Unplugged: Type Ins and Letter Writing

“Your family is bound closer together by something each can use. Even those in far away places will be nearer because you’ll write more often.”
-Remington Typewriter Ad c. 1940


I went to a type-in at the Rancho Mirage Library over the weekend.  I love and collect typewriters so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at a type-in…except I knew there would be typewriters there.

What is a type in? via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

Artist L.A. Marler brought her collection of typewriters for visitors to try out.  My favorite was the Corona No. 4.  I think I’m going to track one down. The Corona No.4 is from around 1927.  Why is it call the No. 4? Because it has 4 rows of keys.  Because of it’s compact and portable body it was said to be the typewriter that “launched a thousand typists.” Hemingway typed on a Corona No. 3. (read that story here) Guess how many rows of keys it had.

Vintage Corona No. 4 via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

Ohhh…..love this old Underwood.

Vintage Underwood Typewriter via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

I think this one is a 1940 Royal Aristocrat or a Royal Arrow? Love the “Shift Freedom” button:

Free the Shift!

1940 Royal Aristocrat or a Royal Arrow via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo


A 1965 Royal Safari:

1956 Royal Safari typewriter via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo


This is Louise (L.A.) Marler typing at one of her machines:

L.A. Marler Type In Rancho Mirage Library Typewriter collection via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

She had stamps available with her artwork on them so that you could mail a letter from the type-in:

Vintage Underwood Typewriter via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

Me typing on my own Hermes Rocket that I brought along. This photo doesn’t look posed or anything right?


Testing out my typewriter on an envelope:

Vintage Hermes Rocket Typography via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

This woman, Dawn, sat down and started typing a gazillion words a minute.  I asked her what she used to do that gave her such amazing typing skills and she said she was a legal secretary, and a court reporter/stenographer too.

Type In at 2014 Rancho Mirage Library via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

She wrote a beautiful love letter to her husband and read it to all of us. It made everyone teary.

Typewritten love Letter (Type In 2014 Rancho Mirage Library) via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

Many people left their “test” papers behind and I thought it was interesting to see their stream of consciousness as they familiarized themselves with the machines. I took photos of some of them….here’s one:

“I am in pure joy to be here today.”

Well…that needs the hashtag #theyearofjoy!

Vintage Typewriter test pages (Type In 2014 Rancho Mirage Library) via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo


This was a quick visit:

“hello im emma good bye”

Vintage Typewriter font via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

I met some really creative minds and loved hearing people’s stories about typewriters.  One a typewriter enthusiast was only 6-years-old. He kept us all on our toes with his great one liners. I probably learned more from him in an hour about music than I ever did in school. He said he liked classical music and playing the piano. I asked him who his favorite composer was and he said Rachmaninoff. And I was like “could you please spell that for me?”

Type in at Rancho Mirage Library via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo


The next day Boo and I were going through some old National Geographic ads I’d collected over the years and this Magnavox one featuring Rachmaninoff caught my eye.  It’s from around World War II I suppose considering the mention of war bonds. A day earlier and I probably would have just tossed it.  And guess what…the young boy gave me his mailing address. Today I typed him a letter and sent him the ad:

Rachmaninoff Vintage Magnivox Ad via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

One of the issues with some old typewriters is that the platen, the rubber roller, hardens.  When that happens the keys will punch the letters right through the paper. I thought it was kind of a cool effect:

This is a 1960’s Royal 440, a heavy desktop typewriter with half moon shaped keys:

Royal 440 Vintage Typewriter via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

Here’s my Hermes Rocket, made between the 1950’s and 1970’s, and meant to be very portable. I could imagine typing on a train with this way back when:

Vintage Hermes Rocket Typewriter via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

Some of L.A.’s print work:

Vintage Typewriter Art Prints and T-shirts via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

While everyone was typing there was lots of conversation going on about how the art of letter writing is disappearing.  One woman said that she never gets thank you cards from her children or grandchildren. “I don’t know if they received it, or if it’s the right size, there’s no acknowledgement of gifts anymore.   It made me go right home and start finishing all my thank you cards from Christmas that I’ve put off. Thank you letters are a product of gratitude.  I’m really good at making Boo write thank you notes, but I sometimes end up slacking on my own.  (Another random thing that kind of bothers me….I’ve been experiencing a trend in the last few years of birthday parties where the kids don’t open a single gift at the party. They open them up after the guests leave?  I’ve always made Boo open the gifts in front of her friends, so they can see her open them. I just feel like it’s more respectful that way. Maybe it’s just me…..)

