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11-8-2018 21:10:40  #1


New York Times Article

To those of us who not only love typewriters, but to those of us who love to type, I'd say this article should be shown to those who don't really understand.

"Things I learned in Secretarial School"
New York Times  (2018-08-11)

https://nyti.ms/2KMI2g1

Its an excellent reason to learn how to type.
Not just pressing keys, but composition, speed, accuracy, and above all, confidence.

It reminded me of my mother's story.  She went to Chillicothe Business College (Missouri) in a time when office clerks were respected jobs, and learned to be a secretary to escape the dead-end future of living on a farm in a small town.  She didn't just learn office skills, she lived them. Filing, shorthand, typing, and more. Office etiquette. Telephone manners. Care and maintenance of office equipment. All "dead" skills today, it seems, but vital to keeping the wheels of American Industry turning back then.

And not just shorthand. She could do shorthand as fast as you could talk after two cups of coffee. And she could read others' shorthand (which is a *lot* harder than reading someone else's handwriting).
And not just typing.  She could type 90-100 words a minute.  On a manual typewriter. 

When she graduated, she got a real office job and escaped her home town of 2,400 (which is smaller than the dormitory where I went to University). She met and married an engineer, saw a good part of the world, and then settled down to raise her kids. 

Sadly, her skills only live in me as a faint glimmer, not a shining beacon.  Of my siblings, we all type -- on computers, but I am the only one that still owns a typewriter.  And I use it for official correspondence when hand-typed documents would be noticed and given more attention than usual.  Mom was loyal to Smith-Corona, and for some reason, so am I.

-- Ardie
You'd think I would've turned out better.

 

11-8-2018 21:33:48  #2


Re: New York Times Article

I'll read the article, but that's a great profile of your mother. A classic "I want something more for myself" story that a lot of brave people have done. Sounds like she was quite a person.

And since this is a typewriter "gearhead" forum, what models of Smith Corona did she use, do you know?

 

11-8-2018 23:09:30  #3


Re: New York Times Article

Fleetwing,

As for my mother, she was determined to get off the farm and make something of herself. 
Living through some of the depression with nine brothers and sisters (and not all of them were filled with get-up-and-go) will do that to you. 

And to the typewriters...
I can't say for certain which machines she used at her work, *but* we had an old 1940's black Smith-Corona flat top around the house when I was growing up.  Although it looked brand-new, I suspect it was a typewriter that she bought through Chillicothe Business College as part of a student discount program.  Inside the typewriter's case was an ancient 1940's "How To Touch-Type" booklet that looked like part of the class materials.  You know, the red booklet with the typewriter keyboard laid out with circular keys on the cover, so you could "learn to touch type" without actually having to unnecessarily buy an expensive appliance in the 1930's.

Later, we got a Sears-brand of a Smith-Corona Electric.  Two of the keycaps and type bars' slugs were interchangeable for other letters or symbols.  Mom was practically giddy with delight that she had an *electric* typewriter at home.

I recall that one of her jobs had the then-new IBM Selectric machines, the one with the interchangeable "golf ball" typeface element. She hated it.  She never got used to the delay between the keypress and the ball rising up, rotating, and striking the page.  (I guess it threw her off her groove, man.)

At one of the places where she worked, she had a boss that insisted on every typed page had to have NO errors and NO erasures and NO correction fluid.  She was the only one in the office that could do that using only one sheet.  At speeds exceeding 90 words per minute.

Me?  I'm lucky to do 40 WPM.  I had a Smith-Corona Sterling during my college days, and did my term papers and thesis on it.   I stupidly loaned it to a friend one day, and that was the last I saw of it. 

I now have 2-1/2 Smith-Coronas:
Smith-Corona Skyriter s/n: 2Y 96760   (1952 Pica machine),
Smith-Corona Skyriter s/n: 2Y 183924  (1953 Elite machine), and
Smith-Corona Skyriter s/n: 2Y 69784    (1951 Pica "parts" machine).

It keeps me in the game...

     Thread Starter
 

12-8-2018 14:43:24  #4


Re: New York Times Article

Nice note! Yes, it sounds like your mom was a real "pro." Regarding the Selectric, you may have perfectly described her issue with it. It seems to type fast, but I can see how you'd get ahead of the ball head, which can be disorienting. Same thing happens with the electronic machines, with the print wheels.

And you seem to have a thing for Skyriters! I got one in the spring (British made) and it's very nice, I have to say.

 

18-8-2018 01:07:48  #5


Re: New York Times Article

Fleetwing wrote:

And you seem to have a thing for Skyriters! I got one in the spring (British made) and it's very nice, I have to say.

Nobody asked me, but: SkyRiters have nearly a perfect touch to me - solid, slightly resisting, with the satisfying accumulation of energy under your finger stroke until the slug strikes the paper, with notes of nutmeg. Just kidding about the nutmeg. To me they have even better actions than the larger line of Smith Corona portables which while very respectable seem slightly more pedestrian.

I never used a Selectric long enough or perhaps I was not fast enough to notice the lag, but sometimes very noticeable on electronic typewriters which can be very disconcerting. I imagine even more disconcerting to a very fast typist used to manuals. I've noticed something similar on an IBM C Executive which seems to lag the keyboard slightly, though not sure if a feature of the breed or if this particular one just needed more cleaning. The Executive is a lovely machine but I never really took to it - the inhuman precision of its imprint discouraged casual use.

 

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