Sunday, June 22, 2014

One Week and a Royal Baby

One week. One week that, by the time it was over, my head was full of memories and my body was out of energy. 

I'll break it down.


First day of work. Toured the museum and other facilities, including a few offices in the capitol building. As we made our way out of one of the side doors, I caught a glimpse of something I'd never seen in my life.

This was just sitting in one of the lobbies.
I'll bet these were a welcome sight for writers in the old days who forgot to visit the Post Office.

Everyone has been very friendly and we're doing some interesting work. I'll post pictures of the finished exhibits when they're on display. Tried to visit some more antique shops, but they were all closed. Yes, it was 4pm Monday.

My reward after the first day: a pastrami/salami/chicken sandwich with mustard, tomatoes and lettuce.
Sandwich courtesy of the local grocery store deli. Dessert courtesy of Culvers.

The staff introduced me to a new tradition: weekly Frozen yogurt excursion.

Once a week? I could get used to that. So could my stomach. Thankfully, they had small bowls.
New York cheesecake (fat free) with fruit and a brownie bit.


Most of the stores around here close around 4pm. Thankfully, Antiquarium isn't one of them.

When I first drove by,  I thought it said Aquarium...

This place is stuffed to the brim with collectible comic books, toys, and other memorabilia.


More books.

Even more books!
A pristine 1962 paperback. $5
There's an old saying: you get what you pay for. Well, I only bought one book. They had plenty of things that I wanted, but couldn't afford (like the first edition copy of Skeleton Crew for $25).

If I'd been anywhere else, I'd say it's ridiculous. However, this place advertises itself as a collectible book store. What do you get for $25? A first edition that's hardly been touched. Most of the paperbacks, particularly the dime novels, have been wrapped in protective plastic covers. Not only that, they've got everything organized by genre and author.

I don't have any Bradbury titles, so I was happy to find one for so cheap in such great shape.

On the way out, I bumped into an old childhood friend.

It's Morhpin Time!


After work I found an antique store in neighboring Apache Falls that wasn't closed. I got there in time for just 30 minutes of browsing. Not much in the way of typewriters.

Another Sterling. A genuine surprise. I've never seen one in a black box before.
This Underwood Universal Quiet Tab was very tempting.
 It came with the original owner's manual and the key to the case!
Alas, upon inspection, the tabulator got stuck on return,
and I had to pull it up with my fingers to get the carriage to advance the last space.
Shopkeep refused to come down, in spite of this. I didn't buy.

I'm kind of surprised how few machines I've seen for sale. There are a good number of antique shops for a town this size. 

Is it possible that the insurgency is accomplishing its mission? Are the masses realizing what they've had in their attic for decades and have decided to hold on rather than condemn them to the trash heap?

Well, I hope so.

This Smith Corona electric was spotted in another building owned by the museum.
(Photo used with permission)

An IBM Selectric II at the curator's office.
(Photo used with permission)

The Selectric II being used to fill out a form.
(Photo used with permission)
After work, I decided to check out the downtown festivities. Something goes on every week, but I had time to kill. I tried Goodwill first. No luck. But then, as I was driving further into town, I just happened to spot another store that was open.

Whaddya know? A Selectric II for sale. But wait....

What's that???
I was quite intrigued. This little guy was impossible to miss.

I have no will power, but I had a Tuscan Turkey sandwich.

Without the ribbon spool cover, the Signet looks like the old Royal portables of the 20s and 30s.

Yes, I took the typewriter with me into town. I've been to many summer festivals in other cities, and this one has its act together. Several blocks are cordoned off to make it safe for pedestrians. To compensate, all of the parking meters on Capitol Avenue are deactivated after 5pm. I quickly found a spot and enjoyed a short walk to the top of a hill.

View of the street from my cafe table.

A special Harley event was going on, not normally part of the festivities.
All I know is that they were really nice bikes. Couldn't tell you anything else.
Of course I had to go over...

Mmm, brat.

My new portable is a Silver-Seiko that was rebranded as the Royal Signet (not to be confused with the American-made Signet series from the 1930s). They started coming into the country in 1968, but I can't find a serial number database for this line.

The Signet is a no frills portable. Here's a list of all the features it doesn't have:

- Ribbon color selector
- Tabulator
- Ribbon direction switch
- Touch control

The ribbon spool cover falls off if you turn it upside down (something's worn out on the pegs that insert into the frame), and the rubber feet on the bottom decayed a long time ago. I can probably fix that, since they were just little rings screwed onto the bottom of the frame like a washer.

