The Manual Typewriter, A thing of the past
My father owned an old Olympia, a German-made typewriter. It now sits on top of an old steel cabinet, rusty and dusty. I have been thinking of cleaning it and see if I could condition it to work. Maybe I would get to that sometime. (For more info on how a manual typewriter works, check this out http://www.explainthatstuff.com/typewriter.html )
I have not tried yet to look for the serial number and the date it was made. It would surely take some thorough cleaning to find them. Nonetheless, I do not think it can be considered as a collector’s item. Of course those made the earliest would undoubtedly interest typewriter collectors. But, even so, I did a quick research on these finger-powered mechanical machines to learn some things. The most collectible and rare are the Underwood No. 5 and the Royal Grand, as they are among the early ones. Writers and journalists preferred the Grand, from what I have read. And my Dad’s Olympia is just as old I am, though I do not look as rusty and beaten!
I remember those fingers touching and hitting the keys, strong and determined. The rhythm of those typing sounds, click-clack, click-clack, still lingers in my ears. I do not really think it made a click-clack sound though. Just the closest I could think of. It makes my lips twitch remembering those distinct sounds the manual typewriter made. A little bell sound when the carriage reached the end of the line, a zipper zipping-like sound when rolling the platen knob to feed or remove the paper. Or the zing it made when pushing the return lever. I can still remember a lot of tiny details connected to the typewriter. But I remember more of the big one, that of the man who sat by it.
My dad was not one who uses all ten fingers when typing. I think he only used three on each hand. He did not type fast, mainly because he did not like to make errors. Same thing when writing down on paper, he wrote every letter in cursive with very careful strokes.
Father had a flair for speaking Spanish as well an excellent command of English. He had a great talent for writing essays, speeches and poems and he could easily spot misspellings, incorrect grammar and syntax. He was a family man, a lawyer and a public servant . And being such the last two, his Olympia had unarguably withstood the test of time surviving documents, school projects, and even my mom’s school paperworks. In the village where I grew up, Father was among the only few who owned a manual typewriter. Understandably, when neighbors or friends needed some typewriting done, they would come to our place and ask if they could use it.
The clunky typewriter used to sit on its metal table with folding sides. This typewriter table had little wheels that made creaking sounds when rolled down the wooden floor. I have a vivid recollection of my father moving and positioning it to wherever he found it comfortable working. Sometimes, in the middle of typing, he would take a break but not without putting down the paper bail first. He wanted to make sure the papers he was typing on would still be in the same exact position. I should know because I had been in the same frustrating situation where I would get back to my typing and found out that the letters had jumped to a different line. Even the slightest movement would cause that.
Moving forward, I can not help but think of what we have today, the digital edge. I also think about what my dad would have thought of smartphones, tablets and computers. He passed away three months after his 65th birthday, in 2000, when most of the people in my community did not have much access to the world wide web yet. How I wish he were still around to witness how new technologies are shaping the world now. It would have been fun to see him touch-swipe screen, browsing the web and reading the world news. He liked to read anything that would stimulate his intellect. New inventions, as simple and small as a solar powered flashlight would have amazed him. He would have been excited to try new things.
Would he have switched to encode on a computer and print? Perhaps he would have, but I am certain he still would have kept the old typewriter by his side. It had always been a part of him like it has been of me.
So no, I am not selling my dad’s Olympia, even if its worth would be so much more than the Grand’s. Its value is priceless. This old typewriter is not just a family remembrance of my dad. The legacy is far beyond what is tangible, beyond all the words this typewriter had ever produced.
The mere sight of it makes me think of the things that mattered to my father. Like how writing meant so much to him. It serves as a constant reminder for me to pursue my passion, and to at least try to aim for perfection. And now I think of my own writing, my posts, my forever attempt at blogging. I knew mine is a far cry from his, with all the flaws which I may have never even noticed. But if only Dad were here now reading what I am writing, I am most certain I would see him with a very approving smile.