I inherited very specific strands of my grandparents DNA. Thanks to Papa, I am meticulous and happen to love typewriters and thanks to Nana, I have 4 in our home.
Papa was a banker. He started his career in Jamaica as a bank teller with Barclays Bank and retired as a Director at Barclays in Barbados where they moved when my Mum was 15. Many knew him as the manager of my uncle’s band, The Merry Boys, The Merriboys, Ivory and later, Splashband but that was a later gig. My first memories of Papa were sitting at his desk at Tremont, the family home, at his typewriter. My sister and I would get to work when he was not at his desk by playing “office”. Any loose, unused piece of paper was transformed into our own little version of a bank ledger with rows and columns of numbers and lists of nonsense. There were always two typewriters in the house, in two different locations. One on his desk which was prominently placed in the living room as soon as you entered the house on the right and another by the phone in the hallway on the way to the kitchen.
As idyllic as growing up in Barbados was, there was a downside as well. Like rust. It was always inevitable due to the salt air that would relentlessly attack anything metal. Like typewriters. Tremont was just a couple of minutes up the road from the south coast sea.
Over the years, Papa would replace several typewriters. His final purchase was a Smith-Corona sometime in the early 80’s. If I close my eyes I can still see it. Truth be told, it was somewhat unattractive. A burnt caramel and cream colour, smaller than any of the other typewriters Papa ever had. Nevertheless, it was modern.
When Nana passed away in 2004, my Mum went on a cleaning and clearing bender to purge old things that were taking up unnecessary space at Tremont. Junk in her mind. Nana was known to hold on to things, a trait I may have inadvertently inherited. As my Mum cathartically purged, I hesitated on the typewriter. Even though Papa lived for two plus years after Nana went, he had not used this typewriter in years. It sat as a reminder of earlier, busier times but sadly now sat in a corner, rusting. No longer usable.
Although the years had not been kind to the mechanics of Papa’s typewriter, the keys remained perfectly in tact. Almost like new. Plastic takes anywhere from 450 to 1000 years according to scientists to break down. I know the Earth is not too happy about this truth but for me, well, I am grateful. Papa’s typewriter keys were all that I could save from it. I keep them in safe keeping and wish to frame them one day. I pulled them out of their little snack Ziploc bag to capture this image for you.
As for the locations of my own personal collection of nostalgia? Let’s see, there is a Royal I found at Value Village for $10. Like Papa’s, it was also in our living room as soon as you entered on the right, but it now sits prominently in our dining room under a window. It still works but needs a ribbon. I like to print inspiring quotes in “American Typewriter” font because that is my kind of modern and makes me feel happy. The second Royal sits in the basement that does not work but has loads of charm and needs a better place. The Underwood sits in our garden, literally under a woody lilac tree. This one could not be saved but makes me happy whenever I see it in the garden, rust and all. As for the final one, my eldest acquired it in a garage sale because as far as I know, DNA is passed along to future generations.