The Great American Novel

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was a kid that grew up in my grandparents’ house.  My grandparents were well-meaning, yet they were half a century older than me, and they both grew up in the Great Depression.  As such, we frequently saw things very differently.  One frequent source of our contention was when I wanted a new toy.

Now, don’t get me wrong… my grandparents had money.  Granddaddy was a wise investor in the stock market, and his investments paid off quite handsomely.  However, though he was the sole breadwinner, he was not the one in charge of buying me anything.

Grandma had no problem spending money on something in which she saw value.  For example, at twelve years old, she didn’t buy me Maybelline eye shadow or Wet ‘n Wild nail polish.  No, she took me right down to the department store’s Estee Lauder counter and bought me only the best.  But, by golly, if I wanted a new Barbie doll, she would wave her hand and dismiss me with, “Bosh!  You don’t need a new one.  There’s a whole trunk full of your mother’s Barbie dolls up in the attic.”  So I often had to play with twenty year old toys when all my friends who had new ones.  As such, I never really liked playing Barbies.  I mean, come on!  If all your friends had Surfing or Skating Barbie and Ken, whose knees and arms bent and who had good hair, would you want to be the weird kid who brought 1962 Barbie and Ken to the party?

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’ll share with you a story about how I imagined I would write stories.  As you already know if you’ve followed my blog for long, among other things, I loved to write stories when I was a kid.  One of my other favorite pastimes was climbing trees.  (Sadly, I was not allowed to build a treehouse, which for me would’ve been a dream come true.)  The summer when I was eight-years old, I attempted to combine these two passions.  I considered myself quite lucky one day when I found an old cigar box.  I knew what I needed to do.  I nailed that box high up in my favorite climbing tree.  I loaded the box with loose leaf paper and pencils, and I imagined that I would spend hours in said tree writing The Great American Novel.  I just knew that with that perfect setting, my heart would pour out through my pencil and bleed onto the paper, and people would come from miles around to read my work.

What I did not count on was the host of problems that ensued.  I did not bring, nor did I own, a clipboard.  I was not allowed to take my books outside, and I couldn’t think of anything else flat to use as a lap desk.  Ergo, when I attempted to write by pressing my paper against the tree, as you can imagine, the bark of the tree made for a bumpy surface, and my writing was quite illegible.  I was frustrated to say the least.  At the end of my first day writing in my “aerial office,” I left with a mass of crumbled paper and ideas that still swirled in my head as I couldn’t get them out on paper.

The other thing I didn’t count on was the Florida weather.  Overnight, it rained, and by the time I got outside to play the next day, my paper and cigar box were ruined.  My dreams were shattered!

I thought I would never have something as cool as my “aerial office” again in which I could write my heart out.  However, that Christmas, Santa Claus (who I’m sure was inspired by my Granddaddy who was a lot wiser to my desires than my Grandma, as long as they were educational) brought me my very own toy typewriter!  Not only was this good for writing stories, but it also worked well for playing office.  Of course, when I was busy playing outside, Grandma decided to use it to type out her recipe cards!

You’ve all heard me mention my toy typewriter before.  Sadly, once I got my first real manual typewriter (pictured in my header above) for the Christmas when I turned eleven, Grandma put my toy typewriter up in the attic, then sometime later, she gave it to Goodwill.  (Apparently she had no problem saving ancient Barbies, but two year old typewriters had to go!)  At any rate, I recently found a duplicate of my old toy typewriter on eBay, and I purchased it.  Yay, me!

Time to talk:  Do you type with the correct fingers?  Have you ever used a manual typewriter or even an electric one?  Would you allow your granddaughter to build a treehouse in your tree?

42 thoughts on “The Great American Novel

  1. I do type with the correct fingers, except for the numbers which I found too difficult to reach when I was learning to type. I have a manual typewriter which I love! I would use it more often but it is so loud it disturbs everyone else in the house. I’ve not ever used an electric one. I think I would let her build a house in the tree if she could do it without damaging the tree. I’d like to live in a tree house.

  2. I had an electric typewriter as a Tween and it was the best present ever! Like you I used it to write my stories and I have such fond memories of it. Also, I don’t use the correct fingers, and I mostly type looking at the keyboard which drives my excellent typing husband crazy. But I can still type pretty fast and efficient. Incidentally, I played with the very 1962 Barbies you pictured. My stepmother still had hers and a Barbie house w/ furniture. It was the ultimate treat when my sister and I were allowed to carefully play with the well-cared for toys. Of course, I might have felt differently if I didn’t have Crystal Barbie and Rocker Ken waiting for me downstairs! 😉

  3. For the most part I type normally, except–somewhere along the line I got in the habit of holding my right pinky finger out straight and never using it for anything other than the shift key. Yes, strange, LOL. And I remember the days of manual typewriters. I never had a toy typewriter, but I did have both a manual and electric one during my teen years. I pounded out my first full length novel on a manual at age 15…310 pages single spaced. Ugh. Thinking about that now gives me a headache, LOL.

