want to's all right here in these books."

I know you can do the same thing on the computer...but there is just something that feels right about finding the book...and opening it up, and searching for the information.

I also learned shorthand in school. Now that was fun! I still remember a few of the symbols. Then, my years in the nursing profession, we used a different kind of shorthand to chart with. So, sometimes when I write things out, it will be a combination of nurses notes, old shorthand, and my handwriting!

racheld said...

Sounds like a promising combination!!! Wonder what the name of that language would be---the only letter of shorthand I recognize is "ish" and so I'd probably think of it as Medscribeish.

But the birthday that Chris' Mom showed us where his Dad had written "I love you," in shorthand on her bare hip is family legend.

Minnesota Matron said...

The Matron loves you for commenting on her daughter's blog :-)!

Keetha said...

It was a gentler time, indeed. I think I'll try writing my hand more often. Just for the fun of it.