I HAD been thinking about getting my old (formerly my mother’s) 1955 SmithCorona “Silent Super” repaired. Well actually, I only thought it needed a ribbon. As it turns out it needed a whole lot more.
Who repairs typewriters? More important: Whom could I trust? I had already determined I was ready to have this one refurbished and while it was largely for sentimental reasons there were some other practical ones I was weighing as well.
My thinking? Mostly because my mind works in a different way when I’m typing on an old manual machine. Not for deadline work, of course. (I know my eds. out there are relived) But maybe to get started on long-form, personal think pieces and to be able to write in mental place where I will not be as Wi-Fi tempted or electricity dependent.
I liked being lost on an island of thought — somewhere between the legal pad dreaming and the tip-tap of the computer.
My friend Marisela scoped out this little place just in time This little hive of a shop is on a a busy stretch of Figueroa in Highland Park that’s gentrifying. Thankfully, edges of its character remain, as the shop happens to be right across the street from a beautiful old-school camera store that I’m hoping to explore at some point soon as well.
To say it was like walking through a museum would be imprecise as many of these very-much-alive machines are attached to owners (or want-to-be owners); people much like me, I’m learning, who are looking for a way to rethink their process and want to work out their thoughts away from contemporary distractions — but still with the ease of the keyboard stage.
The visit was like falling through a seam in time. Underwoods, Royals, SmithCoronas. Before I knew it an hour and a half had passed as we learned about these beautiful old machines (see below) that are in Ruben Flores’s care here at the aptly named Typewriter Repair.
The store was run for decades by his father, Jesse (whose photograph you can see just behind the pink typewriter in the gallery below). Like father, the son can tell you stories — deep histories — about both the machines and the people who use them. As well, Ruben spent a good portion of time talking about neighborhood’s changing character: “Do you lose something if you say hello? Why can’t people just say ‘hello’?”
Between his commentary, he opened it up and knocked around– turning wheels, lifting levers, rooting around inside. “She’s in good shape. Considering. A little gummy.” I was happy to hear his prognosis. I felt that that trusting my mother’s machine with a man who had learned from his father was precisely the right thing to do.
To get a glimpse of Jesse, who passed away a few years ago, click on the video below.
Looking forward to getting my fingers in shape to make those hard “clackty-clack” strikes and hearing the satisfying sound of keys hitting platen.
Writers need company. Even when we are alone.
Thanks so much, Ruben and Marisela.