What in the world are they?
Well, at one time, believe it or not, Mr. Ripley, they were secretaries. A typewriter was a woman who wrote letters for her boss on a new machine that ... well, you'd have to see one to believe it.
These contraptions proved to be such a good idea that they quickly evolved into an office staple and, before you knew it, almost every home had one and schools were teaching kids how to use them correctly.
I'm not going to try to explain the typewriter or its evolution. If you want to know, you can Google it (which is something you couldn't do on a typewriter) and probably learn more than you wanted to know about this technological dinosaur.
You will find that, after surviving two generations of office workers that have never touched one, typewriters are emerging from relic-hood in strange ways.
People are making jewelry out of the keys, spelling out their names on bracelets, wearing lapel pins with words like "Shift" and "Back Space" and "Tab" and "Lock."
Books have been written about typewriters and at least one network TV news show has reported, in recent weeks, that they are being rediscovered. One surprised young man was quoted, sounding stunned, that he could "just pull out the text. I don't have to have a printer!"
Gloriosky! — as Little Orphan Annie, who has gone the way of typewriter, liked to say.
WE HAPPEN to have a typewriter or two in our household — maybe even three, if I could find my old portable.
This not only indicates that we need to clean out our closets but also that one of us takes great pride in being a Luddite in a world full of Techno-heads. If you don't know what a Luddite is, you can Google that, too.
He actually writes letters on an IBM Selectric that dates to the last century, does this Luddite. And he takes great pleasure in doing so.
But every now and then he has to get it repaired. And when that happens we head to Petaluma and Chuck Ternes.
TERNES KNOWS just about everything there is to know about typewriters. He's been dealing with these mechanical wonders since he was 12 years old.
Chuck's father, Frank Ternes, opened the Woodstock Typewriter Company on Kentucky Street in Petaluma (where Copperfield's is now) in 1933.
By the time Chuck was in junior high he was working in the family business; sweeping out the store, watching, learning. In the late '60s he became a partner. In the 1970s, he and his wife, Beverly, bought the business. They moved to Liberty Street and prospered selling and tending office equipment for 20 years or more, even after the computer had pushed typewriters into attics, recycle centers and, presumably, oblivion.
BUT NOT SO FAST there, friend. At 72, Chuck is still tinkering with typewriters in his home shop. He is almost as unique as the machines he repairs, one of a scant few of his kind who still do the work.
His customers lug their machines, both antique and electric, from around the county and all the way from Grass Valley, Willits, even southern Humboldt.
"The people from the Drive-Thru Tree have brought me their typewriter," Chuck says, referring to the landmark Redwood Highway attraction in Leggett.