I own 7 typewriters. Most people think that is 7 too many. Typewriters are not commonplace in most homes these days. When they are, it’s usually for decorative purposes. The keys often stuck. The ribbons dried or missing altogether. Rust coating the exterior corners and inner workings bringing a once flawless symphony of metal movement to a gummy halt. There are still a few of us, though, that have a different perspective on these old metal writing machines. For us, 7 is not nearly enough.
I am a bibliophile. I am a history lover. I am a lover of antiques and all things with an overlooked and old story. I remember having a typewriter in the house when I was a child. I think my mom bought it from Sears. It was a massive beast of a thing. It was electric and there was nothing even slightly appealing about it, aside from the slight clacking sound the keys made. The only alternative to paper and pen, I used it whenever I was allowed. But it wasn’t until many years later in 2012, when I finally came to own my own typewriter. Bought off Ebay, which was an incredible risk that luckily ended well. It is a 1929 Royal Model P in the most beautiful and rare blue. It was a Christmas gift from my husband and it was in remarkable condition. From the moment my fingertips first pressed down on the keys, the little spark of fascination and curiosity within me ignited into a fully engulfed passion. My next purchase wasn’t until 2015 of a little Corona that was selling for only $15 in a floral and home goods shop. Some of the inner workings are missing and it would cost more to restore than it is worth, so this one is kept around for her beauty alone. Within a matter of weeks I came across my 3rd typewriter, a 1929 LC Smith & Corona model 8. Only $25 in an antique store that was on its way out of business. I still remember the look on my husband’s face when I came home with it in my arms. He was less than amused at my growing collection of non-functioning metal writing boxes. Into my library this one went, on the top shelf of my bookcase. I may still have this one restored in time, but for now she adds a lovely presence to my little literary retreat. This is where my story takes a fortuitous turn.
December 2018. My husband and I were on our way to a wedding in Bremerton, Washington. As we rounded the drive to our lodging for the evening, the quick flash of a small sign almost failed to catch my eye. “Typewriter sales & Repairs – OPEN” . What, what?!! After a rushed check in, we dumped all our belongings and I pushed my husband back out the door for a quick walk around the corner. There within a grouping of older buildings was Bremerton Office Machine Company. We buzzed the entry door and shortly thereafter a gentleman descended from the original art deco era elevator and let us in. Upon walking into his shop my heart skipped a few beats and I couldn’t help but hold my breath. Mr. Paul Lundy was just the man I needed to meet.
In business since 1947, this little typewriter repair shop is an absolute and essential treasure in today’s throwaway mindset where it is cheaper to replace than restore. The original owner, Mr. Bob Montgomery, had been repairing typewrites since we was a child at his father’s side in their small out-of-home business near Seattle’s 3rd and Marion. Mr. Montgomery entered WW2 as an infantryman but was quickly recruited in typewriter repair for some of the highest ranking officials at HQ in London. Once returning from war, they made a move to Bremerton and continued typewriter repairs for the US Navy. Mr. Montgomery continued repairs out of this same shop until 2014. Having apprenticed under Mr. Montgomery for several years, Mr. Lundy had received expert instructions in typewriter repair and formed a wonderfully close relationship with Mr. Montgomery. This lead to Paul offering to take over the shop and carry on the legacy of typewriter repair. Mr. Montgomery lived to the age of 96, passing away in September of 2018, and continued to work in the shop at Paul’s side until his death.
The presence of Mr. Montgomery is still very evident in the shop among the many tools, parts, and machines awaiting repair. I returned to see Mr. Lundy in January of 2019, where I brought him my little Model P for a good cleaning and tune up. I also brought him my 4th typewriter, a 1957 Royal QDL that I picked up just before Christmas. I bought this typewriter for $40 and gifted it to my three boys to allow them their own place to learn the joy that comes with manual typing. I spent several hours in his shop on this day where he told me all about Mr. Montgomery and the process of typewriter repair. We discussed tools and tricks, the process of restoration and cleaning, the ability to find parts and the general role that typewriters play for those of us that love them. Realizing I had taken up all too much of his time, I finally forced myself to let him get back to his work. As his door closed, literally, another door opened, also literally. And that is where my story takes another spectacular turn.
