Vintage Writing Keepsakes, because I’m Sick of Talking Politics

No Telling

I believe it’s time for a political break. The whole mess has put me in a sour mood and I’d rather talk about writing goodies. So here are a few vintage writing keepsakes I’ve been collecting while on my tiny address book binge. I can’t help myself, really – they’re cheap, easy to find, and a complete delight to actually use. The lovely embedded abalone memo book with pencil above is my absolute favorite, and it only set me back about $4.00 on Ebay.

Oh, you can spend a fortune on the real McCoy sterling silver keepsakes, but I’m all about the cheap brass or tin variety. The memo covers are always just this side of classy and don’t seem to tarnish or wear in an unattractive way. The delicate brass pencil is a bit of a problem, though – I can’t seem to find the right size lead. It has to fit perfectly. The whole thing is 2 1/2″ by 4 1/2″ and finding little replacement notepads is no problem at all. It doesn’t appear to have been used much, if at all. only one piece of the original paper is torn off. This little keepsake must have lost it’s initial luster quickly for some reason.
There’s nothing quite like jotting a little here-and-there note in this compact keepsake – I’ve had to get over my post-it note brainwashing, though. It’s embarrassing trying to stick a note that simply doesn’t stick.

This little notebook is the same size and weighs almost nothing. It’s made completely out of cheap tin, cost all of $2.00, and I couldn’t love it more. The name “Evelyn” and pieces of an address in Pennsylvania are hand-etched on the inside cover, and it looks like our girl made her own notepads out of scratchy rag paper, cutting each page by hand and fastening them together with a staple.
This one wasn’t a throwaway keepsake at all. I’m guessing Evelyn had this for quite some time, writing lists and addresses and directions and things to remember. I’m also guessing Evelyn in Pennsylvania was quite proud of this sweet little memo book and might have made a modest public showing of pulling it out to make this note and that. In rooms where all the girls have ornate sterling, it wouldn’t work. But in a world of women with no silver memo books at all – tin or otherwise – Evelyn would be quite a hit.
My grandmother told me once that if your pearls aren’t real, you must either have an electric smile or a very fast walk. I’ll bet Evelyn had a winning smile.

The Thing About a Typewriter…

No Telling

…is you can write on almost anything. I’ve been digging through some so-so poems and surgically removing keeper lines here and there. In the middle of this, I got a package in the mail filled with all manner of clipped bits from old magazines. Add to this my house full of typewriters and there you go. Now the keepers have someplace to go and all is right in the world.

It takes so little to make me happy. I mean that.

They’re impossible to read as-is, so click on each one to make it bigger.

The other thing about a typewriter is that you can’t correct anything, so all typos are “beauty marks.”


No Telling

Well, I’ve been on Ebay again. And look what I found…this is a tee-ninsy woman’s address book – just 1 3/4″ by 2 1/2″. It literally fits in the palm of my hand and is so shiny/classy I almost feel like a dimestore starlet. The button beside the letters slides up and down, and when I push the little cigarette case-like button on the bottom the book opens up to just that page. This little address-keeper has no scribbling in it whatsover, and a 1955 calendar on the back of each page. An unwanted gift, maybe, from a beau she didn’t love. Or the one who couldn’t buy her something better.

His name might have been Roger, or Jim, or Richard – nothing dashing enough, really, for her to write in the little book. Maybe the gift was a disappointment, a decision made, not enough. After she left him outside the door, she may have tucked it away in a scarf drawer with the other almost-but-not-quite things from perfectly nice gentlemen who wore the wrong hats or didn’t quite manage to shine their shoes. Another trinket from a fellow working behind a counter instead of a desk.
I’m sure he knew she was too good for him. He knew when she opened the box.
And he was such a nice one, too. Awfully sweet. That’s why she didn’t have the heart to throw it away or fill it up with other men’s addresses. It’s a heavy guilt saying no to a worthy man who falls short in ways you’re ashamed to admit matter. But they did matter.
Oh my.
It’s mine now – the address book and the story. Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter – it’s true enough.

Hi. I’m Monda and I’m an office supply addict.

No Telling

Ever since I was a little girl hanging out at my father’s desk, I’ve had a thing for office supplies. Yellow college-ruled legal pads, killer Swingline staplers that look like miniature Buicks, Flair felt-tip pens, copy sets you can load in a typewriter to make multiple, tissue-paper copies – pink ones. Oh, and empty “Blue Books” just made for writing tiny novels, steno pads with that fabulous “eye-ease” green paper, and boxes broken at the edges but stocked with hundreds of sheets of Eaton onionskin paper. I can’t even talk about my love affair with envelopes. It’s just too much.

You know, I lived the double-luck of having a father who was both a professor and a coach. You know what that means. Clipboards.

It was easy to keep me entertained and out of everyone’s way – Dad just sat me in the corner or at a spare table in his office (home or school), and there I’d stay scribbling and typing and stapling and creating. His Hendrix office sported an old Royal typewriter the color and weight of a boat anchor. At home, it was a spiffy early sixties Smith-Corona Galaxie. No one ever really taught me to type, and I never really learned in any productive way. It didn’t matter, though, since the whole point was to keep me busy and out of trouble. Besides, I had writing to do.

I imagine there are scores of teacher’s kids out there with the same accidental training. The other eventuality is this unhealthy craving for office supplies. It honed my tastes and made me quite particular about writing tools.

I’d rather write in my own blood than use a ballpoint pen, for example. And forget pencils. There’s just something about them that anticipates making a mistake. There’s nothing sexy about erasure and correction – I don’t like the temporary nature of that business. I’ve got a friend and colleague who refuses to use anything but yellow number two pencils of a particular make and model. Ticonderoga? Something like that. Bless his heart, is all I can say, because – writing instrument aesthetics aside – he’s having quite a time finding a damned pencil sharpener. They just don’t automatically install those in the back of every room like they used to.

