It’s difficult to describe, but it’s so distinctive. When you hear the “chik-chik-cha-chik,” followed by the “ding,” and the dragging “ziiiiiiiiip.” If you’ve heard an old typewriter, you don’t forget the sound. It is somewhat difficult to describe, but it’s one of those things that you can identify pretty easily.
Growing up and having a father in the newspaper business, I knew about typewriters and I knew what a room full of typewriters being used sounded like in Alabama’s largest home owned daily newspaper. The smell of ink still kind of gets to me, having worked there myself through high school, college and graduate school.
My first publishing experience was in the fourth grade. Having transferred back into the public school with many of my friends and my Mama being a schoolteacher, made the transition rather easy.
Like many fourth-graders, I was somewhat bored with the daily demands of my coursework. I solved this by starting my own newspaper, “The Talker,” where I covered mostly gossip and operated a numbers racket. In my education outside of school, I had learned how numbers were hidden in the newspaper and used as the winning numbers in a lottery type scheme. I can admit that now, almost 50 years later. Besides, it was good training for a future mathematician.
My children recently brought home an old typewriter from their grandparents. It had a case and through a little research, I found out that it was a 1953 Smith-Corona Silent model. They got busy and found a replacement ribbon so they could take it for a spin. They hadn’t bothered to open the case until the new ribbon came in the mail.
Upon opening the case, it was quickly apparent who had last used the typewriter and the year it was last used. My brother-in-law seemed to have typed one of those “My Favorite People” or “My Favorite Teacher” essays on it back in the late 1980’s.
He talked about this particular teacher influencing his standards and the how the teacher stressed the pursuit of excellence. Influencing him to, “Be the best that you can be.” We’ve all heard it before, but having a teacher that makes you want to actually do it is always a good thing.
My brother-in-law went on to talk about how demanding the teacher was, noting through his “strength, endurance and example, a new friendship has been formed in my life.” At this point, if I didn’t know my brother-in-law and the teacher he was talking about, I would have sworn that he was buttering up “Mr. T” for an A on this essay.
But I know the teacher, I had the teacher in history and government classes and I knew what he was saying was very true. Mr. T, as we called him, sincerely cared about students and wanted them to go on to bigger and better things and meet their potential.
On top of that, finding that essay in the typewriter about 30 years later and knowing that my brother-in-law finished multiple college degrees and now is an executive in a Fortune 100 company, makes it that much sweeter.
One of my daughters is a history major, wanting to work in museums and such, and my mother was a history teacher for more than 40 years. When you see those lists of majors and career choices in magazines and on the computer, sometimes they lead in with a question like, “What can you do with a history degree?”
I think this particular teacher and most of us had at least one like this who could answer this type of question very well. If Mr. T was asked, “What can you do with a history degree?” he would rightfully explain that he could change lives and encourage students to be the best that they could be.
It is summer and most high school teachers are taking that “3-month vacation” that many folks say they get each year. I think that a lot of those teachers more than earn that “vacation.”
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