Getting back to my introduction to typing: My parents
knew I liked to write stuff way back in sixth grade,
so for my birthday they bought me a used Smith Corona portable.
There was a Lifestyle feature in the July 27 Daily Chronicle
about the resurgence of typewriter use and the nostalgia surrounding
It mentioned a new book by Tom Hanks (which I bought) called
Uncommon Type, which has a typewriter woven into
the plot of each short story. Hanks collects typewriters and
has more than 100. I only had 14 in my basement at one time,
until my wife, Kay, said ENOUGH my collection has dwindled
to only two now.
One belonged to the late newsman Dick Kliesch, who had
told me years ago that the staff at WLBK radio used this special
model that only had CAPS keys, as radio newscasters read from
The Associated Press and United Press International wire stories
that were transmitted in all capital letters.
So they wrote their local news copy the same way. I wonder if
other newsmen such as Bob Brown and Russ Pigott also used it,
or maybe even the radio pioneer George Biggar, who owned the
station. Klieschs family passed it on to me with the understanding
it would be given a home in a museum preferably the DeKalb
County History Center.
This typewriter, owned by the late newsman Dick Kliesch
of WLBK, only types in CAPS which was easier to read on the air.
(Schrader photo for ShawMedia)
I used the hunt and peck method then, but loved
typing letters. That summer I decided to publish a little paper
for our neighbors along the 1-mile stretch of Baseline Road south
of Genoa. My mother surreptitiously went to the Davenport Grade
School where she taught and used its ditto machine to run off
a dozen copies.
I never saved a copy, so if you find one I would cherish
that. I named it the Baseline Blarney and took photos
with my mothers Argus box camera to paste on each copy.
I only recall two photos one of Doc Corson with two dogs
on his back steps and then Elsie Peterson wearing her apron standing
on her front porch.
It wasnt until my junior year at Genoa-Kington High
School when I had the opportunity to take a typing class. It
was called office practices taught by Miss Margie Tiffany. I
learned the keyboard quickly and only faltered when we had to
take a test with a blank keyboard. I think I dropped from typing
70 words a minute down to about 35 (without errors) but did pass.
In my first job out of college at the Byron Tribune, I
used an upright Royal and by the 1980s had moved up the tech
ladder to an IBM Selectric II with a type ball that you could
change for different fonts. Now that was cool. But then my employer
decided to computerize and provided me with a DecMate II that
resembled ET in the movie, with a skinny neck that held the screen
above the keyboard, plus a CPU tower on the floor.
Now fast forward to 2019 about 30 years later and
you find me composing on a MacBook Air laptop. Next thing you
know you will be able to talk your story into a microphone that
transcribes and spellchecks and it shows up on your screen, Wait,
someone told me about Dragon Speaks software that already does
Now I only have one old portable, a manual Optima brand.
It was picked up at a moving sale for me by Sharon Holmes (former
county clerk) for only $20. It belonged to the Boeys. Bob had
retired from the NIU board and moved down south. His wife, Doris,
told me it had originally belonged to Bobs father.
If you want to see my latest acquisition, plus a few dozen
other treasures from our basement, you can come to the Step
Back in Time" collectibles public exhibit Aug. 24 at Oak
Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center.
Of course other residents will have some family heirlooms
to share that are much more valuable than mine.