Thank you letters are a product of gratitude. via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

I’ve been thinking about the idea of unplugging more and more.  I had a discussion the other day with some friends about the fact that textbooks are slowly becoming obsolete as they become electronic. I can’t read on an iPad. Can kids read on iPads? All of that scares me. I crave handwritten notes, penmanship, the keys of a typewriter, and actual book pages. I guess that’s why I am making some big steps in the very near future (but don’t worry, I’m not cutting out the blogging).

I have kept every letter and card that my mother and grandparents sent me over the last 36 years. They tell a story.  I recently went to a talk called Love Letters on the Labyrinth on writing that my friend Shivaun is starting to put on monthly.  One of the speakers wrote the most moving letter to her parents, address: heaven.  Hearing it made me want to really make an effort…at least just to get my thank you notes and an occasional letter to a friend finished.

I stumbled upon this short TED talk the other day, it’s from 2007 by Lakshmi Pratury, on the lost art of letter writing and penmanship……..it also made me think about the shifting culture and how my child will be affected by it. It really hit me that letters are a physical record.

“that’s when I take out his letters and read them, and the paper that touched his hand is in mine, and I feel connected to him. so maybe we all need to leave our children with a value legacy and not a financial one. a value for things with a personal touch: an autographed book, a soul searching letter….”


Update: Rachel shared these great links with me re: cursive and handwriting. Interesting reads. I think cursive should be taught in school. Boo thinks so too. She’s already practicing her name. Also, I write in cursive…it’s faster.

Benefits of Learning Cursive “Brain scans during handwriting show activation of massive regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory

The Lost Art of Handwriting “Technology seems to have ruined our collective handwriting ability……Does it matter?”





A few other ads I found….most from around the 1930’s and 1940’s:

I went to college just when email was starting to catch on….I emailed home but my mother actually thought to print the emails off and I have some of them.

The lost art of handwriting and letter writing. via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

This one caught my eye because of the asterisk and I thought it was humorous that they felt it necessary to explain that men could be secretaries too:

“Yes, there are thousands of young men like Mr. Orbensen serving American Industry as secretaries to top executives.”

Secretary Vintage Typewriter Ad c. 1940s via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

“A brand new customer used the phone today. Betty Sue called up the little girl around the corner.”

A first phone call vintage telephone ad via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

“Letters – written by hand – are so much more than a pattern of words. They transmit the memory of your voice…your smile…the clasp of your hand…all of your love.”

The lost art of letter writing via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

And a typewriter ad:

“Why your family needs a Remington…”

Vintage Remington Typewriter Ad via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo



I’d love to know what you think.  Do you write letters?  What do you think of textbooks going digital?  Do you write thank you notes? Do you teach your children to write thank you notes?


Oh, and if you are interested in checking out a type in there is one in Santa Monica on March 8, 2014.

Where: L.A. Marler Studio, 3000 Airport Avenue, Studio B, Santa Monica, CA. www.lamarler.com
When: March 8th, 2014, 12-4 PM
The Artist: Louise (L.A.) Marler
The Event: A Type~In is an unplugged and interactive celebration of all things typewriter including: vintage typewriters for use, typewriter repair, creative writing, poetry, art, and prizes, as well as, typewriter art and merchandise for sale. Read more here about the event.


  1. kelly says

    so excited you posted this! I live right next to the santa monica airport and am definitely going over next weekend to check it out
    thank you!

  2. says

    I sadly do not make my children send thank you notes. I do not send them either. My mother still writes letters. She also still has a flip phone. I go to the library to get my books. I love books, and pages. These day I have to make lists just so I remember to do daily activities. I should put write a little note to my friends.

