Monday, November 01, 2010


I started thinking about typewriters the other day - who knows why. I must have already been fascinated by the age of 2.

When I was a freshman in junior high, I was attending a very large school in Minnesota. I was only there for that one year, then sophomore year in a really large high school, before moving to Nebraska and finishing my last two years in a very small school. One of my favorite classes that year was simply called "Typing." We used something similar to this:

We had a very creative teacher - she challenged us to a speed and accuracy contest. Every five words per minute that we increased in our timed tests put us closer to Miami from Minnesota. If I remember right, 75 wpm got you there.

For the life of me, I can't remember her name, but I had a rival in this contest - she and I were neck and neck the whole way. The competition really motivated us, and I believe we arrived in Miami the same day. Interestingly enough, she and I were also rivals in choir for the position of accompanist. I was honored to be chosen to play for the Christmas concert. I got sick with infectious mononucleosis just before Christmas and was in bed the night of the concert - very sad to miss my chance to play in that concert. It turned out that I got to accompany for the spring concert instead. It's interesting to think of the connection between these two skills, piano and typing - nimble fingers??

The only thing I wanted for high school graduation was a typewriter. I knew it would be the most practical thing I could get for college. It looks like I was very pleased to get my wish.

It turned out to be the best gift I could have received. I really never enjoyed babysitting, so used the skill I enjoyed more for spending money. I typed for alot of guys over those 4 years. I banged out many papers on that little turquoise machine. One day a guy needed a paper done more quickly than usual. He happened to have a portable electric a lot like this:

This friend had a paper due quickly and offered me the use of his typewriter so that I could type faster. He let me use it for the rest of that semester, and I did get a lot of jobs. In fact, my own work suffered because I was helping all these guys.

This typewriter had pica rather than elite "font" - a word we hadn't heard of yet. It meant that you could make less look like more on a page, and the word got around quickly that "Dawn could make your report look longer." The guys came out of the woodwork - too bad it was only for their homework!

I started out this "career" charging 15 cents per page, and supplying my own erasable bond - remember that great invention? I soon realized I was using up my prophets, and started charging 25 cents a page - with them having to supply their own paper. I learned that at the university in the big city down the road, typists charged 75 cents per page. I sure wished that somehow I could post an ad on their bulletin boards and charge 50 cents a page. I could double my prophets, and they could get a really good deal. It never worked out. I didn't have to babysit, though! And I made a lot of new friends - guys who gave me partial credit for their good grades.

I have to say that learning to type well and fast has carried me a long ways in life. I have had several great secretarial positions (now called administrative assistant, of course) because of my typing ability, without any other business course. I'll never forget when I first got to use one of these: IBM Selectric - loved it!

I never lost my speed, because weirdly enough I type everything I see in my head. When I began to use computers, I could type 90+ wpm.

I was working at a bank when I was pregnant with Kristen - I quit that job just as the word processing explosion began - the precursor to the computer explosion. I bought one of these, hoping to find some at-home typing jobs. Turns out I hated it - I wanted one of the above machines so badly.

We had three old Selectrics in our office at Colorado State University. We still had a guy who came in every few months to keep them in good running order - it was fun to watch the work study students try to figure out what in the world to do with them when we asked them to.

Do you remember how much work it was to center something? I was telling some young folks about that process the other day and they couldn't believe it. I typed so many term papers that I could judge how far down on the page to go in order to fit in all the footnotes and still have an inch left at the bottom. They don't know how easy they have it now!

I have enjoyed this journey down word processing memory lane - I hope you have, too.

Have a wonderful week!


Karen said...

Liquid Paper. Oooh what a mess it was.

I remember watching my mom use one of those big IBM's at her job at NNC. She could make that little bulb go soooo fast. It was fascinating to me.

She also used a ditto machine and I could play with the carbon papers when she was done with them. I still remember the smell of fresh dittos. I bet kids today don't even know what a "ditto" is when they use the term.

Needled Mom said...

I did enjoy the memories. After all of the typewriters went by the wayside, our children's dentist had three old ones in his office for the kids to play on while waiting for their appointment. That was the hit of the day!!!

The centering was such a task!!! I remember taking typing in high school as well--FGJH anf "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog"!!!!! Ahhh...the memories. Now I am trying to figure out how to hit the right keys on my phone. lol

Guess it was a good thing that I loved babysitting instead.

Robin said...

That was a fun post Dawn! I always loved typing too and had to learn on an old manual. I LOVED the IBM Seletrics and always longed to have one. I typed papers for guys in college and seminary for pay as well. I typed all my husbands papers and I always scolded him because his was always turned in to me at the last minute!
These days we still use a typewriter in our church office to fill out marriage licenses. There is no way to use a computer for those!
The other thought I had while reading your post was that for someone who didn't like to babysit - well, it's a good thing grandchildren are so loved!

Sioux said...

I didn't take typing until college, and only then because Mother insisted. I thought how useless...I didn't want to be a secretary, and when would a teacher or Christian educator need to type, pray tell! Thank God I did what Mother said...for once!

