David Middlecamp: Typewriters produced miles of valuable work

A 1958 ad for typewriters from Johnny Nelson Office Equipment Co.
A 1958 ad for typewriters from Johnny Nelson Office Equipment Co.

Check out the back-to-school bargains at Johnny Nelson Office Equipment Co. in an advertisement in the then-Telegram-Tribune on Sept. 17, 1958.

In a college town, the typewriter was a handy item to have rather than searching for an open one at the library. The ribbons on public typewriters were always worn out.

If you couldn’t afford the top-of-the-line $165 model — amounting to more than $1,200 in today’s money, according to the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — there were reconditioned Royals, Remingtons, Smith-Coronas and Underwoods.

At one time, Nelson maintained the typewriters at The Tribune. They got a workout.

Reporters would type stories, and editors would mark the copy in pencil or insert a new section by cutting and pasting in new portions with scissors and rubber cement.

The resulting copy would be sent to the composing room, where the type would be set.

No spell check on these babies.

Now, it is too easy to slap a document together and print something out.

My desk is covered with mostly unimportant papers.

Back then, odds were higher that if someone took the time to type it, it had some thought behind it. Unlike my wandering prose.

When I started at Cal Poly, the student newspaper, the Mustang Daily, wrote stories on typewriters. One reporter had a proud moment when he finished writing a special project, and the story was taller than he.

I understand the Jack Kerouac novel “On the Road” was written in April 1951 as a single-spaced 120-foot scroll of copy. That’s tall.

What is your favorite typewriter story?

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