Cooking Light magazine, August 2016
I had one of those magic moments today. What’s that? It’s my arbitrary term for when you suddenly come across an almost inconsequential item from your past; one you totally forgot even existed and now, there it is, right in front of you. Since it had major influence on your life, seeing it again causes emotional ties to erupt inside you and out comes a lava flow of memories. Up until now, these have been neatly stored back in the dusty archives of your brain, never to be regenerated again if it weren’t for this new, totally unexpected vision before you. Have I worked this up enough?
What I saw today was a wonderful picture of a 1956 Royal typewriter, model HH. It was part of Hunter Lewis’ Note From the Editor in the latest edition of Cooking Light magazine. The Royal belonged to his grandmother and Mr. Lewis spins a nice lore of the family ties she pecked away at. Pick up a copy of Cooking Light and check it out…oh yeah, always good recipes inside too!
Okay, on with my story. The Royal model HH was a machine that was very much a part of my life, not only while I used it, but long after as that experience continued all the way up to this very moment as my fingers tap away at the same pattern of letters on my computer’s keyboard.
The year is roughly 1961. For several grades in high school, I gawked at the activities going on outside the classroom windows as a new four-story extension to the building was being constructed. Ours was the first class to use the new facilities when they opened. Everything was spanking brand new. It almost made school exciting. It was the same year I took typing as one of the rare “electives” you could choose in high school. It was typing or something horrible like electric shop.
There weren’t too many boys in the typing class. Back then, girls made up the bulk of typists because their stereotypical role in life, for those who worked instead of staying home popping out babies, was to be a secretary. Good skills in typing and shorthand guaranteed any young lady a lifelong seat at a desk right outside the boss’ office. She would sit there and type things all day except for when he (and it was always a “he”) called her in to take dictation or to fetch him coffee. Either request offered him a break in the monotony of his job and gave him the opportunity, in those pre-sexual harassment days, to leer at his secretary. It was easy to understand why there weren’t too many boys in typing class.
So here’s the picture: the building is new, the classrooms are new and everything in them is new, including the five or six rows of desks, upon which rest brand new 1956 vintage Royal typewriters that look exactly like the one pictured above. I would spend the next few months sitting at one of the desks and doing nothing for 47 straight minutes but repeatedly typing out one of the rows on the Royal’s keyboard. I would do this until my fingers were so accustomed to the pattern of the keys that my brain no longer had to instruct them where to go, at least consciously.
“asdf, jkl;” over and over and over and over… And then it was up to the next row and “qwer, uiop” over and over—well, you get the picture. Eventually, you worked the middle letters on the keyboard and then the numbers and symbols up top. I petered out toward the end of the course and I never devoted much practice on the very top row. To this day, it’s the only row I have to glance at if I have to use one of its keys.
I have typed in my jobs for the entire span of my career. And, when I had interruptions in that career, which are almost routine in the broadcasting industry, I hired myself out as a typist until I landed my next permanent position. And now, here I sit today, retired but still at it, typing even more so.
Wow, this picture of a typewriter has opened the floodgates and released an outpouring of fond memories. Thank you Hunter Lewis. Thank you Royal model HH. You provided me a solid and very useful skill, plus financial security during tough times…and pages of fond remembrances. Thank God, I didn’t take electric shop.