A Girl and Her Typewriter – Redux

Recently Lisa returned to Portland, Maine for a quick weekend trip–and had the chance to revisit the super-cool Press Hotel. She couldn’t stay there, because it’s super expensive now and she was plum out of hotel points. But she felt nostalgic for this typewriter post–and thought she might share it again, for all you QWERTY fans….

My parents started dating (at least in part) because my mom typed my dad’s papers in college. His typewriter, it seemed, was always “breaking.” That’s what I always told Mrs. Dunlop, my high school typing teacher, about mine, too. She warned me I’d be sorry someday, because I’d NEVER get a job if I didn’t learn to type.

Unfazed, I headed off to college with an adorable blue typewriter in a matching plastic case, which my roommate used to type my papers for a dollar a page.  I handed off messy, handwritten pages to her…or, if it was a truly desperate situation, dictated off the cuff. Like father, like daughter, I guess. Ironically, when my dad got out of the Navy, he kicked off his half-century career with IBM selling typewriters.

I did regret my keyboard-dodging proficiency when Mrs. Dunlop’s dark prophecy came to pass. After college, I wanted to be an editor, but I didn’t get into the Harvard-Radcliffe publishing prep program I wanted because I couldn’t type the required 40 wpm to save my life.  I made the rounds of various New York publishers with my resume, never failing to flunk the 3-minute typing test administered by Human Resources. They deducted for typos, and because I made so many errors with my pathetic Hunt and Peck method, my incorrectly typed words canceled out about every correct word.

After a summer of job hunting by day and practicing with a typing book by night, someone finally had mercy on me and hired me into their sales department. They quickly determined I belonged in Editorial and sent me to the editor-in-chief, who threw me to the wolves. Well, not actual wolves—just 4 crazy-busy editors who needed reams of author/agent correspondence typed. Pronto, with no mistakes.

I put in my dues, painting toxic correction fluid over typos on my original pages and each of the 12 (no lie) carbon copies behind them. I congratulated myself on my growing skills, but then brand new typewriters arrived, with annoying correction ribbons and cartridges that just made things worse. When I met my friends for drinks after work—most of them had tidy, lucrative financial or legal jobs—my hands and clothes were covered in ink and dandruff-like flecks of Wite-Out. (Yes, that’s how it’s spelled. Ask me how I know.)

At the time, of course, I had no idea what fresh hell lay ahead: the word processor.  I was the last editor to let go of my typewriter. Literally. They had to pry it out of my hands.

A few Valentine’s ago, my husband surprised me with a night at the Press Hotel in Portland, Maine. He knew I’d love it because the building once housed the offices and printing plant of the state’s largest newspaper, The Portland Press Herald, from 1923 until 2010.

In the lobby, typewriters adorn an entire wall—and another is covered in vintage cases.


Near the entrance, a single Underwood typewriter is on display. Beside it are several thick, clean sheets of Press Hotel letterhead, in case guests feel the urge to send someone an actual note instead of a text. Of course I had to give it a whirl. (I have this same typewriter at home, by the way.)


The newspaper’s former “city room” is now the Inkwell Bar and the rooms are furnished like 1920’s writer’s offices. The coffee tables and the upstairs corridors display 150 years of headlines (my fave: Elderly Lobster Set Free)


The silver-metal-lined walls of the narrow elevator channeled typewriter key arms—the same ones that foiled me in high school. Did you know that the QWERTY keyboard was created to avoid the letter bars crossing and sticking? It slows down your typing speed by mixing up heavily-used letters with lesser-used ones.

As my husband and I stepped inside our room, I swear I felt the ghosts of journalists past—industrious, chainsmoking, mostly-guy writers, furiously typing against the clock. I also caught a very definite whiff of the highly irresistible scent I’d known all my life.

Ink. With a subtle note of Wite-Out.

Readers, what’s the worst typo you’ve ever made–or seen created by some other poor soul?

32 thoughts on “A Girl and Her Typewriter – Redux

  1. I used to work in order entry for a computer company via an 800 line. A customer called in to check on their order and I was reading the notes and another employee had typed dick instead of disk. Thank goodness it was an internal note only. I got a good laugh from it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That sounds like a wonderful hotel!!!! I have a typing story for you.
    My sister was 16 years older than me. She went to business school and I thought it would be cool to learn to type like she did. So my parents gave me an old typewriter they had in the attic and my dad’s typing lesson book from his business college days. I was so proud that I already knew how to type quite well by the time I got to Junior High School.
    I went to my first typing class and was slightly bored and pretty cocky. When we were ready for our first test, the teacher had taped a sheet of paper over the keyboard so we could not see what we were typing. Then she dictated what she wanted us to type. I typed away while watching her stroll around the room yelling out sentences. Well, as you can guess, my hands were totally on the wrong row and I typed nothing but gobbledygook, as my mother would say. I ate a large slice of humble pie and moved on to do well
    in the class.
    I love my laptop, but I have to admit, some days I really wish I still had that noisy old typewriter that my dad bought in the 1929.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carol, my sis is 16 years older than me also. I don’t remember her typing…but the family typewriter did live in her bedroom while she was in college.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. No typo stories, but I learned to type on my grandfather’s old Royal. Really old Royal. Oh how I miss the weight of those typewriter keys! And the ding at the end of the line. And that flourish of a swing when you return the carriage. I hadn’t realized what a sensory experience typing was until I typed this. Or maybe I did–when I bought my laptop, I chose one that had a hefty weight to the keys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe we should get one of those typewriter-esque keyboards, Mary. (And I think Jessica Fletcher used a Royal before she switched to a computer.)


