Brain Storming

This newly found hobby of typewriting has brought untold satisfaction and joy to my life. Not a day passes when I don’t spend time hammering out one thing or another. 

In high school English I may have been my teacher’s worst nightmare. Hanging participle is about the only thing I took away from there. Wordsmithing didn’t catch on for another eight years with a Sears portable typewriter. A few yarns were crafted and sold. Then came a Commodore 64, Easy Script word processor, and a 300 baud dial-up modem. Casting the old aside became the norm – MS DO, Windows 3.1, then 95 and 98. And finally the apex – Windows 10 and MS Word, flash drives, virus infections, trojans, and crashes.

Weary of virus protection and password corruption I’m back to what I once considered slow, too slow – a manual typewriter, a 60-year-old machine 

Many hobbies that support subcultures I prefer to call purists – fixed-gear bicycles, muzzleloader rifles, bare-bones motorcycles. And now I’ve joined the throng with a manual typewriter. I’m a purist. 

I define it as such because there are no ones or zeros, or ASCIIs codes residing between my fingers and what appears on the paper. It approaches the basic, like pencil and paper.

I’ve been journaling, brainstorming for ideas, for more than 30 years. It started by purchasing journal books. Then I turned to spiral notebooks. A decade ago I began fabricating my journals using 8.5 x 11 inch 20# copy paper and a cover of something heavier. They consist of a dozen or so sheets folded end-to-end and secured with a long arm stapler. This method provides a book measuring 5.5 x 8.5 in inches. I prefer use a PaperMate Sharpwriter. 

When I travel by motorcycle, bicycle, or hiking, where space is a factor, I fold the sheets side-to-side which provides a book that measures 4 x 11.5 inches and stapled in the same manner. This size fits in my pocket. There are no wires or rigid covers to consider. A Sharpwriter provides the ability to alter an entry if one is so inclined.

Issues of the Day – 14 January 2021

In this day of digital everything publishing something in analog requires extra steps. But I have the time and a wee bitof the know how. So here is my first post – my daily journal, Issues of the Day. I is typed with an Olympia SM9 typewriter that is all of 50 or 60 years old. When the draft is finished, it is then photographed, then uploaded to a Samsung tablet, and finally posted on my blog, TYPEWRITERS.

Continue reading “Issues of the Day – 14 January 2021”

The Clerk

Copywriter Scott B. Laughlin 2021

My given name is Sylvester Roberts. But I prefer being called Bob. Being the smallest guy around has some drawbacks – too short for basketball, not enough body mass for football. Softball? Well, I’m tall enough. Weight doesn’t matter either. But patience does. Standing around waiting for a fly ball is not my favorite pastime. As a result I’ve elected to spend the majority of my time alone. That’s not as bad as it sounds. I’m an only child. I’m accustomed to it. It leaves me time for non-competitive activities, like fishing and reading. 

Mother luck smiled on me a few months back. I don’t mean it was a stroke of luck that Uncle Ted passed. Have mercy. When his attorney read his will I learned I had become the owner of his Olivetti Lettra 22 typewriter. What a fine machine that is. Getting the hang of it took time. But time is on my side, another positive attribute of being a square peg.

As the evenings became weeks I learned to type words, rather than letters. I didn’t have to spell out short words. In time my fingers learned words like my eyes did. It just happens. Now I’ve added another activity to my short list of non-competitive sports – short story writing.  Sweet.

An after-school job had not been a consideration until I spotted the help wanted sign in the Southern Pacific Depot. Everyone knows Brookings, Oregon is not large enough to support a Western Union Office. Instead, the train dispatcher handles the telegrams. 

On the given day I spot the sign I learn looking for a high school student to deliver telegrams each afternoon. I certainly know my way around Brookings. George Warner, the daytime train dispatcher, ticket writer, Western Union Operator, and manager all wrapped into one. He’s an old man, pushing forties, probably. His hair was thin and gray at the temples. He’s a little stopped . Age, probably. But his eyes really draw my attention as I apply for the job. They are washed out and tired looking. He hires me, I start that very afternoon. The pay wasn’t great, but that’s not a big deal, me living at home and all.

George hands me a stack of telegrams already in envelopes each bearing the names and addresses of the recipients. Then he shows me the bicycle with a sign on the front fender that reads: Western Union. Just like that I’m an important kid.

Everything is routine for the first three months. But then rumors of an impending war makes Western Union important. People want to know.  Overnight, it seems, the depot has become a madhouse. George can no longer keep up. 

One afternoon I find him busy with a fat lady wearing a purple coat with a furry coat trying to schedule a ticket for San Francisco. Hen hasn’t had time to translate a stack of cursive telegrams into Western Union form. So without waiting for instructions, I sit down and begin typing. Then the Western Union wire comes to life. I’ve picked up the American Morse, enough to understand the clicking of the sounder. I set the cursive messages aside and begin copying the sounder with the typewriter without actually knowing what the message states. After receiving the sender’s end-of-message designator I reach for his bug and send an  acknowledgement. Then I return to the stack of cursives.

“I sensed you were picking up Morse, but I didn’t know you could type,” George called across the room after the San Francisco lady had left.

“Sometimes I even surprise myself,” I said.

That demonstration of my skills didn’t earn me a raise, but it fetched me some respect.  

