I have a new typewriter. I say “new”, but it’s really over 40 years old. I won it on eBay for 30 bucks plus shipping. It’s a Royal Mercury portable typewriter from the 1960s or 70s; not the same as the typewriter I had as a teenager, but it’s bringing back all those same feels. It’s only had one owner before me who had it since his childhood and in his listing he said it was time for him to let it go. I told him I would take very good care of it for him.
I cleaned it last night, and today it took me over four attempts to install a new black ribbon. It seems like this machine had been sitting around in its case for dozens of years, so naturally the old ribbon was dried out. I wonder now if it would have been easier for me if I had chosen to install the black and red ribbon. I think the orientation on those spools would have been more obvious (deep sigh) of course, hindsight is 20/20. I wore gloves, but still got ink everywhere — I have no idea how this happened. I will need to clean the keys again.
I will admit I watched at least three YouTube videos on how to clean sticky keys, the proper way to replace a ribbon, and what cleaning agents to use and/or avoid (NO WD-40! Who knew?). Because I could not find a video with my exact model, the videos really did not help me very much. In fact, UGH! I wound up typing a little hole through my new ribbon because it wasn’t advancing properly on the spool; my error I thought. Then I decided not to follow the instructions on the replacement ribbon which said to insert the spools “star side down”; I flipped them star side up and again threaded the ribbon through all the tiny metal bars and, Voila! Success!
I don’t plan to use this Mercury for letter writing, or for correspondence in general, I bought it to create text for mixed media pieces I’m working on. Nothing fancy, I just needed to be able to type out some phrases whenever I wanted them.
However, buying this typewriter triggered a bunch of writing-related memories for me. I was going to analyze those thoughts in this post until I had to deal with all the technical issues setting the thing up. So, I have written about the set up process instead, lol.
I will say that the courier font reminded me of mail I used to receive as a small child—Poems and stories typed on half sheets of paper: ALL CAPS. These stories arrived in envelopes addressed directly to me, written by my grandfather (Papa). I was always the star character in these stories but sometimes he would include my beloved cat* (which occurs to me now as my cat, Sweetie, who does not seem to feel that well today, has just jumped up and stretched out on the bed next to me.)
Other memories include having to write thank you notes for all of my birthday and holiday gifts. Usually these were cards that contained a five dollar bill. I received them periodically from my Uncle Archie and Aunt Rose; and my Uncle Bob and Aunt Sally. This was my childhood training—if someone sent you a gift or a letter, it was your responsibility to thank them for their thoughtfulness.
Tangentially, I used to listen to Danny Kaye’s album “Mommy Gimme a Drinka Water” orchestrated by the wonderful Gordon Jenkins with music and lyrics by Milton Kaufman. On that album there is a great song called “The Thank You Letter” and it reinforced the idea that you need to thank your Aunt Sally. It also taught me about “Freudian slips” but I digress, if you want to hear it YouTube provides a clear version here:
I have some other thoughts I would like to share about different types of correspondence I enjoy. In the near future I will post and link that content in a “Part 2”.
*I would tell you the name of my childhood cat but for the fear of data-mining. Oh my! This crazy world!