Columnist: A thumbs up for the typewriter

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

Loran Smith

Syndicated columnist

TUCKER – Not long ago, I stopped by to see a lady named Ann Vickers who lives on a quiet street in a neighborhood near Interstate 285, which circles the busy city of Atlanta where daily traffic sprints remind us that the passing of time has never been more alacritous.

Does time really fly or has our way of life caused the movement of the clock and the calendar to accelerate? Technology has made us busier, but not necessarily more productive. That has something to do with my visit with Ann.

She had called, after observing a comment in this space, about her father’s typewriter. He had worked for Western Union, another way of life relegated to the archives. She wanted his typewriter to rest in peace with someone with affection for its past.

First off, it is a pretty thing, an antique, whose front panel is bright red. It simply looks good when it sits on a book shelf. I never walk by my gift from Ann without a thumbs up wave. I don’t have a man cave, but a basement office with reference books in all directions and mementos from travel and the sporting scene.

There are autographed photos from some of the greats in sports, including Ty Cobb, Red Grange, Ted Williams, Gene Sarazen and Jack Nicklaus. There are posters from Pamplona when I ran with the bulls — way out front — and Roland Garros where the French Open, one of the four grand slam tennis tournaments is played; a mount of the first king salmon ever caught, an enlarged Union Jack stretched across a portion of one wall and another mount of a bone fish from the Florida Keys in tribute to Ted Williams who some say was not only the greatest hitter who ever lived, but also the greatest fishermen.

However, none of the foregoing is honored with a daily thumbs up when I take my familiar place at the computer. The typewriter brings back memories of a grateful past which would not have been possible without the clickety-clack machine of yesteryear.

Terry Kay, a friend and author, collects old typewriters. Can’t wait to show him what is now in my possession. We’ll have a libation, I will watch his eyes. If his lust is signature, I might need to put double locks on my doors.

Believe it or not, some college students may never have heard of a typewriter, given that personal computers and word processors became prominent by the end of the 1980s, more than a quarter century ago.

A mint condition typewriter, like the IBM Selectric from the ’80s, is likely to be found in somebody’s attic or basement, gathering dust while awaiting either a movie set or a museum.

Typewriters, like the computer, were revolutionary when they first came on the scene in 1860s. According to the Internet, typewriters have been invented 52 times as people found more ways to make the typewriter more efficient.

As long ago as 1575, an Italian, Francesco Rampazzetto, invented a machine to “impress letters in papers.” A Brit, Henry Mill, in 1714, received a patent for a machine that resembles a typewriter.

In 1868, a foursome of Americans — Christopher Latham Sholes, Frank Haven Hall, Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule — invented a typewriter in Milwaukee. Sholes was not pleased with the finished product. In fact he disowned it and refused to recommend its use. Wish we could have had the same reaction from the inventor of the amplifier.

Ann’s father’s typewriter brought back many memories. Like sundown at the Masters — when the working press sent news of the tournament around the world by typing their stories in an old Quonset hut.

That clacking sound of all those keys, set in motion by clever minds leading to words on paper, created one of the most memorable symphony’s ever experienced.

In my mind’s eye, I can see Ann’s father, Harvey F. Kinnett, cranking out messages to countless businesses and individuals. To get a telegram in days past was a big deal.

One day in the early ’60s, I asked the Western Union operator in downtown Athens to ask his counterpart in Cornelia if anyone there knew where Ty Cobb lived.

The reply: “Ty Cobb lives at Propes Apartments.”

I still have that telegram. Maybe I should frame it and put it over Ann’s red paneled typewriter. That would mean whenever I walk by, a double thumbs up would be in order.

Loran Smith is an athletic administrator at the University of Georgia.