  3. Krista says

    Funny…in the middle of reading this, my six year old walked up to me and asked me for an envelope so that she could mail a letter to her cousins. They live 10 minutes away. My response…”Yep!…here’s an envelope and stamp.” :) My kids get so excited when we get the mail and there is something there for them. It’s like opening a present. Postcards are pretty cool, too. I love seeing postmarks/stamps from around the world. Emails and texts lack the magic.

    I am with you 100% on the birthday gift topic. My kids are always disappointed when their friends don’t open gifts. It is especially a bummer when they make them something personal or pick out the gift on their own. It kind of takes away their excitement of gift giving.

    Off to mail a letter! 😉

  4. Valerie nelson says

    I hate that people have stopped mailing thank you’s! A simple email or FB message even works. Just an acknowledgement that you like the gift is nice. I have a personal rule that I don’t start using what was given me until I write a thank you letter for it. Just seems right. And I make the kids write them too. It cultivates a right attitude of gratitude. :)

  5. Julie says

    I frequently comment to my husband that I’d love a college do-over, replete with a MacBook. I graduated in the mid-eighties and my Brother typewriter and typewriter eraser (with brush end) were completely inadequate for this English major. I feel certain my GPA would have received a significant bump with a little tech.

    When my daughter was in preschool, one of the “centers” was a typewriter and blank paper. She loved it and spent most of her center time practicing her name, numbers, etc. She loved it.

    Thanks for this fun and interesting blog post.

  6. Pat S says

    My my 10th grader just mentioned recently that they are not teaching cursive any more and I was shocked. I have older letters packed away and there are kids out there that won’t be able to read them. I just can’t believe it. I love my computer but I still like to hold a real book when reading a good story. I hope all our advances do not replace the joy of real books and the wonders of going to the library and all the shelves filled with books. I still miss having a typewriter and my daughter wants one. I can’t type as fast on a computer as I did on a typewriter.

  7. says

    I think I just took a journey in to my childhood.

    My grandmother’s typewriter at her desk in the corner of the kitchen. I can smell the ribbon. I can hear the return. I can feel the space bar.

    My IBM Selectric from 11th grade. I was so mad my mom made me take typing in high school. a aa aaa aaaa s ss sss ssss frfrfrfr asdfjkl; asdfjk; The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

    In college we moved on to word processors we checked out of the dorm office. In 1989! I was so thankful for those typing lessons.

    Thanks for the memories, Ashley.

  8. heidi says

    I always write, and make my children write thank you notes. I think it is very important to make sure you let the person know you have appreciated, liked, and received whatever gift they may have gotten you. With out a written note, they may not ever know that you received their gift. A few years ago, before my grandparents passed, I remember my Grandma saying to me that I was the only grandchild that she got thank you notes from, and how much she loved getting those notes from me because I recognized the gift she had given me no matter how big or small. To this day, every time I write a note or make my kids write a note I think of my sweet grandma, and miss her every day.

  9. heidi says

    And by the way, that little 6 year old boy is going to be so thrilled when he gets that in the mail from you! How cool!!

  10. Elisabeth says

    I’m only 20, so I’m definitely part of the transition generation. I love writing and receiving handwritten letters (or at least snail mail letters). I try to write at least one letter a month. And I absolutely love receiving a note/letter/postcard in the mail! My mom is a second grade teacher and recently took in one of my typewriters (I have 6) to her classroom- her students thought it was the coolest thing ever! I think handwriting is important, especially cursive. It concerns me that my future kids won’t learn cursive in school- they won’t be able to read my handwriting :(.

    • Barney Gravely says

      Elisabeth, I hadn’t thought about the fact that no one will be able to read cursive. I’m still hung up on the fact they aren’t going to teach it. English class wasn’t my suit but I enjoyed writing letters and getting them. My aunt and I exchanged letters for 46 years until she couldn’t see to read or write anymore. Is cursive going to be an extra class like a foreign language?

  11. Ellie says

    I took typing in school for 5 years, then went on to college for a year and typed some more and then typed, and typed some more when I was working as a secretary! I love typing!! We started out with manual Underwood typewriters and by the time I stopped working the best typewriter was the Remington Selectric! I went back to college when I was 45 because technology was leaving me in the dust and that just wouldn’t do! As for books, there’s nothing quite like holding a book, smelling the paper. I just can’t read a “book” electronically. People truly don’t know what they missing.