 I can hear the purists now.

"Dude! You should've saved your money and bought a Lettera 22 or a Skyriter!"

I might have, if there was one available. I won't argue that the Lettera is probably a better machine (never tried one), but you cannot hope to find one for $17.

OzTypewriter has an article about the post-war Royal portables here. The Signet isn't mentioned, but you can see it in one of the advertisements. 

If you think about it, this machine harkens back to the days of the earliest portable typewriters. Some of those didn't even have a shift function or number keys.

The keytops are big and chunky with indentions for the fingers. It took me a few pages to adjust, but I like the touch. What's strange is that I'm able to type faster and with less resistance if the machine is in my lap, angled down. The Signet can't go very fast, but with practice, you can maintain a certain pace (which is arguably better). 

The shift key is interesting. It's a carriage shift that angles it slightly away from you. It takes a lot less effort than my old Remingtons, which simply lift the carriage straight up. The margin release also serves as the de-jamming key. That's a handy feature.

I finally have a used for this drawer!

Some papers that came with it. No owner's manual.

The Signet did very well when I was downtown. It's very light, about the same as my Macbook. As with most late 20th Century portables, the machine comes with a top half-case that snaps onto the frame for transport.

I would be much more likely to take this on a long road trip than my Sears Tower, simply because of the reduced weight and size. Writing outside is really nice (assuming you're protected from the elements), and the fresh air helps me think.

But I also like the confines of this tiny hotel room.

"The creative act is done on that machine over there. You see this thing?"
(Charles Bukowski with a Royal HH)

I decided to stay home and rest. I've been going back to the gym and my body was very sore.


Sleeping in rocks! I felt a lot better and decided to go out for a quick bit. One of my co-workers had told me about a picnic that was going on at the historic Jefferson Landing. The city has been celebrating its 175th anniversary. Sadly, the heat and humidity thinned the crowds.

This German folk band was a delight. I arrived just in time to hear them play "Edelweiss,"
one of my personal favorites, followed by "The Missouri Waltz." 

Making rope.

Not sure what this thing is, but I used it to help tighten the strands.
The whole operation took three people, ten minutes, and a lot of elbow grease.
An 1850s era barn loom used for demonstration. 

 My last stop of the week was a record store called In the Groove, only a short drive from my hotel.

Entrance of the store.

Front room.

Side room with some furniture for sale.

A 1920s Edison player.
The records were called "diamond disks" because the stylus tip was made of diamond.
 The store clerk told me that a full crank would get you two records of listening time.
Still works!
Bill had a beard???
I always did like him.

A listening station. Try before you buy!

On a final note, OzTypewriter recently posted an article about a one-armed woman who could type 75 words per minute. Read it here.

Ah, but dear man, I've got one to match. Frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't been featured on other blogs in the typosphere (that I know of).

I present Ron Mingo.

I've got no idea what machine he's using. My instinct tells me it's a Royal FP, but going 160 words a minute? It's gotta be custom made. My hats off to the one who can track it down. I'd like to see a followup to this video.

And now, a disclaimer.

I hope I haven't spoiled you, dear readers. My future posts will not likely contain as many goodies. The internship is a huge part of my graduate work. I'm doing it in place of a thesis, so I've got to give it 200%.

Don't worry. I'm sure we'll think of something to talk about.

Power to the pen!


  1. yep, way back in 'ought-nine it was Mingo Mania in the Typosphere:

    It should be noted that Ron Mingo became a pro baseball player in his later years, and was M.C. Hammer's high school baseball coach.

    PS. $17 for a Silver-Seiko Royal? smokin' deal. These and the travel Brothers are real gems, usually more reliable than the fancy Olivettis and much cheaper to own. They practically beg to be taken outside for impromptu typing sessions.

  2. Damn that underwood quiet tab would have been nice! But certainly not as portable as your silver seiko

  3. Lettera's are nice machines, but don't let the typewriter snobs dissuade you from enjoying an off brand machine. If it types, it's okay. Nice pictures, wish I were there.

  4. Hmmmmm, that frozen yogurt is looking delicious! Good use of your drawer too. Good way to quickly tuck away a writer when you need the desk for something else.