Gigi said...

Oh my gosh...I soooo remember the days of "Typing" class in high school! I also took shorthand (I was a superstar!!) and a class called "office skills" for several semesters. Mrs. Ryan was my teacher for the last two classes and my typing teacher was a lady named Bessie Thornton. I'll never forget her!! Our typewriters were manual - although I think in my senior year we got two - yep, TWO - IBM Selectrics in the typing room! Mrs. Thornton had a very slow speech pattern and always seemed a bit scattered...but she knew her stuff! I still laugh at the memory of some of the "Bessie-isms" when someone would just yank their paper out of the machine! You'd hear her say in that slow speech of hers, "Sounds like somebody forgot to use their paper release lever..." And right away I'm transported back across the decades to a classroom full of the noise of clackity-clacks!!

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Dawn!

Linds said...

Oh I remember typewritewrs so well too! I was SO excited when I got an electirc one! And the carbon, and those letters gettign snarled up many memories!

nancygrayce said...

I learned to type on the same kind of typewriter, only no letters or numbers. We truly learned to type by touch. I loved the selectrics too! My bil worked for IBM and made us keychains out of the old selectric balls. Remember how fun it was to change out to cursive?

Ah, today they just have no idea!

Amy said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

I hated liquid paper and carbon. Ugh!

Linda said...

This was great Dawn. I often say how thankful I am for my computer. I remember typing long reports and finding a mistake that necessitated starting all over again. AARRGGH!!!
My Mom still has my old typewriter - an antique by today's standards.

grammy said...

Now I know why your posts can be so only takes you the blink of an eye to type it.
Alas...I am a turtle,,,or a snail
I type with two fingers and I did have 2 years of typing in middle school
I just can't do it
My brain can't relay the message to my fingers...oh well
I will just pick away (o:

A Hint of Home said...

Oh, how I remember typewriters. I have a really old Underwood at the top of my stairs on a little desk.
How did we manage with the old things? hehe
Life is much easier now days for sure.

Izzy, Emmy 'N Alexander said...

Haha! What a neat trip down memory lane! I loved it, although I have never used a typewritter. :) My husband bought one at an antique store for display though. haha!

Midlife Mom said...

That was such a fun trip down memory lane! I too took typing in high school and loved it. I never really did type correctly but I got the job done and to this day I don't use all of my fingers to type on my keyboard. I hated carbon paper and also the liquid paper! What a mess!

Went to the lake yesterday to turn on the heaters in the bathrooms and leave the doors open under the sinks just as a precaution. It was so lovely there with the sun shining off the lake, I really wanted to just curl up with a book or movie and stay put but I had an appointment so couldn't. :o(

Will be praying for you all today!

Karen H. said...

Good Morning Dawn. Oh wow, what a trip down Memory Lane this was for me. When I was in the 9th grade, I took Typing as well and we only had the Manual Typewriters to learn on as well. In fact, ours kind of looks like the one you first had too. I think the highest I ever got in typing was like 60 wpm. Oh they had some electric typewriters in the other half of the business room, but you had to be in the 10th grade to be able to be in that class. Come 10th grade, I was finally in that class and we had the brown looking electric typewriters. I don't remember the brand name right off hand, but it was one of the best ones at that time. I thought I was in heaven when I got to type on those typewriters. LOL. Starting in my 10th grade year, I began making some extra cash by typing Term Papers at home for some of the Seniors. I done that thru my 12th grade and I think I charged either $10 or $15 for a paper back then. It was time consuming, but that is how I made my extra cash for my Sr. things I needed. When we first got computers here at home, the girls were just amazed at how fast I would type. They just couldn't get over it and wanted to know how I learned to type that fast. I told them and now days they have classes called keyboarding where they learn to type. Well take care my friend and Thank's for the trip down memory lane. May GOD Bless you and hope you have a great week.

Love and hugs,

Karen H.

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

Good, happy Sunday to you sweet Dawn. I'm trying to catch up on posts I've missed the past week or so and wanted to make sure I stopped by to visit with you. This was an incredible, and ironically for the day, a turning back of the clock so to time!! Y'know I still have my typewriter that I learned to type with during my school days. It's a Remington Rand [I posted about it long ago somewhere in my three years blogging]. I had an electric one at work all the time up until I began working at the psychiatric co-op for years...that was a very antiquated computer. LOLOL

But, I digress, I hang onto my 'buddy' and will never get rid of just took me places I've never been...made me money in so many ways such as your memory. Oh...and how can we forget the black/red ribbons!!!?! And changing them...with your fingers all blackened from the ink.

Those were the days.

Sharon Lynne said...

Yes, your memories of typing class are very similar to mine. We had manual typewriters. But later, in my office job, I used a selectric, and those are my FAVORITE. They were so easy to type on.

Then the word processors came...and about that time I got a different kind of job. I never felt comfortable on the word processors. I never fully learned how to work them correctly.

This was a fun post!