Monday, October 19, 2015


Courtney and I took a much-needed three day trip to Springfield, Missouri to visit my grandmother. My parents, brother, his girlfriend, and the two of us went in one car and had an absolutely fabulous time. It was one of those perfect trips you don't get often. Nothing went wrong. We ate whatever we wanted. Got to see a great Beatles tribute band that was put together by George Harrison's sister (Google Liverpool Legends). There's a lot to write about, but time is against me. Work is going to get hectic again very soon, and besides, the experience I had was for me and the Mrs. only. Better remembered than dissected.

Oh, and I got a typewriter.

I check Craigslist all the time. There was a Facit 1620 that I'd been keeping my eye on. I'd contacted the owner a few months ago, but she wasn't willing to ship it to me for fear I'd scam her. On Saturday morning, before Courtney got up, I got back on just in case something had changed.

Sure enough, it had.

This little beauty was just sitting in a hole-in-the-wall consignment store and had been available for a few days before I came around. I called the owner and told her I'd be by shortly. Once I got there, I was greeted by the lady who took me to the back. There, I met the guy who'd brought it in: an bearded gentleman with a Kimber .45 automatic on his hip. "I don't know anything about these," he said. "I just drug it out of an attic while doing a house cleaning. We do a lot of estate sales."

$30 and it was mine, a 1952 Hermes that looks like it's hardly been used.

There are only two noticeable flaws with this machine.

1. The ribbon cover on the right won't stay shut. There's a metal clip that has broken off, but I think Gorilla glue will fix that. Looks like it was originally sodered on.

2. The "Q" key seems to have a linkage problem. It takes a lot more force to make a clean imprint on paper. However, that might be a design flaw. The farther you get from the center of the keyboard, the feeling changes a little at a time.

This thing competes with my Corona 3 and Lettera 32 for the smallest typewriter I own. It's lighter than the 32, but easier to type on than the Corona (but only by a small fraction, I like Brett).

There are a few quirks about this design I've noticed thus far. Using the carriage return lever on single-space is tricky. The machine is so tiny that using two pieces of paper at once will lift the bail bar, which acts as a stop for the lever. Use too much force, and you'll index the line by two instead of one. Threading the ribbon this thing is a pain. If you want to use a different layer, you have to take it out and re-install it upside down. There's no ribbon selector.

I can hardly imagine using this thing to write an entire novel, like John Steinbeck. But, since he was traveling a lot to cover the labor strikes in California, this might have been the best choice for him like the Corona was the best for Hemingway in the 1920s.

We went to an antique store later that day. I passed up an Underwood standard and a pristine Super Deluxe 500 from China. It was $13, but I figured nothing would be as good as what I already had...and I didn't know if the machine would last with hard use.

But little did I know the best was yet to come.

Later that night, I was pecking a few words on it and noticed some paper underneath the type basket. This paper tag, I think, was the previous owner's ID. I was blown away. How the heck does a typewriter get from California to Missouri? What're more, did Mr. Jones really take that thing to Asia with him? To Vietnam?

The 1st Cavalry Division suffered heavy losses in Vietnam with over 5,000 dead. They participated in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley and fought at Hue during the Tet Offensive. I don't know how far I'll be able to get with researching Mr. Jones, but I'd like to try. I didn't have time to ask the consignment people a lot of questions (and that would have been awkward...).

If Jones did go to Asia, he would have been well-equipped. The "RS" symbol is for the rupee, which is the currency in India and a number of Asian countries. It also has the British pound as well as the dollar. Not often do you find a typewriter with so many currencies!

I foresee an episode of Front Stroke involving my lightweights...

Power to the pen!


  1. Nice find! My Rocket is from 1953. It too had a problem where the center keys needed to be hit really hard to advance the carriage. I added little brass sleeves to the linkages for those keys, so they'd hit the bar sooner that activates the carriage and escapement. Also, if the ribbon covers are fully closed then sometimes the ribbon won't advance, so I leave them open a bit.

    Despite all that, I love using it, and took it on my 21 day vacation, producing 21 typecasts.

    1. Neat! Maybe I'll have Vern evaluate it. It doesn't type as smoothly as the Lettera 32, but is much easier to transport.

  2. Wow! That information about the previous owner is very interesting. If his name was really spelled Jhon, it shouldn't be too hard to learn more about him.