I bought a typewriter. It’s a blue 1970 Penncrest Caravelle 10 just like the one I cut my teeth on in middle school and high school. I was introduced to the typewriter in the eighth grade. I, along with 39 other eighth grade students, were asked to be the inaugural cadre of the Target program. This program was for gifted students and was in addition to our normal classroom workload. It was a privilege and an honor to be included in this group. Target provided us academic enrichment and a trip to Washington, D.C., to Jimmy Carter’s inauguration as the 39th president of the United States and Georgia’s one-term Georgia export to the nation’s capital.
We were required to write a term paper as the price of admission to two 12-hour Greyhound bus rides and a tourist visa to Washington, D.C. The paper had to be typed and we were required to give an oral presentation of our topic to the Target group. I chose space travel as my topic. I still have my term paper neatly but clumsily bound in its flimsy acetate cover with unreliable plastic slide-on binder. This binding system was de facto standard: affordable, simple, and unfortunately, unreliable. One false move at the school bus stop and the binding would quit and the pages would dance off in all directions.
We all took the challenge and set off on researching, writing, and typing our term papers. We owned a beautiful blue Penncrest Caravelle 10 manual typewriter. Built by Smith-Corona for J.C. Penney, my mother had bought it with her JCP employee discount to replace our Underwood typewriter. I set to work with this mechanical writing machine: click, click, click, ding, zip! To my surprise, I loved using the typewriter. I was not, and am not, a “touch typist” so my progress was slow but the typing process was enchanting.
My term paper on space travel was terrible and my oral presentation was worse. I was sick and not in school the day we were scheduled to present and so I had to schedule an alternate time. I was ill-prepared, anxious and I can still remember my verbal stumbling behind the podium standing in the lunch room of East Cobb Middle School. It was a terrible experience for me and worse for my audience. I imagine they would have rather been digging a ditch on a hot, humid Georgia day with a short-handled shovel than watching me die.
Despite this public mishap or perhaps because of it, I discovered the joy of typing. So the election of Jimmy Carter as the 39th President of the United States had a silver lining after all.
I bought a typewriter. It’s a blue 1970 Penncrest Caravelle 10 just like the one I cut my teeth on in middle school and high school. It arrived from Wisconsin this week. I arrived home to find it inside the house sitting on a bath towel. It was raining so it got wet sitting on the front porch until my wife found it. She brought it inside and there it was waiting to yield its out-of-the-box experience to me.
The typewriter was just as advertised until I tried to type something with it. The “Q”, “A”, and “1” keys were jammed. I looked under the “hood” to discover the linkages for these keys were disconnected and mangled like they had been struck by a meteorite. Now, the closest thing I have to typewriter repair experience is this post’s titular reference to the 1992 movie “A Few Good Men” but, while sitting in the early-morning mugginess offered by a June day in Virginia, I applied a technical degree, years of experience with auto-mechanics, and my God-given technical and logical aptitude to trouble-shoot and repair the typewriter.
I inserted a blank piece of paper and I was typing once again. For a moment I flashed back to a self-administered high school all-nighter during my Junior year. We were assigned a 40-book annotated bibliography - the first and last one I’ve ever compiled. It had to be typed, of course. Me and the Penncrest Caravelle 10: click, click, click, ding, zip!
H.G. Wells would be proud. I had discovered another time machine.