Next door to Bremerton Office Machine Company was the most perfectly paired companion you could ever imagine. Another small business. Another treasure. Typewriter Fever. Inside this extraordinary space was hundreds of the most beautiful, rare and perfectly restored typewriters you will ever set eyes on. I literally gasped as I took in all the colors and different style keys. I asked the owner, Don, how he possibly came to own so many typewriters. He found that by the time he retired from many years of service with the Washington State Ferries, his collection of typewriters had grown to over 600. His wife lovingly yet firmly encouraged him to begin parting ways with a few. I left his shop with my 5th typewriter, and the one I have come to use most often. A pristine 1955 Olympia SM3. Oh, how glorious she is!
I’ve since made two more trips to visit Mr. Lundy. My mother gave me a stunning 1975 yellow Adler Tippa S. I brought her to Paul for a cleaning and he was just as enthralled with her as I am. So much so he gave her a mention on his blog. https://typespec.com/bright-yellow-adler-tippa-s/. She is quaint and perfect and fluent in German as her keyboard clearly dictates. Unfortunately, I am not, but I type on her nonetheless and we seem to find our way through our alphabetical differences just fine. I have taken her with me to restful destinations, allowing me to type in solitude as her small and light frame allows for easy transport. My last trip thus far to Mr. Lundy was to pick her back up, and it was a bittersweet farewell as I knew it would be some time before I could justify the expense of another typewriter. If you are keeping track you are now at 6, and will have started to wonder where my 7th typewriter came from. My 7th was gifted by one of my dearest friends. It was her father’s, and when he passed and she found it among his things tucked quietly away in his office, I was the new home that came to mind. There is a great deal of sentiment on the keys of that Signature 300. My friend’s father took loving care of her and retained the original manual and repair shop reference sheet from the early 1960’s. She will remain well cared for and treasured in my home just as she was by my dear friend’s father.
There is something absolutely magnetic about typing on a typewriter. It’s hard to put into words when trying to explain to someone who asks about my oddly random passion. But, even people who don’t own one tend to have a fondness for the clack sound the keys make when striking paper. To a writer, the typewriter is so much more than fanciful sentiment. The historian in me often wonders what incredible tales the keys have told. How many love letters were written on these keys? Maybe someone’s deepest confessions? Perhaps the first draft for a novel? I make a point to write all my first drafts on my typewriters. I also write occasional correspondences to friends via typewriter. My typewriters do not have the ability to delete or correct. What you first type, remains on the paper always. So it is as raw and true as writing could ever be. I find that nowadays, when we type on our Macs or PCs, we delete so much of what we type as we type it. Changing thought mid-sentence, finding new words to replace our original choices. This is certainly all part of the writing process, as very rarely is the first draft of anything ever the final draft. But, by deleting these initial thoughts and descriptors, we are deleting all the potential they brought with them. Many of these thoughts we first consider rubbish actually have a very purposeful point and may be something we should in fact be expanding on rather than omitting. By typing a first draft, I find all my thoughts, my words, my mental trail of intention clearly exposed and preserved. I can then go through and cross out what I don’t like, rephrase what wasn’t justly expressed and expand on the little ideas that were perhaps not given their due credit the first time around. Some computer programs allow you to look back and see your corrections and edits, but to me it’s not the same.If you are a writer and have never typed, I encourage you to give it a try. It is the most honest and raw way to allow your thoughts to transpire into something greater, aside from a pen and paper, that is. And, if you are in need of a typewriter for purchase or repair, now you know where to go.
* Just a note, Typewriter Fever has since moved to a new larger location allowing even more typewriters to be on display for admiration and purchase.
Read the book, plant the flowers, take the trip, and always have the courage to be kind.