A Room of One\’s Own


Read about 229 Spring Street

Since Strikethru threw down the gauntlet and asked us to dream up our own writing shacks,I thought I\’d play along. This was easy, because I picked out this Dream Shack a few weeks ago while visiting Eureka Springs, AR and very nearly not returning.

So it\’s not a shack, actually, but it is for sale and it called to me distinctly every time I rode down the mountain to go into  or out of town. This little house tugged at me, I tell you.

I know the conversation about writing shacks began with the whole back-to-basics, typewriter-on-a-table philosophy, and I wholly agree – we need to disconnect and find a room of our own. I get it. I\’m not having some kind of Pinterest-induced Southern Living magazine fantasy.

But LOOK at it. 

Bear with me here. Let\’s say you\’re out in your backyard writing shack, in the gawdalmighty zone and typing like a best-selling fiend on the finest typewriter Remington ever made. You\’re an articulate machine gun, and you\’re thirsty for a tall glass of iced tea which should be within arm\’s reach, but is now empty. Or, you have to powder your nose. It happens.

Just then, your wife/husband/child/grandkid shouts out across the lawn and into your zone. \”Do you need anything from the store?\” they say. Or \”Hey, where are my…?\”

And it\’s gone.

The answer is to leave town, really. Move to, say, Eureka Springs and buy a sweet little house so you can live on two levels that step out upon two different streets. Better yet, win the lottery, buy the Eureka house, and tell absolutely no one what you have done. That way they can\’t follow you.

(Do click on the link and read about the house. There are more pictures, but I knew I\’d lose complete typewriter shack cred if I put them up here.)


BAROP Update: The Changing of the Guard

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It was only a matter of time, really. Our Writing Center typewriter – a dubious Remington Quiet-Riter – bit the techno-dust and had to be replaced. All that creative effort on the Big Ass Roll of Paper, all those timid hands clacking out their first mechanical writing, well, it was too much for the old girl. She threw a feed roller. Not AT us, mind you, but certainly in revolt.

I went home and made a quick search under the bed for another machine that could take the kind of semi-Kerouacian punishment our writing tutors can dish out. And look what I found.

This sweet Royal was an Ebay chance I took a year ago. I paid more in shipping, and not much there. What arrived was this completely pristine Royal Quiet Deluxe. She’s an odd textured green – something between August grass and Ozark moss. The roller had never been struck and all the paperwork sat tucked inside the top of the case.

The truth is, I’d forgotten about this little jewel. And yes, I feel a little guilty about it.

Jennifer and I retired the Quiet-Riter with all the dignity due that toad-colored workhorse. Spinning the BAROP gingerly out was a tad tricky considering missing feed roller and the delicacy of the teletype roll, not to mention the enormous length of the damn thing. It was a two-woman job.

I think I heard “Taps” playing softly behind us, but I’m not sure.

Meet Percy, the First Rooster in the Hen House

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Percy came to me in a dream, almost. I’d been hunting one of these with a vengeance for some time and with no luck whatsoever. Then – just as it happens with true love – I stopped looking and this Royal KHM showed up at my office door with a fist full of road-picked flowers and a shy grin.

It seems he’s not from around here. Probably hopped a train from Chicago – I found the barest remnant of it stamped on the shreds of his vinyl cover. You know, I live in a train town and it’s not least bit unusual to find a wayward traveler here and there. I’ve taken him in, promised hot water and hot meals in return for a little office work.

Oh, he’s filthy. I knocked out dirt-dobber nests and a couple of spider skeletons. Despite that, I was able to dust him off, put in a new ribbon, and begin typing as if not a day had passed since 1936. A steady, even Elite. This will be my new office typewriter – after a good going over.

Ed, I’m sorry you couldn’t get your hands on this one. You would’ve loved it.

B.A.R.O.P. vs. University Writing Center

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The Old Remington Quiet-Riter has a new home and a special purpose. The Writing Center at the University of Central Arkansas now has corner dedicated to the Retrotech Arts, complete with a B.A.R.O.P. There’s also a suitable vintage table and chair, courtesy of my good friend Jennifer, whose lot in life is to keep the Writing Center tutors knowledgeable and fresh.

I have it on good authority that the paper roll is full of daily poetry, cryptic messages, and mysterious intrigues. All this despite the fact that not one of the tutors is old enough to remember typing up footnoted term papers on the real clanking deal.

This is the first of many projects planned this year using the manual typewriter/B.A.R.O.P. combination, so stay tuned.

I’ve got a lot more typewriters, a whole box filled with Big-Ass Rolls of Paper, and students who aren’t afraid to use them.

Things I Didn’t Win on Ebay This Weekend

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learly, my luck has taken a sad turn. I can’t seem to catch an Ebay break. So, instead of sharing with you the fabulous goodies I snagged for a song on Ebay, I’ll let you peek at the Big Ones That Got Away.

