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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Typewriter


It made that …rat-a-tat-tat-tat..sound that was so very satisfying. 

Satisfying for some people. For story tellers, journalist, letter writers, and poets. 

For those up against a hard deadline for their term paper or homework assignment, the sound conjures up disquieting memories.

That sound comes from only one source…the typewriter.

Believe it or not there are many on our planet who still use the old fashioned typewriter. 

Actor Tom Hanks uses one. Actually, Hanks has over 250 in his personal collection. He says that 90% of them are in good working condition. 

Musician John Mayer uses one.

My good friend and fellow Jefferson County historian Jon Harris uses one. I get typed letters from him quite often. It is a reminder of a simpler time. 

In Berkley, California there is a small shop that sells and repairs typewriters. 

The famed store is known as California Typewriter.

Herbert L. Permillion, III purchased the store in 1981. 

By trade he is an IBM man who serviced Selectric Typewriters for almost 20 years. 

It is a family owned and operated business. 

Their master typewriter repairman is a man by the name of Kenneth Alexander, a Smith Corona man. He has been working on typewriters for over 38 years.

The store is featured in a film applicably named California Typewriter.

The Show features Tom Hanks as well as other notable people. 

Some sources say the typewriter dates back to 1714. However, the first typewriter that actually worked was produced by a man named Pellegrino Turri, circa 1808. He was an Italian and he produced his machine for Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano—she was blind. 

Ironically, the first successful commercial production of the typewriter was facilitated by a Danish pastor Rasmus Malling-Hansen in the year 1870. 

The Sholes & Glidden Type Writer was the first production company to achieve success in America. Their machine went into production in 1873 and was on the market by 1874. 

The company was owned  by Christopher L. Sholes. He was a newspaperman and a poet and thankfully an inventor. 

Typewriters since then have advanced and helped change the way individuals work and communicate with one another. 

Sam Shephard, who is another actor/writer featured in the movie, California Typewriter, crafted his scripts and plays using an old fashioned typewriter. 

Shepherd says there is something tactile about using a typewriter.

Bob Dylan wrote some of his songs on a typewriter. 

I suppose if the typewriter had been popular during his life, Abraham Lincoln would have used one. 

Sadly, using a typewriter is going the way of the Abacus. 

Some argue that the computer is more efficient. Perhaps. 

But I wonder if by using one we are loosing touch with who we were as a society?

Maybe I’m just being nostalgic. 

I just wonder what technology will erase next? The pencil?

Abraham Lincoln, an unlikely president


Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, writes that Ralph Waldo Emerson found at that Abraham Lincoln had been elected, he said that “the ‘comparatively unknown name of Lincoln’ had been selected: ‘we heard the result coldly and sadly. It seemed too rash, on a purely local reputation, to build so grave a trust in such anxious times.’”

In other words, not everyone was happy to find out he had been elected.

Obviously, most of those living in the south were not happy about his election.

His appearance was not inspiring.

He didn’t come from a well known family, nor did he come from wealth.

What he did have going for him was his ability to communicate.

It is said that he could disarm a room filled with anger simply by telling one of his folksy homespun tales that usually made an understated point.

Once he was elected, states began leaving the union. Eventually 11 states would form what became the confederacy.

Many historians agree that Lincoln was the right man at the right time to lead the country through the civil war.

He brought the country back together, although he paid for it with his life.

That being said, if we were alive during time of the election of 1860 many of us would have grave doubts about him and many of us would probably not vote for him.

He had very little experience in politics.

Most of his work experience was as a country lawyer.

Lincoln came from humble beginnings and knew hardship and heartache through the early years of his life.

He was self taught and had almost no formal education.

The year he was elected president there were actually four men from four different parties in the race. Today his face is one of four on Mount Rushmore.

At the republican convention, the men who went to the event in Chicago to nominate him, knew that he would not win the first ballot. Their goal was to simply keep  his name alive until they could recruit enough delegates to get him nominated.

Today, his image is not only on Mt. Rushmore, but on the penny and the five dollar bill.

It could be argued that Lincoln’s life experience of overcoming obstacles to achieve his goals prepared  him for the obstacles he would face while living in the White House.

If his life had been ideal and easy, he may not have had the tenacity needed to become a student of war and lead the north to victory. It is said that during the civil war that he read every book on warfare he could find in the Library of Congress.

He had a determination not to ever give up. It made him the right man for the job of president at the right moment in history.

The Tuskegee Airmen

source www.redtail.org

In September, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set in motion a highly controversial experiment. The “experiment” was the training of African American’s to be military aviators.

