Cookin', Critters and Chillun

Following fire trucks – and typewriters

Like many beginning reporters at small-town papers, I used to follow fire trucks. We seldom do that anymore, for several reasons. These days, 90 percent of Salem Fire & Emergency Medical Services calls aren’t for fires. Instead, they’re for shortness of breath, heart palpitations and other medical needs.

Also, the nature of news has changed, just as it has for the fire service. Television, webpages and social media broadcast information and images before we can get back to the office and put fingers to the keyboard.

I almost said “Type it up.” There’s another change. How many of today’s kids even recognize what the old, black standard typewriter in Sports Editor Brian Hoffman’s office is?

I started out typing on a used Smith Corona portable manual typewriter. I’m pretty sure we still have that in our back room at home. I see one listed as a “vintage 1960s” on eBay. Mine was made sometime in the 1950s. Wonder what that is worth? There’s a mint condition model listed on “My,” described as “the classic typewriter store” for $495.Yes, there are still people who use typewriters and not just collect them.

Anyway, I learned to touch type in two summer school classes. We had those stand-up, yellow touch typing books. I’m sure we typed boring exercises over and over again.

When I worked in an office in Washington, D.C., we had the latest in electric typewriters, IBM Selectrics, with the ball and plastic-type ribbons that were more of a pain to change than the old cloth ribbons which got all over your hands, and had half the strip with red ink for what…red letter days? I don’t remember using the red except when my black ink was worn out.

And carbon paper, remember that, for making more than one copy of a letter or a term paper? It was tough to line up when the paper slipped. How I hated doing term papers and meeting deadlines. So what have I been doing for a living for more than – gasp – 40 years? Writing on deadlines.

My job is never boring. Long hours, for sure. But never boring.

Thank you for sharing your stories with me and our readers.


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