Apr 3, 2015

Underwood, Olivetti, Royal, Smith Corona, Remington, or ?

Underwood, Olivetti, Royal, Smith Corona, Remington, or ?

In high school I took a typing class. I was the only male. That fact meant nothing to me then, or now, I wanted to be a writer, and thought the ability to type quickly and accurately would be an asset, and so it has proved to be. Z’s and x’s always gave me trouble [still do] and lowered my score, but even after subtracting 1 word per minute per mistake from my total I was still in the forty to fifty words per minute range, occasionally reaching sixty, and even seventy plus on occasion, when there weren’t too many z’s or x’s in the copy.

Advance to November, 1961. Boot camp was miserable, as intended, how else to instill unquestioning obedience to directives that make no sense, and rarely have even a shadow of logic in their makeup? So, like millions of other young men (and women) I closed my eyes and muddled through their insanity with little more than gritted teeth and dreams and memories of better days. Then, in January, off to Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois for training on the Atlas ICBM. Cold, Snow, Ice. Below zero many times and wind. Bloody nasty weather, especially for a ‘beach-bum’ from southern California.

After processing I was assigned a bunk in one of the numerous barracks and given the rest of the day off to organize my belongings and settle in. There were perhaps fifty or sixty of us, but it could have been less, occupying the bottom floor of the building. We were a unit. We would live and breathe together for several weeks.

Before dawn the following morning reveille had us up, dressed, and out in the street within minutes, where we shivered in the frigid air of January. We stood there, under the floodlights, stiff as dead eels, not an eyelash twitching, waiting. Finally a Sergeant sauntered out of the well-lit office building we were facing, and after berating us for a few minutes about something we probably had not yet done asked: “If anyone here knows how to type step forward.” My heart stumbled, and I cautiously allowed my eyes to move left and right - but no movement of the head. No one had stepped forward, so, reluctantly, I did.

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