  12. Sandi Colwell says

    I bought myself a typewriter for my birthday and I love the click clack of it. It makes my heart sing! Yes to thank you notes- it’s so important and appreciated. Would love to attend a type in. Not sure if there are any in MA though. Thanks!

  13. Dayna says

    I’ve noticed that about birthday parties too – why don’t they open the presents in front of everyone? What is the reason behind it? I love to see the kid’s face light up when they see what they got and my daughter loves to see all the presents too.

  14. Heather Warren says

    I have to say I absolutely love all your blogs. It reminds me of the stories my grandpa (I grew up with my grandparents) would tell me about waiting for the next episode of his fav radio story playing on theaor at the time. I anticipate the next episode :). Anyway, its so funnyyou write about the world slowly losing contact with each other by simply taking the time out to scribble something meaningful down on a peice of paper and send it off in the mail. I think a lot of it is the price to mail a letter. We have ruined this age old technique of communicating by simply charging hellacious prices to mail a letter. Before to long it will cost $5 to put a stamp on a card that already costs $6 to purchase. Its just insane. The other thing is time. I think people are so caught up with technology (their phones, tvs, computers) the just don’t have the time to make something personal. Its so sad. I try to do something 3-4 times a month strictly personal for someone (other than the 100 signs I hand paint and produce in a months time) just a card, letter, anything that can express how important the person is in my life. Off the subject, my friend Robin andI were also talking about life yesterday. On Valentines Day I did a Pay It Forward project. My birthday is Feb 12th and my dad sent me $25. Instead of spending the money on myself I went to Walmart and bought 25 chocolate filled candy boxes (cute little hearts). I took the time to print a heart felt message about what valentines day meant to me. The act of friendship and love and how I was doing a pay it forward in honor of a guy I went to high school with who lost his life in Afghanistan Jan 4, 2014. His name William “Kelly” Lacey. I wrote how he left behind his 2 year old daughter and wife to fight for our freedom and although his sacrifice (his Pay It Forward) was far greater than anything I could do for a Pay It Forward…. I was trying to share ny gratitude in hopes that someone would be willing to sacrifice a little of there time in life to do something just as kind for someone else. If he is willing do die for our country to keep us safe and provide a freedom for all of us… I don’t think its to much to ask for. Anyway, it touched 25 people that day and it touched me and my son who helped me pass them out. I think our world is filled with more hate than love and kindness. Why? Because like a hundred years ago people did things for one another out of pure kindness. From plowing a field, chopping wood for a long winter, to helping build your neighbors barn. There wasn’t so much death caused to one another, kidnappings, sexual assaults ect (I’m sure there were some but no where near like today). People showed kindness, willing to help each other and people were happy. Technology is raping us of records, family, friendships, LIFE. People don’t take time to help people bc they are to caught up in technology. I honestly believe this is why we have so much hate and crime in the world. Anyway…. I could go on forever and it is totally off the subject. Robin, my best friend saves every card snd has since we became friends 15 years ago. I was floored when she told me that. While I was in germany the past 3 1/2 years technology is there but nothing like the states … it reminds me of the 80’s. People go to dinner and actually eat and talk. No phones lol. Oh and people have time to send a thank you note. I was very lonely there… missing my friends back in the states (time zone and everything) …. what got me through? A few amazing cards here and there from a girl I haven’t seen since 9th grade. Now that is amazing :) what would we do if the world was zapped of technology (besides crave a blog from you bahhaba) ? Thanks for your creative mind and awesome blogs… ♡

  15. Heather Warren says

    Oh and fyi the beginning should have said playing on the radio…. I can’t tyoe on this stupid phone…. technology I tell ya!

  16. says

    I bought an old typewriter for my kids to practice their spelling words on. When you are 6 years old, it makes it feel like a game instead of work! I’m also a big believer in thank you notes. Anytime we go to a birthday party and the parents don’t write down who brought what, a little bit of me dies inside…same with RSVPS! You are speaking my language on this post!:) As an aside, with Lent coming up next week, I decided to write a letter to someone each day until Easter. Who doesn’t love getting “real mail” in the mailbox?

