Underwood

July 28, 2008

Underwood 1

Underwood No. 5

It seems that every time I ask writers to do a guest post, I end up chasing after another writing device. This time it’s the manual typewriter. After looking through Strikethru’s guest post, I began looking for a manual. My first place was Craig’s list. In the past, my dalliance with Craig’s List landed me a pair of Beo Vox. J had listed the Underwood and no one took the offer. So he re-listed again, fortunately for me. There was no picture. The advertisment simply states “Antique Underwood”. Well, that wasn’t enough to go on. I expected that ‘Antique’ would be circa 1950 at best. Still, my curiosity got the best of me and I emailed J. The emails lead to a phone call. There was a mild, tepid discussion of where to meet. Finally, J trusted me enough to give me an address and I searched yahoo maps for driving directions. I was still waffling. Then decided to email J back asking for a picture. When I saw it, I called and arranged for a meeting on that very day, a Friday Evening of July 25, 2008. Driving to an unknown location is a bit of stress for me as I fear getting lost. I made an excuse that I rarely venture outside of my bubble, my comfort geographical zone and a typewriter was a good reason to venture forth. Also I don’t like seeing other people’s hampers either. I also didn’t want to be disappointed. There’s nothing like trekking out to such distance and then coming home empty handed. These are the cons of getting a typewriter via Craig’s List. Instead, what I found was a friendly, warm home in Tigard.

“Mr. Typewriter,” J said. He was sanding his deck. He took me in to show it. The Underwood was on the rug near the kitchen ready for me to pick up. “You weren’t kidding when you said it is an antique,” I said. Then asked him how he came to receive such a beast. He said he collected it during his travels. I can’t imaging lugging that beast around. He shows me an old rifle, with out the trigger or any of the metal parts except the barrel that rests on a faded wooden stock, hanging precariously on the wall. The walls were scrawled with foreign country and city names in green paint, on the top part, like a cornice or a frieze. He was thinking of waiting for one of his grand children to inherit it but there wasn’t much room in the house for it. I told him that I have a perfect spot for it, in my home. His wife sooth him by saying that Grandma probably has an Underwood some where in her attic.ย  We put the Underwood on the table, J’s wife feed a piece of paper around the platen. She seems to be more anxious to get rid of it. The keys move just fine but the ribbon was not threaded correctly and had been dried out in the heat of their attic.ย  I handed J my forty dollars and he carried the Underwood to my trunk and reluctantly set it down. And off I went, hurrying home before he could renege.

My visit to Blue Moon.

staff.xu.edu polt typewriters Kevin McGowin

Ian Fraizer’s typewriter article in The Atlantic

John Irving’s IBM Selectric interview in Salon.com

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7 Responses to “Underwood”


  1. Hello from a fellow Etsian in Oregon. I found your blog by googling “yellow Buddhist” after a series of dreams I’ve had this week.

    I enjoyed your post about the Underwood and understand both the previous owner’s reluctance to give it away as well as your joy to receive it. When you work with antiques, it’s difficult to let them go sometimes, but other times there is a sense of joy in seeing an item go to the right person. Some of my kimono feel like old friends, but when the right owner comes along and puts one on, I feel happy that the kimono will be cherished.

  2. Strikethru Says:

    Nice Underwood. Did you take it to Blue Moon to be serviced? Is it working OK?

    Someday I will get a standard size…

  3. Strikethru Says:

    I forgot to mention, I get lost driving too. I got a GPS and it works wonders ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. ducly Says:

    I took it to Blue Moon the next day and they are working on it at the moment. Some day I’ll will get a GPS. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Grace Says:

    I love antique Underwooods (perhaps that is how we met on Flickr!). Hopefully, you will show us a picture of it once you have it back and settled into your home!

  6. ducly Says:

    Hi Grace,
    I see that you have the Underwood picture on your wonderfully Vintage blog! I’ve typed about four pages of diary. It’s a great tool to just take me from distraction and concentrate on the writing. I just come to it and do a micro type diary entry. It’s become addictive.
    -Duc

  7. Grace Says:

    Hi Duc! You are right ๐Ÿ™‚ I LOVE Underwoods…the one on my blog is inspired by the one I have in my living room…alas, it does not work very well (irresponsible previous owner), but it is just so beautiful and has so much character. I can only imagine how inspirational it is to type on it! I too find that my best writing comes from when I am on the typewriter — you really think about each word, and it makes the sentences so much more real.


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