Several years ago, an area real estate agent was cleaning out a home and in lieu of throwing away 13 antique typewriters brought them to the Cleaver office where they’ve been collecting dust.
Several were donated to museums and one to the Clare Depot. As I tried to decide what to do with them, I began joining typewriter groups and visiting online forums.
Several large cities have typing clubs and hold “type-ins.” This gave me the idea to present our (accidental) typewriter collection at the Harrison Street Fair. It’s hard to pass by an antiquated typewriter without reaching out to press a few keys.
After showing our summer MichiganWorks! intern Jackie Ballard the typewriters and sharing my idea for a Street Fair booth, her interest was piqued.
Ballard worked with the Cleaver through the Young Professionals program at MichiganWorks! Region 7B, a summer job training program geared toward giving young adults work experience.
Ballard dove right into the project in between her other job shadowing and training duties of filing, data entry and other office work. Ballard researched each model of typewriter, how to clean the antique machines, and even how to fix their individual issues.
Ballard has always enjoyed working with mechanical projects.
“It’s so satisfying to twist that final screw and finally have a part function,” said Ballard. “But the typewriters were a challenge because I had no prior knowledge, and I was pretty much learning as I went.
“Despite any frustration with the mechanical side of things, the typewriters were still beautiful pieces of machinery and the evidence of so many years of love was clear even underneath decades worth of dirt.”
New ribbons were purchased and wound on the original cartridges and with a lot of Ballard’s elbow grease, the old machines were working again.
As I sat at my desk hearing the click-clack of typewriter sounds, I thought about how many years it has probably been since the Cleaver used a typewriter for business. I think we are all grateful for computers in aiding our everyday work life, but as a writer there is a certain romanticism for the typewriter. The keys just click differently.
We have the Remington Model 12 typewriter that was used by Jesse F. Allen, former publisher of the Clare County Cleaver. He owned the paper from January 1909 to September 1936. That typewriter was bought used from the Allen Printing Co., Lansing, in 1921, the machine was used in the Cleaver office until he sold the business, after which he used it personally. In 1925, when the Cleaver building burned to the ground, it was among the few articles found. That typewriter eventually will be displayed in the Local History and Genealogy Room at the Harrison District Library.
Of the half-dozen typewriters she cleaned and repaired, Ballard’s favorite is the 1918 Olive No. 9 model in military green. The unique “bat wing” design sets the Oliver models apart from the traditional typewriter design. Unbeknownst to Ballard, the Oliver No. 9 will be her parting gift for all her hard work at the Cleaver this summer.
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