On 7 December 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. Before the month was out I received a summons from the draft board. Evidently, George spoke up on my behalf, because the following day I boarded a train bound for San Diego. I’m not sure of my destination, only that I joined others already engaged in high-speed code training. These students had already advanced beyond pencil copy and were learning to use a typewriter. The school had all the earmarks of a structure that was hastily constructed. The studs and rafters were rough and unpainted. Apparently sessions are conducted around the clock. My classes are at night, each student monitors with headsets which the instructor, a bald headed man is a World War One Veteran. I can never get passed his sharp eyes and his push-broom mustache. And then there is his crooked nose and he fact he is wheelchair bound. All I know about him is that Master Sergeant McDougle. He is a no-nonsense man who is often referred to as the Baldheaded Bastard, not to his face, of course. Listening to Morse becomes boring for many during night sessions. When a student drifts off, as they occasionally do, they may hear the code change from random characters to PE777 PE7 JA, the rhythm associated with the song “The Old Grey Mare”. Other times their code may suddenly become extremely high speed. Either one awakened the sleeping student.

My first duty began in the radio room of a newly commissioned Liberty Ship where I settle in comfortably with a bug, headset, and typewriter. My pencil and paper decency is not exposed for a year, while my ship is at anchor in the Philippines.

I’m standing watch on the forward deck when Harry, a tall man who works in the galley, stops for a chat.

“Is that light sending a message, or is someone just fooling around?” Harry asked, pointing across the harbor. 

Following his hand I recognize it as Morse.

“Here, jot down the letters as I call them out,” I tell him, handing over a scrap of paper and a stubby pencil. 

“Is he finished?”

“I think so. What’s it say?”

“It says our ship is on fire.”

Naturally, I sound the alarm and the problem is quickly solved.

Throughout the war I was never again challenged to decipher code without a typewriter. One day my oldest granddaughter asked me what I did during the war. I probably could have told her of my swimming away from a sinking ship. But instead I told her I was a clerk.

A Pair of Olympia typewriters

I bought an Olympia SM9 typewriter for $6 at a Tucson Goodwill Store. It was years ago. It was broken, the ribbon drive didn’t work. But I kept it just in case. A few months ago the typewriter bug bit me and I fixed the old girl. I got involved in “One Typed Page”. One thing led to another and late last month I ordered a 60-year-old electric machine, an Olympic SKE. I was delighted when it arrived the day prior to New Year’s Day. But when the keyboard didn’t work I was bummed. I have some experience with aircraft navigation equipment mainatance, but none concerning typewriters.

Yesterday, Sunday, I removed the bottom cover and probed the interns with the plastic end of a screwdriver and I discovered a relay, evidently the power relay for the keyboard, was stuck in the off position. After tapping on it the keyboard came alive. AND IT WORKS….for now. I have enough experience with intermittent problems it’ll be awhile before I turst it.

So now I have the beginning of a typewriter collection. Space around here is in short supply,bbut I’d sure like to own an Olympia Traveler.

My First Typewriter


During the winter of 1964, while serving in the West Indies, I purchased a Sears Portable Typewriter from Spiegel. It was delivered via the USPS through my New York APO box. Why? I had some ideas to share. During my off duty hours I studied a borrowed copy of Writer’s Market and learned how to properly format a short story. And then I began. There was no internet. Everything was submitted hardcopy along with a cover letter and SASE in case it was rejected (probably a 98% chance it would be).

There were no copy machines, so I used carbons. Carbons created an additional adventure – smudging, fingerprints, and a general pain.

I typed and retyped and the retyped again. I remember ten rewrites with one story. After the dust had settled I sold two yarns. Given enough time I might have earned the cost of that Sears Portable.




Typewriters are of interest to me, those requiring no external power source. During the sixties I published short stories for magazines using a Sears Portable. Then there was an Olivetti 22. I loved that Olivetti, but it needed constant attention. It was like owning a Harley Knucklehead. There was a Royal Portable as well as others less important, thus forgotten. The carbons and the rewrites were a pain in the ass. Why? Because I was in a hurry. GIT IT DONE!

Then in the eighties the Commodore 64 came along. I took one home from a big box store, along with a disk drive, a printer, and a few floppies. I was caught up in the frenzy of publishing stories churned out by backroom presses. But when the Internet came and my sandbox was accessible only through portals, so to speak. The personal touch was gone, never to return. I became a lurker.

Then I discovered the Blog – a media as close as I would ever come to re-experiencing the personal touch of my paper quarterlies and their editors.

Still, throughout all this activity, the mechanical typewriter continued to fascinate me. I’ve owned several over the past half-century. My current machine is an Olympic SM9 Series 2 (1971). In this age of instant gratification it was loosing it’s place until I stumbled upon YouTube and the Typewriter “Rabbit Hole”. Through this I developed a new purpose for it – Poetry.

There is no place for Hurry Up in poetry. Therefore, it snugly fits into my slow-motion world and my stately SM9 Series 2.

My Wife of 58 years

About five years ago Barb suffered a heart attack and the surgeon had difficulty restarting her heart. It took eight minutes and he told me me that mental issues might result. They were slow in developing, so we used our time in the best way possible. When she voiced a desire to embroider we jumped at it.

Her skills were astounding. We decided that she should embroider quilt blocks while I watched YouTube videos on how to quilt. Then I purchased a Singer sewing machine and began making mistakes as quickly as I could.

Our apartment is very small, not conducive to quilting so I investigated the art of Quilt-As-You-Go. Working on a 3′ by 4′ table didn’t make things easier, but we were successful. A year later we finished the quilt in the photo. It is a bench mark for us both.

This is Barb and I in May 1963 at Rough and Ready, California. I was about to take her to parent’s home while I transferred to the West Indies.