    BTW, Loved your treehouse story. Even though the cigar box didn’t work out it sounded like the perfect place for a writer’s treasures.

  4. Correct fingers – no! I use the nearest available finger 🙂
    I’ve never used any sort of typewriter. We had a room full of them at school but I never went near them (or the early basic computers either).
    As for the tree house, I’m sure I would, though I would worry she’d fall and hurt herself.

  5. After some time, I have learned to type correctly but still struggle a bit with the number and shift keys. Yes, I had an electric typewriter and as for the aerial office, well my kids can do anything they want as long as they are not risking life and limb!!

  6. i love that you were able to replace your typewriter. i began on a manual, teaching myself to type after failing 3 typing classes because they were too boring for me –

  7. I took typing in high school – touch typing. Manual, electric, yep. It’s not up to me to let my grandchildren a tree house, but my son in law made one for my granddaughter and it rocks.

  8. Another sweet story by my fave kindred. I loved playing with Barbies, but I wasn’t allowed to own one. For sure that was because we didn’t have the money for them. Luckily one of my best buds had a huge cache of dolls and accessories and sometimes her mom would even let me come over to play with them when my friend wasn’t home.
    I agree, that it’s cool that you were able to find another copy of your “1st typewriter”. Such a writer’s treasure! 😀

  9. Tree house, away! I still want a treehouse for myself. No joke. If I could afford it or had the resources and talent to build it, I’d get right to work and use it as my office.
    I grew up in the computer generation, but I have used a typewriter before just for fun. I didn’t get Barbies growing up, either, so don’t feel too sad. 🙂

  10. I do type with the correct fingers, pretty much, anyway. 🙂 I remember typing on my parents’ office old manual typewriter when I was child, and my parents bought me an electric typewriter when I was 16. I prefer typing on computers so much more. We have big, old trees that you’d love, but no tree houses. I loved your story of trying to build an aerial office. It’s never too late though, Rachel! 🙂

    Our daughters had new Barbies, but they also had old Barbies from yard sales. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as the latest Barbie. They loved all of them and gave them names. They couldn’t stand to get rid of them, and they both still have them in boxes (here at our house, of course). 🙂

    • As long as they had some new Barbies, then the old Barbies weren’t a big deal. But when you weren’t allowed to have new Barbies, that’s when other kids thought you were a freak. At least that’s how I felt. 🙂 I prefer typing on computers, too, except for laptops… I don’t necessarily love that flat keyboard. 🙂

  11. I’m so glad you found your toy typewriter model on eBay and were smart enough to buy it, Rachel. Perfect.

    I learned to type in junior high school on a manual. Big class, 40 kids, strict teacher walking around to make sure your head was looking straight ahead and not at your hands and the keys, everybody follow her voice in unison, h-h-h space j-j-j space. I learned to type the correct touch-type manner, and I’m glad I did. You had to pound those manuals, so my switch to electric in college did not go that smoothly. My father bought me a used electric from his office place and sent me away with it for my freshman year, and I used it to type all my papers and projects. But I’d hit the keys so hard I’d get double letters. Lots of white out was used. When I met my first computer terminal when my first newspaper job went from IBM selectrics to an ATEX system two years in, I was in even for the delete and backspace keys. The rest is history as I type this on the bluetooth keyboard attached to my iPad Air.

    Great post, my friend Rachel! And no, although I would have been allowed, I never built a treehouse. No lofty goals there for me.

    • I know what you mean about the hard typing on the manual typewriters. LOL! In my typing class, there were test typewriters that had blank keys! No chance of cheating in the old Christian school! LOL! Isn’t it amazing how many technical changes we’ve seen over our lifetime? If we were neighbor kids, I probably would have convinced you to build a tree house anyway. 🙂

      • I would have hidden with you in your tree house, Rachel. 🙂

        Here’s what we did in our neighborhood. We went out in the woods behind our houses and dug holes and put plywood on the sides and branches up top and had cool secret bunkers. In the summer, they were 20 degrees cooler than the sunny spots outside. Nature’s air-conditioning. That was before any of our parents could afford central air!

      • Oh that sounds like loads of fun! When I wasn’t allowed to build a tree house, I made a fort on top of our patio roof. But I had no one to play with since we were surrounded by orange groves.

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