Saturday, June 9, 2012

Just My Type

This story I recently read in "The Los Angeles Times," about a man obsessed with collecting historic typewriters (he's got old machines used by Ernest Hemingway, John Lennon, and Tennessee Williams, among others), made me appreciate my old Smith & Corona just a little bit more than I already do (which is a lot).

You see, I just didn't pick it up at some old antique shop, auction, or estate sale.

It used to belong to my mother's father, my grandfather, James E. Kenny (that's him at right, with his wife, my grandmother, Geraldine Kenny, whom we called MeMaw), who died of a heart attack a few years before I was born. He used it in the back of the family business, a grocery store called Kenny's that was -- and still is -- an institution in the small city of Westernport in western Maryland, just on the border with West Virginia. It's where my mother grew up. (My dad grew up just across the Potomac River in Piedmont, West Virginia.) The store is today owned and managed by my uncle, Bill Kenny, one of my mother's younger brothers.

I don't know much more about the typewriter than that. There are the numbers 8 and 11 on either side of the LC Smith Corona Typewriters Inc. logo on the front, as well as a sticker for Cumberland Business Service, Cumberland, Maryland ("For service or supplies phone 3687"!). The only other markings on it that I can find are a big 'LC Smith Made in USA" on the back and the LC Smith across the paper rest on the top.

It works well, except the ribbon is dried out and I can't find a replacement. And it's as heavy as an anvil.

I love the sound the keys make as they smack the paper (you can almost punch a letter-shaped hole through the paper if you're not careful), the jittery baseline of the letters across the page, and the loud bell when it's time to flip the carriage to the next line.

From a search on Google, it appears that the typewriter dates from 1936 or so. Similar models are selling for $150-$200 on eBay.

This one's staying with me.

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