First up, the glorious red Corona typewriter above. I was convinced no one but me saw this beauty languishing around the $10-$15 price range. I was wrong. The bidding took a frantic turn and left me with my pocketbook hanging open. Craving this typewriter brought me nothing but heartache and the understanding that no, I cannot run with the big dogs.

What are these? I’ve never seen anything like them before, and can only assume they’re little pillow-like attachables to make slamming the keyboard a little less, well, slammin. I can’t decide if these were a good idea, or a terrible mess. Did the typist have to dodge flying cushions when (not if) they detached mid-memo? And why “Park Avenue”? I’ll never know. A badly-timed phone call yanked my attention away at precisely the wrong moment. Bye-bye, key cushions.

This perfect collection of vintage stationery began at around $10. Who else on the planet needs this worse than I do? No one, I tell you. Not one soul. I would have won these, too, if my computer hadn’t chose the last half-minute of the auction to do its weekly virus update. Pop-ups stole my Ebay stationery, and I may never recover.

Unlike the stationery fiasco, I’m fairly certain the person(s) who drove up the price of this vintage paper are people I know. Scallywags, all of them. Just look at that box – couldn’t you die? I’m dying a little every time I think about it.

This bizarre piece of political history needs no explanation. You know why I wanted it. It would be fascinating, though to know who the four bidders were, because it’s always comforting to know there are others out there functioning just a half-bubble off center. I have no idea why I missed this one. Just looked away for a second and it was gone.

I‘m not bitter about losing these Ebay auctions. Well, not all of them. I’d like to find the old bidding mojo again, though, because all this losing is beginning to make me look bad. I fear for my Ebay street-cred, and with good reason.

When my typewriter friends post elegant Hiawatha-watermarked typecasts, don’t worry. I’ll put on a brave face.

Setting up a Tent at the Retro-Tech Revival

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we have a convert. Abby’s a fresh college graduate and an extraordinary writer who edited our literary magazine last year. The pink GoLightly was a gift from me and a sterling example of Writertypes’ fine mechanical voodoo.

I don’t know another soul on the planet who would change out type bars to cursive and paint an old Sears Forecaster just the right shade of ballet slipper pink. What a man.

Abby says,

I swear, it was meant to be. I typed away until I was out of ideas, which is something that hasn’t happened for me in a very long time. Something about the medium of a typewriter makes words feel so deliberate and special, without backspace, every sentence and thought is, am I meant to say that or maybe I needed to say that.

Shake the tambourines, brothers and sisters.

Mystery Machine Reveal

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Just had this dropped off at the house. No time for a real camera or a dusting off, nothing but cobwebs and cellphone pictures, baby. I had to beat the rain.

For those playing Guess That Machine along with us at home, the serial number of this Royal beauty is B-75795mumble. The mumble part is either a 4 or a very small A. If I were a betting woman, I’d call it an A, although the size of the letter/number appears to be much smaller than the others and in a different strike-font. According to The Typewriter Serial Number Database, that means it’s either a 1937 Aristocrat (maybe that’s what the A is for) or a 1937 Royal Speed King. You tell me.

Here’s the thing – the case is nearly perfect and the roller is brand new. Spongy, actually. The S-key stuck a little, but after typing a bit, it loosened up. Bouncy. And she types a delicate elite – hard to tell from my hasty scan. Since the typebars are also free of ink and the ribbon appears to be at the beginning, it’s a good assumption that perhaps once upon a time this sweet Royal Whatever was sold or serviced and put in a closet forever. Or until last week. Nothing about this typewriter shows any use. Seriously, all I’m looking at here is a little dust and a few cobwebs. The more I type, by the way, the darker the ink gets.

If so, I certainly know who serviced and sold it. Russellville is about 45 minutes from here, a sleepy college town where the “Wonder Boys” learned agri-science at Arkansas Polytechnic (now Arkansas Tech).

Three years after this typewriter was manufactured, December 1940, one in four of their male students was called up for duty with the 206th Coast Artillery. Life Magazine even did a pictorial about their going-away party. Bless their hearts, those Arkansas Tech boys were sent to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The story of the voyage alone is worth the read.

Now, I don’t have anything whatsoever in or on this typewriter case that tells me some Ozark mountain boy had to leave it behind to serve in WWII. I do know that in those years and in that place higher education was an expensive rarity for most, and a new typewriter even more so. Few others living in Russellville, Arkansas would have need for a typewriter at all, let alone a portable.

The handful of girls who went to college at all would’ve gone down the road to Arkansas State Teachers’ College (now UCA, where I hold forth), but only if they were terribly rich or quite plain. That’s the way it was. This is not a woman’s typewriter. While it would have been well cared-for, it would’ve been used.

If you listen very closely, you can hear me making up the story.