  17. Jennifer Weed says

    It is so nice to find a kindred spirit who shares an equal joy in things lost to today’s society. I, myself, have an Underwood Universal typewriter (haven’t checked the serial number yet to determine exactly what year it is, but it’s most likely to be dated sometime in the 1940s… it sits proudly on my nightstand next to whatever book I am reading – at the moment, Anne of Green Gables). Not sure if you knew, but my brother turned me on to the fact that you can buy conversion kits to turn antique typewriters into functioning computer keyboards (unfortunately, Hermes isn’t one of the ones that can be converted though). Seems like a great way to update old tech to fit new tech – which I am all about.

    As far as thank you notes, my daughter doesn’t write them yet, but she will when she is old enough. My grandparts used to love getting letters from me and I loved getting letters from them (especially since as a little kid, getting mail is the best thing in the world). I recently sent an image of a “Goodbye letter” via e-mail to my friend who had written it to me about 17 years ago when we moved from Chicago, IL to Rochester, NY. She couldn’t believe I had kept it and I know that it probably meant a lot to her just knowing that the letter’s sentiments meant enough to me to keep it. And, thinking back, when my husband’s Grandparents passed away, I remember my in-laws having a blast going through the old war letters that Grandma Ellie had kept from Grandpa George who had gone off to fight on D-Day (although the cursive handwriting was difficult for everyone to read – cursive writing, itself, being another lost art).

    I also have an older desk-style black rotary phone (I know you are on the look out for an old rotary)! It definitely took a while for me to come across one that wasn’t a horrible powder blue or rose pink and had the allure of being well-aged. Still wanting an old candlestick style rotary, but for now, my 3 year old is loving playing with the one I have.

    Anyway, much love and best wishes for you on the changes to come that you have been alluding to. I will avidly be following along on your journey as you post and share it with us…

    All the best,

  18. Kris says

    I’m 61 and handwriting was a huge deal when I was in elementary school. Thank you notes were what we did after receiving gifts and my mom was a real stickler about it. My children were taught the same and I have some sweet handwritten memories I cherish. They would not be the same in an email! My world has gone from no computers to speak of, to using technology everyday of the year. I like the feel of books and paper and having a pen in my hand or using my old Underwood I bought at a yard sale. Our technology has made communication so impersonal. When we do not talk face to face and experience the humanity of another human being, but communicate by staring at a screen, it makes it so easy and antiseptic to push a button of destruction. I never felt as pessimistic about our future until about 5 years ago….. I feel those who know how to physically write, figure and build things, be off the grid as it were, will be far ahead of the game. Meanwhile, I’ll keep on making my cards and sending my handwritten letters via the USPS. Considering the price of
    everything nowadays, I feel $0.45 a small price to pay to brighten someones day and selfishly, my own, by the act of giving of myself. Thanks, Ashley!

  19. Leanne says

    Hi. I love your posts and although I follow them ( from New Zealand ) I have never commented but today I saw this one and it so totally reflected my horror that children don’t open presents at parties any more. It’s a growing trend over here too and my daughter has been to a number of parties tecently where the presents are handed over – put on a table and ignored. A couple of times we/she has put a lot of thought into what her friend would like and she has been pretty upset when she gets gone that the presents weren’t openned. The thought as I understand it is it doesn’t make the other children feel awkward or jealous seeing one child open so many presents – but isn’t that Because its their birthday !! Another friend mentioned the hadn’t openned the presents because it eliminated the perhaps disinterested and potentially embarrassing response to the gift from a less than grateful recipient ! That’s just bad manners and bad parenting in my book. Every child should be taught how to accept a gift gracefully and with manners regardless of what the gift is. It is a parents responsibility to teach manners – not simply create a situation where a child doesn’t have to ! I write today because it Is my daughters birthday and she had a party today. The presents were openned one at a time and acknowledged in turn. Each child was thanked and the gift admired. All 10 five year olds were beautifully behaved and each child was acknowledged. We will also be writing thank you cards :)

  20. Cindy Cookson says

    Did you see all the typewriters on stage at the Oscars?!? I’m looking at them right now – behind DeNiro!