Sunday, August 19, 2007

Old Fire and Brimstone

We typewriter-istas all have stories like this. There must be hundreds of them. The fun is as much in the stories and the people we meet as in the hoarding and caring for the old machines.

I had to go to Damascus to snag this one. No, not THAT Damascus. Damascus, Oregon, which is about a 45-minute drive east of Portland through a place called Happy Valley. (Yes, the road to Damascus passes through Happy Valley.)

The Olympia SG1 was advertised on for $25. A strange price — either way too little or way too much. But there it was — intriguing. Beckoning.

You know the drill ....

I talked to the Craig's Lister, Richard, who said it was in excellent condition and had belonged to his wife's stepfather, an evangelical preacher, who had recently met his Maker and left behind his trusty SG1. Richard said the preacher wrote hundreds of sermons on the green Germanic beast.

The story alone was worth $5.

So I set out on the road to Damascus, playing with an offer of $20. (I wasn't exactly a motivated buyer as I already have an SG1 in my bloated collection.)

I had to enter Richard's semi-rural homestead through one of those automated security gates hung between ornamental, but solid brick pillars. You push a button on the intercom, then the stranger belonging to the disembodied voice risks mortal peril and pushes a button somewhere and the gate majestically swings open.

The compound was tidy with some fenced acreage surrounding two modest ranch style houses. The empty one was where Richard's in-laws had lived. Richard and his wife had held several estate sales, but no one wanted the SG1, which now resided forlornly on an otherwise barren workbench in the otherwise empty two-car garage.

The typewriter looked good. I liked where the preacher's thumb had worn the crinkle finish on the frame just to the right below the space bar. The big machine came with brushes, a pristine dust cover, and an owner's manual with a torn cover.

That was all to the good, but when I rolled in paper, several lethargic typebars balked. Four were frozen solid. No wonder no one wanted old "Fire and Brimstone" (the name I had secretly given the hefty Teutonic sermonizer).

That said, I knew the brushes, dust cover and owner's manual alone were worth $10 so that's what I offered Richard, who was slightly embarrassed that a machine he had represented as being in "excellent condition" wouldn't type. His belated confession was familiar: "I don't know anything about typewriters."

To him, I was freeing space in his deceased father-in-law's garage AND paying him $10.

Seemed like a deal.

To me, he was selling me two brushes, an owner's manual, a dust cover, a proud old hulk, a minister's working companion, and a mechanical challenge. All for ten bucks.

A bargain.


I wound my way back on the road from Damascus, through Happy Valley, across the Willamette River and up to my aerie in Portland's West Hills. I blew out the SG1's innards with compressed air and then shot Valucraft Multi-Purpose Lube Spray (endorsed by Matt McCormack at Ace Typewriter) at every conceivable linkage joint. Putting fingers to keys, one-by-one, I gently limbered the full board until every key was on ready alert, fully prepared to snap and hammer out words.

The restoration took all of 10 minutes.

Old "Fire and Brimstone" was back.

My fingers poised above the forest green keys, a sermon was in order: "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," I typed, "and for 10 bucks, a sacred anointing with Valucraft Multi-Purpose Lube Spray, and the laying on of hands, a mere pilgrim to Damascus can heal and restore a once-mighty but forsaken Olympia SG1."

"Hallelujah!" I typed. "HALLELUJAH!"



Anonymous said...

This story made me smile :)

Ikmukute said...

and my question is: Any interest in selling a photocopy (or sending a scan) of the SG1 manual?

Rick Seifert said...

I'll root around for the manual. I recently reorganized my office know how that goes.
But another place to look is