The men who took part in this experiment would go on to form the 99th Fighter Squadron, one of the more efficient and successful squadron’s during WWII.

At the time of President Roosevelt’s decision, the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama was under construction. The air base was located at the renowned Tuskegee Institute that had been founded by Booker T. Washington.

The first instructor on the base to train the future aviators was Lt. Col. Noel F. Parrish. His first aviation class began in July 1941 and consisted of 13 cadets, only 5 would graduate. However, by the end of the war, nine hundred and ninety-two pilots would graduate. Many serving with distinction.

The 99th Fighter Squadron earned quite a reputation for their tremendous success at escorting bombers on their missions. According to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum, the squadron was able to conduct 200 out of their  205 missions without losing a single bomber. “No other escort group can claim such low losses.” In 1945 the airmen participated in the longest bomber escort mission of the war for which the members received a Presidential Unit Citation. During that mission they destroyed three German ME-262 jet fighters and damaged five additional jet fighters without losing any bombers or any of their own fighters.

During the war they became known as the “Red Tail” fighters because of the red that had been painted on the tail of their planes. The red tail became so recognizable that enemy aircraft tended not to even engage with them in combat.

Fortunately, the Tuskegee Air Field trained more than just pilots. During the war they trained pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes and pilots in the air.

Despite their huge and shinning successes, the Tuskegee Airmen faced dreadful and inhumane discrimination.

On many bases they were not allowed to enter the officer’s clubs even though they themselves were decorated and deserving officers.

However, they bravely continued on defending their country and setting examples of what a honorable soldier should be and how he should act.

Tuskegee Airmen will go down in history as some of the greatest aviators to ever pilot planes.

Hopefully we are closer to that day when we begin to judge others not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

As a part of Black History Month, we salute the memory of the Tuskegee Airmen. May their memories and deeds live on forever!

Picture Source: www.redtail.org

Gun control and what’s really going on


Besides the NFL/National Anthem debate, there is little else on the news this week than the mass shooting in Las Vegas where 500 plus people were injured and at least 59 (possibly more) were killed by a lone gunman from his hotel room as he fired at those attending a country music concert some 400 feet away.

One of the arguments that his heard the loudest is the issue of gun control. It’s a controversial and heated topic, especially here in a part of the United States where owning a gun is considered a birth right.

The question that may need to be asked during this debate is “what was the mental state of the man who committed this heinous crime and could he have been helped or at least treated in a way that would have minimized his desire to do something so senseless?”

The methods he used to carry out this abominable act are noteworthy, but not the root of the problem.

Mental health is a topic that not many feel comfortable discussing.

I  heard someone say once, “You have to be crazy to want to go see a therapist or a psychologist.” The implication is obvious. Reaching out for help when struggling with mental issues has a stigma attached to it that causes many of those suffering and needing help to retreat in shame.

Others will argue that anyone using a mental illness as an excuse for bad behavior is simply a coward and attempting to avoid accountability.


However, it is possible that some who find themselves acting out so irresponsibly against society really are in need of help and there is simply  nobody there who cares enough to attempt to address the issue.

Obviously, this is a complex issue. Especially for those raised in a  home where you just “man  up” and deal with your problems yourself.

Living here in Oklahoma it is even a bit worse.

Mental health in Oklahoma is like the stepchild of the medical establishment. Those of you who have loved ones who have ever wrestled with depression, PTSD, or any of the other life debilitating mental afflictions prevalent in our society know this to be true.

Mental health is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with in a serious manner.

Sure, we all know people who have feigned being crazy to avoid responsibility or self sustainment. That being said, there are just as many others who suffer in silence because they are genuinely hurting and won’t seek help for fear of being labeled as….(you can fill in the blank).

What was the reason for the tragedy that affected so many in Las Vegas? At this moment it is too early to say definitively.

It is, however, a chance to  open a dialogue. Ask the tough questions.

Why do people do what they do?

Are there deeper motives than what can be seen on the surface?

Most importantly, when we debate the reasons for acts of violence and mayhem, let’s at least be asking the right questions instead of simply giving pat answers or knee-jerk responses that play well on Twitter or Facebook.

We live in a complex society suffering with complex issues.

It would be nice to have an answer. A real one.

Not something that can be simply printed on a T-Shirt or sent out to the world in a 140 characters, but something that actually gives a solution to what we are all facing.

That’s right. This is something we all face. This isn’t just a problem that affects those who have suffered or those who have been injured, this affects all of us.

Perhaps its time we come together as a society and actually figure this out together regardless of political or ideological affiliation and without caring who gets the credit.

We claim to be “one” nation under God. Let’s act like it.





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