Monday 24 March 2014

Charlie's dad's typewriter

I sing in a choir of a Monday night. The sort of easy-going informal non-religious community choir which puts you in a good mood and acts as a means of maintaining vocal fitness in lieu of other musical commitments. So does Charlie. Charlie's the kind of guy who you stand next to when learning a new song, because the chances are he's going to know it already and will sing all the right notes. We got talking typewriters during one rehearsal (as you do) and he mentioned how he had a rather sentimental typewriter stored under the house; his father's. Charlie's dad had bought it new from the Chartres dealer in Melbourne in 1936 when he was a 20-21 year old uni student. It was then passed down to Charlie when he was at uni and continued to turn out good quality type for many years. Unfortunately however, Charlie's dad's typewriter had gone for a swim in the great floods of 2011.

Just down the road from the University of Queensland where I did my undergraduate

 Cnr Margaret and Albert Streets, Brisbane CBD
Source of photos: See end of post

South-east Queensland suffered a real beauty of a big flood back in January 2011. It rained like Genesis 7:12, give or take a few days and nights. The "flood-proof" Wivenhoe Dam quickly exceeded its emergency storage capacity, causing the SEQ Water engineers to open the gates and spew forth enough water to put parts of Brisbane city and numerous suburbs up to a storey or more underwater. Charlie lives in Graceville and had received a couple of feet of water under his house, enough to submerge all sorts of things including his father's typewriter.

When I say 'water', what I really mean is corrosive, toxic, muddy, bacteria infested brown muck. Upstream of Brisbane's inner suburbs are all manner of chemical plants, car wreckers, industry, sewerage treatment plants and the like, many of which went under and spewed their contents into the flood waters. The typewriter case is testament to this, I've never seen anything like it, all the fabric and paint stripped right off it. I told him I'd have a look.

Charlie's quick thinking after the floods is probably what saved his dad's typewriter's life; he doused the mechanism chock full of WD40. Some three years after the event, there was not too much set-in rust in its guts and it wasn't too far off working order. On the eve of the Brisbane Type-in, Scott K got fiddling with the stuck carriage lock and made a couple of other adjustments to get the carriage moving. Following this I gave it a real thorough clean out, removing as much of the gooey WD40-infused rust as I could and further freeing up the carriage, before re-lubing and bending few type-bars to stop them sticking. A new ribbon, bit of goo-remover, a couple of cheeky touch-ups with some black model paint and a healthy application of car-polish later and this little beauty is typing up a storm.





Once it was done I typed a letter on it and then took it out to the back yard to photograph it. Because let's face it, everything is more shiny and sparkly when it's outside and it makes it look like you've done a more impressive job with it than you actually have. Shiny or not, they're a pretty awesome machine these Remington Portable 5's, regardless of whether they are truly "Australian Built". Almost 80 years old, submerged in toxic muck for over 24 hours; just a few adjustments, a good clean and this little Remington is going like a champion again. I gave it back to Charlie last Monday and was informed that next choir I will have a freshly home-baked loaf of fancy bread waiting for me.


Source of flood photos:

Friday 14 March 2014

Twelve months hence: the second Brisbane Type-in

It’s been a year since I started this blog. On March 14th 2013 I made A Confession to all and sundry that I had become rather obsessed about typewriters. In that post I shared my experience of the first ever Brisbane Type-in. One year on and 31 posts later, I am still rather obsessed with typewriters and I’m going to use this anniversary post to blog about my experience at the second ever Brisbane Type-in.

My story about this year's Brisbane Type-in actually begins the day before it happened. Scott K phoned me up in the afternoon, confirming that he would be eating Mexican food that night with one or more interstate typospharian. One train later and I was soon tucking into some rather limp lettuce (n.b. don’t order salad at Mexican restaurants) in the company of Scott, Natalie, two typewriters and two children. The typewriters belonged to Scott, but the children didn’t belong to any of us. They had come over from another table to see what these cool noisy writing machines were. Us three and the kids all had a great time, staging races to see who could type a line the fastest (first to the margin bell wins), a spelling contest, all sorts of fun stuff and the kids even had two short stories written for them.

Later on in the night, I held a secret impromptu ninja type-in on my front deck. Some of you might call it inviting two friends around for a cup of tea. Others might call it a platform from which to shamelessly boast about my typewriter collection... I call it an impromptu ninja type-in. Because there were typewriters, there was stuff typed and the minimum number of participants for a type-in was satisfied (refer to the comments section of Robert’s Canberra Type-in post for discussion about the necessary prerequisites required before a gathering can be declared a 'type-in').


The next morning I packed the car with 5 typewriters and two chairs. The chairs didn’t fit in the boot and I could only be bothered getting 4 out of the car. Nevertheless, the event was a great one. All sorts of cool and rare typewriters from a tiny Bijou with a Russian keyboard, to a massive, massive war-time issue Hermes Ambassador, to a near mint condition Fox, to Robert’s USB Underwood, which was connected to a laptop. 


Equally cool and rare were the people present, who had made the pilgrimage from far afield as Perth (Steve K), Darwin (Nat Tan), Canberra (Robert Messenger), Kooralbyn (John Lavery) and of course the suburbs of Brisbane (Scott, Rino, Louise and I). Over five hours in that park we yacked on about all sorts of stuff, solving at least half of the problems facing society in this day and age.

All up the day was a roaring success; good weather, a speed-typing contest, fish and chips, story-telling and knowledge sharing. The only slight dampener for the day was the regrettable fact that the half-time entertainment that I had previously advertised; the great Geoff Boycott, had to pull out due to unforeseen circumstances. His exciting new range of stovepipe trousers remains unseen in Australia to date. However, this was perhaps a good thing, as we hadn't quite had time to set up the catwalk for him. 

Prior to setting sail back to the real world, several of us came away with our own copy of “101 Great Typewriters” personally signed by the author himself.

Typewriters eh... what aren't they good for?

Thursday 6 March 2014

Brisbane Type-in- THIS SUNDAY!

Roll up, roll up, to the biggest event on every Australian typewriter collector's calendar- the annual Brisbane Type-in!! This year is shaping up to be even better than last year's. Come and immerse yourself in the friendly clatter and ping of typeslugs in an idyllic outdoor setting under the Story Bridge. In order to set the mood, we are in the process of constructing giant 40ft high paper mache scale models of various typewriters to be perched upon and hung from the bridge, pending council approval. Even more exciting, we have just visited the hardware store and bought a quantity of plywood sufficient to construct a portable cat-walk such that former English cricketing legend Geoff Boycott can showcase his fashionable new line of stovepipe trousers as part of the type-in half-time entertainment- his only Australian appearance.

You'd be mad to miss it. Bring a typewriter (or three), bring a comfy chair and enjoy a morning of typewriter goodness in the company of some wonderful (and some wonderfully knowledgeable) like-minded souls.

11:00am this Sunday 9th of March in Captain Burke Park. Be there.