Oddly enough, I’ve never craved fountain pens. Too scratchy. The only thing that pulled me away from felt-tip Paper Mate Flairs was the advent of gel pens, Uniballs in particular. I buy them by the box and always have about six jangling around in my purse. Ah, heaven.

Paper is where I get into real trouble. Those yellow, hardbacked, college-ruled legal pads are my siren song. Can’t stay away from them. Even though I’ve matured into more of a Moleskine XL Cahier kind of gal, I can’t leave Office Depot without at least one package of legal pads in tow. Besides, the Depot doesn’t sell Moleskine. For that I have to walk into a bookstore, and those trips only cause more shelving problems.

In my pre-Moleskine days, I bought stacks of chemistry notebooks. I still do, actually. For those of you unfamiliar, these are like composition books only more elaborately bound. The paper is that magical “eye-ease” green of old steno pads, but they’re college-ruled and the pages are numbered. As an angsty teen I bought these at the college bookstore and wrote page after numbered page of bad poetry covered in tears and cigarette burns. Last summer, I went to a lot of trouble to get those put on the college bookstore shelves again. Count on the fact that I always have at least one Moleskine and one chemistry notebook going at all times.

Just yesterday Strikethru introduced me to an entirely new affliction that I ordered immediately – Apica notebooks. I only bought one just in case, but I’m sure to soon start juggling three different scribbling books, dammit. Take a look at them – they’re irresistible and we can blame Strikethru.

Swingline staplers. The old ones never die or break, not even if you staple through leather or drop them fifty times. I have one on my desk right now that sat on my father’s desk in the sixites. It works like a charm and weighs a good three pounds – if I ever have the need it can double as weaponry. When it comes to staplers, newer is never better. At work, I’ve been through four plastic staplers in two years and good riddance to them all.
My addiction is too involved to fully explain in a mere blog post. To do it right, I’d need to make another trip to the Depot or some other Palace of Paper to get more supplies. Legal pads, probably. And file folders. Hmmm.

The Death of the Polaroid


These aren’t really Polaroids. I know they look like a stack of Polaroid pictures, but in reality they’re just a little Picasa 2 magic. Pick a folder, click the button, and all your pictures pile up like a mid 70s post-Christmas coffee table. It’s quick. It’s fun. It’s technology.

You might as well have a jumble of digitally fake Polaroids, because ladies and gentlemen – this time next year you won’t be able to take a real Polaroid picture. That’s right. The company is shutting down factories that produce the instant film and whatever’s out there may be all that’s left.

Can you imagine?

I don’t want to sound curmudgeony, but that’s real family history we’re watching disappear. Holidays in the 60s weren’t complete without a hundred double-exposed pictures covering the stereo cabinet, the dining room table, the top of the TV, every flat surface, just waiting to develop.

And the shake – remember that? I’m not completely sure why we shook the pictures while they developed, but everyone did. The earliest of them had a strange pink squeegee-looking tool that spread some sort of noxious chemical over the picture to…well, what was it for? I don’t remember, but it was mighty important for us not to touch those Christmas pictures until Dad said they were dry.

A digital picture can be deleted at the source, or kept and manipulated using scads of different software. I can take digital pictures of The Perfect Grandson and turn his eyes from blue to green, or I can cut and paste the Loch Ness monster in the background and tell him he went to Ireland as an infant. Anything is possible, even if it shouldn’t be.

A Polaroid picture is truth, warts and all. There’s something comforting in producing something and then leaving it as it is. Digital manipulation is always its own state of flux because it can be endlessly altered. There is art, however, in timing the one perfect click and watching a Polaroid photograph bloom right in front of you. After that click, you’re a spectator.

There are some folks out there mad or sad enough to do something about it. At Save Polaroid they’ve already given up trying to get the company to keep manufacturing film. Instead, the Save folk are splaying themselves out over all sorts of digital media in an effort to convince someone – anyone – to buy the plants and keep making the film. There are TV appearances, photoblogs, online social networks, and a website full of petitions (signed digitally), but I don’t hold out much hope.

If Polaroid can’t make money they won’t make the film, and neither will anyone else. That’s just business.

Until all the film is gone, I think I’m going to hoard a little. Maybe put together a Polaroid photo essay and eulogize a photographic era.

The Alchemical Socialite


There she is, ladies and gentlemen. How can I possibly describe the feeling of having my fingers on the keys of a real machine again, slamming out the clicketys of a pouncing metallic onto the permanent page? My 1967 Olympia Socialite: she advances, she dings seductively at the end of a line, she reminds me of the first writings I ever made sitting at my father’s desk in front of the old Corona Sterling – only more meticulous, less athletic, sexier.

I’d forgotten about the sweet bell and the zing of a finished line. It took me about ten minutes, but the exquisite rhythm came back. Forget all those aching, ridiculous typing classes I took in high school. Those had a secretarial aura that insisted the point of using the machines was to type up someone else’s words. Quickly. No wonder I dreaded those drilling hours. If Mrs. W had put a woman’s typewriter in front of me and told me to have at it, I might have actually done it without rolling my eyes.

It’s typewriter abracadabra. I know it sounds crazy, but the entire world slows down and attends when I’m at the keys. The computer is a ravenous time-eater and feeds my embarrasingly short attention span. I swat web pages like gnats. Not so on the Socialite. On her the words are heavy and sentences have a sound. I can actually hear myself think. And that pesky “rewrite while you write” problem? Forget it. Each keystroke is an unregetted decision. Even when I pause or find myself a little stuck, my nails rest on the home-keys and restlessly tap until the words come.

And the words do come.