Saturday, March 08, 2014


c. 2014 Rod Ice
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A persistent childhood memory – my little, blue typewriter.
We had moved to central Virginia in the summer of 1970. The device came as a Christmas gift, later that year, or perhaps the next. It offered inspiration of a lasting kind. Because my father was a professional writer, in addition to being a minister, the intent seemed clear.
I was destined to follow his footsteps as a theologian and scribe.
in our basement, I took an old steel trash barrel and topped it with a square of plywood. This was my first desk.
The blue-and-white word machine used a matching blue ink ribbon. Documents produced by the device were easily identified.
Years later, I felt unsure of what the high-end toy was actually called. An online photo of the 1967 ‘Supertouch 80’ looked closest to what I remembered. Research yielded a sketchy portrait of this device. It had been produced by a company in England. Or perhaps under license from that enterprise.
Finally, a European website provided insight into something similar to what I must have owned:

Schreibmaschinen – Byron Jardine Limited / Von der Barlock zur Petite

“Die hier gezeigte Kinderschreibmaschine wurde von einem Unternehmen hergestellt, das auf beruhmte historische Wurzein in der Schreibmaschinenherstellung...”

My high school German lessons failed here, although it was apparent that the term ‘kinderschreibmaschine’ in fact meant ‘child’s typewriter.’
The blog post referred to a ‘Petite’ model with ‘Deutsch adaptiert’ for use where umlauts were needed. The company address was Chelsea Street, New Basford, Nottingham, England.
A Google feature translated the page into English. This made it more informative, but less dramatic:

“The children typewriter shown here was manufactured by a company that can refer to famous historical roots in the typewriter manufacture in Nottingham, England. Inextricably linked to this is the name of the Jardine family. The central figure was herein Ernest Jardine (1859-1947). His father John Jardine (+1895), a trained watchmaker, founded in Nottingham a top machine factory... Sir Ernest invested in the flagging Barlock Typewriter Company as (it) was reorganized... in 1953 the company (was renamed) Byron Business Machines. (Byron was a popular brand in Great Britain.) “Petite Typewriters made in Nottingham... was probably the first... children’s typewriter... the ‘Petite’ design was also adopted by the American Western Stamping Co. but (sold) under the name of their traditional brand Tom Thumb.”
My parents did not remember the device with any greater clarity. Its fate largely remained unknown. We moved many times during my childhood, so it could literally have been left anywhere, in a number of different states.
Still, the blue machine had an enormous impact on my life.
I used it to compose poems, inspired by my maternal grandmother. It also helped prepare assignments for Sunday School, at church.
Summer months were cool in our basement. Yet I weathered hot days with an electric motor and a model-airplane propeller, for a personal fan.
My office setup may have been crude. But it set a template followed into modern times.
With the advent of Internet technology, I continued to hunt for useful information about my kinderschreibmaschine. Results were slim. A blog called ‘Machines of Loving Grace’ offered a tidbit of information that confirmed my earlier findings:

“Western Stamping Co. in the USA, which made the aforementioned Tom Thumb machines eventually stopped making its own design and imported the Petite instead – but by special arrangement it carried the Tom Thumb name... identifying features of this family are the T-type or T-cross section keys... the long, thin key stems go through holes in a flat cover.”

These were the kind of white, plastic keys that I remembered.
Examples of the ‘Supertouch 80’ appeared on eBay and other online marketplaces. Prices ranged wildly from a few dollars to a great deal more. Still, for being so common, none of the descriptions offered many details. I could not find any blog posts about having the machine as a kid. Or anything about how these toys helped create sales of genuine typewriters. This seemed amazing because I was certain that thousands, perhaps millions of other kids must have used these budget devices, as did I, in days of yore.
It seemed that the Jardine product had been largely forgotten.
But in my own world, the ‘Blue Machine’ was undeniably iconic. It literally introduced me to the craft of creative writing.
For that, I would be eternally grateful.

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