  4. I don’t have any typo stories, but I do remember learning to type in an IBM Selectric in high school. And I was head of the class in college for a while, because I had a fancy typewriter. You typed a line of digital text and it didn’t “type” until you hit the Return key.

    First job I applied for when I came to Pittsburgh, I typed 98 wpm. Not so much these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll never forget the awed whispers running down the row of editorial assistants at an early job of mine: a new assistant was starting who could type 100 words per minute! (Her soon-t0-be boss had bragged about it to her (very jealous) fellow editors.) The “new girl” became a very good friend of mine (and she’s now an awesome writer as well).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Liz, I’m impressed! My dad insisted we all learn to type. Bless him! But I got my first computer in 1985 and never looked back. Revisions on a play with a typewriter meant cutting actual lines on paper and pasting in others.

    Btw, have you tried using a typewriter lately? My fingers aren’t strong enough to bang the keys down!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, I have, Ellen! Hubs bought me one for an anniversary a few years back and we couldn’t believe how hard it is to type on it. The grandkids bang around on it and don’t even understand the ribbon is dry.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As a former journalism teacher, I would LOVE this hotel! I must visit sometime. No typo story, but here’s an autocorrect one. My husband was texting my daughter, who shares his love of the night sky. He typed, “Have you seen Venus?” Autocorrect decided the proper question would end with a word that rhymes with Venus but starts with a p…Luckily, he caught it before it sent, because can you imagine getting that text…from your FATHER? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I had (and still have) such bad handwriting that when I started law school, my law professor father–who was trying to take pity on the poor law professors who would have to read my exams–bought me a beautiful typewriter. “I’m giving you this,” he told me, “in exchange for a promise that you will type all your case summaries [something first-year law school students have to do], and thereby become proficient enough at typing by the end of the semester that you can type your exams.”

    I did, and I did. And after three years of this, being able to type, rather than hand-write, the horror that is the state bar exam was a marvelous gift. Thank you, Dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As a kid, I remember pulling my dad’s typewriter out of storage and clacking on its keys (like a real writer). There *is* something satisfying about the sounds of typewriting, including the dings of the carriage. And I even liked using the correction tape to magically “erase” mistakes (though it was kind of a pain).

    It was only semi-recently that I realized Wite-Out was spelled that way. I must say that I’m glad that they now have a correction tape dispenser instead of a messy bottle of fluid.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My mom was a country girl. She was raised in a house with no glass in the windows and the laundry and the privvy in the back yard. When I was a teenager and would start waxing eloquent about the simple life and returning to nature, Ma would say, “B***s**t! It’s terrible. I lived that way.”
    That’s how I feel about typewriter nostalgia. The best thing that ever happened to me (well, almost) is a computer with a spell-checker and a printer.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I make typos all the time. Can’t think of the worse, but there have been plenty of dozies.

    I’m thankful to live in the time of computers, where making changes is easy, as opposed to the days of Wite-Out, which I would have had to use all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh, I love this post so much. Thank you for sharing. What an amazing story and also hotel.

    Memories of typewriters past! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Remember how those big electric typewriters had a loud hum that blocked out any nearby noise? And how, contrarily, the manual typewriters before that rang a bell at the end of a line! Can’t imagine listening to ding! all day nowadays… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I had the embarrassing habit of typing “Idiot” instead of “Editor” in my signature titles. I don’t know if it was worse as an assistant editor or executive editor. Sometimes I caught it in time and sometimes I didn’t–and I’m not joking. Weirdly, no one ever seemed to notice. Or maybe they were just in agreement.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Oh, Lisa, I’d love to visit the Press Hotel. I learned to type pretty well in high school. My parents gave me a typewriter when I graduated from high school, which I spent many long nights with in college, typing term papers (using gallons of Wite-Out!) Ironically, I didn’t need to be a flawless typist in the pre-computer age. When I got a job as a reporter at my first newspaper, I hurriedly typed stories on rolls of newsprint. After the editor looked them over, they were passed to the typesetters — who WERE flawless typists!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ahhhhhh…what a lovely trip down memory lane!

    I came to typing late because my dad refused to allow me to take typing classes in high school. (He said if I learned how to type, I might be–pardon the pun–typecast into that role.) So after begging my bestie (who later became a medical transcription and the fastest typist I’ve ever seen) to type my English lit papers, I finally taught myself.

    Oh the typos I’ve made! I think my favorite was a paper I wrote about William Butler Yeast. My professor laughed. Then gave me a C–which was generous.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Another typewriter aficiando here, Lisa. I have my mother’s vintage Chieftan with it’s (sad looking) carrying case from when she first went to college. I treasure it. . . and still covet older models like the one in the photo. If only one could have an entire room dedicated to one’s typewriter collection.

    The hotel in Portland sounds amazing! Adding it immediately to my “Life List” (much happier thought than a Bucket List). Thanks for sharing about your adventure there and your typing foibles.

    I learned to type (90 wpm, if you don’t mind my bragging) back in junior high when I had to wait after school for my teacher-mother. She taught keyboarding. And she didn’t like hearing me moan about how bored I was or ask her, yet again, “Are you almost ready to go yet?!?” 🙂 It’s served me well. And still surprises me because I’m extremely uncoordinated in just about every other aspect of life.


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