I Used To Love My Smith-Corona

I Used to Love My Smith-Corona

Dear Reader:

I was thinking about typewriters the other day. Looking through electronic file after electronic file for a certain Christmas story I wrote five, no, seven years ago, I thought, “It was better when we had typewriters; instead of copying from floppy disk to dvd to thumb drive to external hard drive, instead of moving from computer to the new computer to the next new computer, we had paper copies. In file folders. In a filing cabinet. Easy.”

Back in the olden days–pre-1992, let’s say–I wrote on an electric Smith-Corona typewriter my parents bought me for college. Actually, I wrote first drafts with pen and paper and only committed work to type when it was good enough for final draft. I still have these papers. They are hard copies. In files. In my filing cabinet. Not lost in a maelstrom of bits and bytes spiraling out of control on the hard drive of the elderly and ailing (slow) computer up in my office or here on the laptop or stuck on floppy disks in various hidey-holes in my desk…somewhere.

I’d argue without reservation that paper is a better system, except there was that time I let a friend read a story and she lost it until it reappeared five years later, stuck inside a July Vogue which she’d been reading out beside her pool that summer. I suppose the possibility of physical misplacement is as much a problem as losing those electronic files.

Plus, I can’t blame the computer for my disorganization. After all, I could print out a physical copy of everything for “just in case.”

But I miss the typewriter. I miss correction fluid. I miss lining up the paper and rolling it over the barrel. I do, in fact, have an old manual typewriter of my grandmother’s in my office, sitting atop a filing cabinet along with a copy of her self-published collection of local stories and recipes. It used to sit in the old “office” at my grandparents’ house, the room that used to be a front porch, the room where I used to plug in my Smith-Corona and type stories and papers for college classes. I can smell that room if I think about it long enough. Heavy smell. Like ink. Like some sort of oil. Like stacks of old papers.

I can’t type on this old machine. It needs repair, the keys are sticky, and who knows if you can still get ribbons for it, but I love that it is there, a talisman, a symbol of a different time. When things were not so easy. No auto-correct, for one thing. Editing marks, for another. A deliberateness born of necessity, fingers certainly not tapping out any old thought that crossed the mind. Not so easy to erase a word, a sentence, a paragraph, entire scenes.

Maybe someday, someone will invent a retro-looking computer, one that sounds like real typewriter keys when you hit the letters and dings! when the cursor jumps down to the beginning of the next line. If I get totally nostalgic (and find myself suddenly flush with cash) I could buy something like the beautiful old machine in the picture below.

It can be ordered at myTypewriter.com. In the meantime, I’ve learned my lesson: print out a hard copy and file it away “just in case.”

As for going local on this one, I’ve found office and school supplies to be a challenge. Discount/salvage stores like Marden’s and Reny’s sometimes carry notebooks, pens, rulers, cards, and craft items. However, this is pretty hit or miss. Locally-owned specialty and gift stores in larger towns and cities often have cute file folders, notebooks, pens, and stationery, but they are just-as-often often pricey.

Most recently, I noticed a couple local crafters at the Newfield Farmer’s Market were selling homemade cards and fancied-up notebooks–good possibilities, but where did those underlying notebooks and paper come from? China via Walmart?

I’d really, REALLY like to find paper made here in Maine. Maine was once a booming paper-making state that employed many citizens with good-paying, good-retirement, good-benefit jobs until outsourcing pulled the pulpwood out from under the the workers. How about repurposing some old mills to make specialty papers and cardstock from recycled materials? How about hemp paper? Save our forests and boost our economy. While we’re on the subject of actually producing things again, how about revitalizing our textile manufacturing, too? Like paper, fabric can be made from recycled materials and hemp. And what about shoes…?

Before I get too far off-subject in a rant for local manufacturing, I will end this post. One thing at a time, right? Take a look around your neighborhood, village, or nearby cities; you may luck out and find a great local source for your writing/office supply needs. If you do, drop me a line and a link. Localistas, unite!

8 responses to “I Used To Love My Smith-Corona

  1. I’d love to read your blog about hemp…I’ve heard various stories over the years about it competing with nylon for rope making. So the big corporation that was making nylon had hemp outlawed…something like that.

    Bamboo could be used for manufacturing paper. It grows super fast and has a long grain so the paper could be recycled about 7 times.
    But how do you blog on paper??? 🙂
    I’m of the generation that is amazed that I can tap this out on my little iPod on the west coast and you will get it in Maine in a few seconds. Try that with your Smith-Corona! 🙂

    • Yes, blogging would be a challenge, for sure! No, I don’t think computers are going away, hence the possibility for nostalgia. But doing some creative writing on a typewriter? Not a bad idea. Just as writing with pen and paper in script is not a bad idea. Slows you down, makes you think before you write. You revise more in your head. Now, I happen to “think” by writing, so I used to journal all the time. Guess what’s happened since blogging? No more journals!

  2. Shelley – I love paper and pencils and ink too. Your blog reminds me of the time I typed Uncle Loen’s thesis on onionskin paper with a double red line for a margin and everything had to fit inside the red lines – even the numerous footnotes. Then the automatic return on our new electric typewriter knocked over a cup of tea onto the stack of completed pages. needless to say the original is still tea-spotted.

    • Ack! Something else good about computers…although the Teen knocked over a cup of coffee onto the computer keyboard and fried it. Hubby replaced it for ten bucks, though, and I didn’t have to retype anything. I made fewer typing mistakes with a typewriter. Went slower. Paid more attention. But it really is about nostalgia. Obviously, computers are more efficient in so many ways. Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving!

  3. I loved the sounds of my typewriter! I still have to have a hard copy of the things I write- though I seemed to have miss-placed a story I wrote in high school- sure I’ll find it someday as I shuffle through papers. Not sure I miss the white-out though!

  4. Not exactly local, but Mead still manufactures in America. They have a paper factory in southern Ohio. Beats Asian slave labor!

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