Type, Type, Type

literati shelves

I can only imagine at Literati Bookstore in Anna Arbor, Michigan, the number of the books by authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf who typed their work on manual typewriters. -tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

This morning I read about the death of Mary Adelman. She and her husband Stanley Adelman owned and operated Osner Business Machines in New York, in Manhatten’s Upper West Side. While I never knew the good Adelmans, the photo in the New York Times of Mary Adelman sitting next to an old upright Underwood typewriter stirred memories.

Stanley maintained typewriters for the famous and for the unknown. Philip Roth, David Mamet, and Nora Ephron were among their famous clientele. Even when computers became the machine of choice for writers, quite a few clung to their manual typewriters, even eschewing the electric models, flying in the face of the evolving technology of typewriters.

My mother, Catherine “Kitty”, was one of those who refused our repeated offers to buy her a computer to ease her typing. While we toiled away on our Apple computers, my mother would have us pull out her gray hard case with the worn velvet lining that held her Remington typewriter, the gray one with the dark green keys. Periodically she had me drive her over to Bob’s, her former co-worker at Remington Rand. He was one of the last of the manual typewriter repairmen in the area. Bob cleaned, polished, replaced parts such as ribbons, all the while reminiscing with Mama about their halcyon workdays at Remington Rand.

In reading about Mary Adelman, and then reading about her husband Stanley, I understood their passionate affinity for manual typewriters. I even comprehended the famous writers, like Isaac Bashevis Singer who faithfully labored in their Osner Business Machines shop. There is an air of sadness for the bygone era of the manual typewriter. I use to derive comfort from the clackety-clack sound of my mother deftly typing correspondence for my father’s shoe business, and typing letters to her fellow board members for the now defunct little Saint Joseph Hospital’s Auxiliary, and for the Saint Monica Rosary Society, and for the Quester’s Antique Club, and for other organizations on which she served. I recall her copious typewritten lists and correspondence as she and Tony and Betty organized Saint Monica’s annual Spaghetti Suppers. Papers neatly organized with me as a child following her directives for placing the stamps on the envelopes. Later Mama drove us to the Post Office to mail the stacks of letters to the recipients.

While I would not relinquish my Mac computer, I honor those who write on with their machine of choice. Type on, fellow writers, I say, type on.

Ciao for now.

Type, Inc.

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How I wish I had my mother’s typewriter, like the one in the photograph.-tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Today would have been my mother’s birthday, if she were still alive. She died suddenly in 2002. It was downright lousy losing my mother in every way. Not only was hers a brilliant mind that sparkled, but her heart was full of love for her children and husband. My mother excelled at Bridge; she was a competitive card player. A voracious reader, she instilled in us a love of books from birth on. The woman was also a culinary goddess. She could make the best food, mostly Italian, but she also appreciated and tried cooking other cuisines.  A woman of eclectic tastes and interests, she dressed classy. She always told me when it came to make up and to jewelry that less was more.

Another area in which my mother excelled was that of typing. A trained bookkeeper, my mother worked for years at Remington Rand. One of her most prized possessions was her typewriter. It was in a large sturdy case all its own. I can still see the dark green typewriter keys in contrast with its gray body. Since my father owned his own business, Mama was the bookkeeper. She helped him compose business letters, send out correspondence of various kinds, and keep the shoe shop’s books. An avid collector of recipes from her sisters, outstanding cooks in their own right, both of them, the three of them mailed typewritten recipes back and forth for years. When I had to give a speech or a presentation in class, which was often because my Catholic parochial school had us stand up often to orate. Mama often typed up my handwritten work, for I had not yet learned how to type. She hovered over me whenever I hauled it out and attempted to type, for fear I might harm her typewriter.

In my first year of Catholic high school, my mother was adamant that I take a typing class.

“No way! I’m in the College Prep track and typing isn’t included. Typing is in the General Education track!” I protested.

“Don’t be such a snob. By learning a practical skill, you will be the one in college typing other students’ papers and charging them for the service. You will be able to type your own papers and never have to rely on anyone to do it for you,” she informed me.

Her order paid off for me, literally. I made money by typing papers for my fellow college students, slogging through their wretched handwriting to make sense of what they attempted to convey.

Whenever I watch the Nora Ephron movie, “You’ve Got Mail”, I think of my mother.  In that movie the character of Frank, played by Greg Kinnear, is a journalist who passionately collects typewriters.  My mother understood that character, although she herself never wanted an electric typewriter.

Over the years, my brother offered to buy Mama a computer. She thanked him kindly, but refused his offer. Her trusty typewriter suited her well enough, she told him. After our father’s death four years later, we had to dismantle our family home. The typewriter stood in the closet where she had left it. I kept staring at it, thinking I should take it. But I was heartbroken over the deaths of my parents. The typewriter stood in mute testament to all I had lost, making me cry all over again.

Now, 14 years down the road, I wish I had that typewriter of hers. I would give it a place of honor in my house, a shrine of sorts to my darling mother, a wise and loving woman who had won a State Typing contest that landed her a job in Washington, D.C. with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That, however, is another story to be told.

Ciao for now.