When Curator Jessica and I left St. Louis for Cape in the late afternoon Tuesday, we started out in drizzle to moderate rain. By the time we got south of St. Genevieve, we were in heavy rain, and from north of Fruitland through Jackson, we were in rain as hard as I’ve seen in some Cat 1 hurricanes.
Rain in St. Louis on Monday was heavy at times, but when I pulled onto Brother Mark’s street across from the Botanical Gardens, it had slacked off. The trees in his neighborhood still have some colorful leaves, but they are falling fast.
By the way. on the way home, I stopped at Pevely to top off my tank. Where I was excited about paying $1.73 a gallon for gas on Monday, it had gone down to $1.69. I noticed the price jumped in 10-cent increments the further south you drove.
I ran across an old TWA ticket stub from March 19, 1967. I was flying from St. Louis to Cleveland on what the airlines called “Youth Fare,” but most of us dubbed “student standby.”
St. Louis to Cleveland for $16.54
I was able to fly from Missouri to Ohio for $16.54. I was racking my brain trying to figure out why I was going to Cleveland, then I figured out what was going on.
In March of 1967, I flew to Cleveland and probably got a ride down to Athens with one of Jim Stone’s friends so I could visit him at Ohio University to check out the school. It was a good thing I did. I had applied to OU, but I hadn’t gotten a rejection letter or an acceptance letter. Jim suggested we go by the admissions office to see what was going on.
“Your grades aren’t high enough to meet our standards,” I was told.
“Not good enough?” I countered. “I have a 3.85 average on a scale of 4.0. How smart do I have to be to get into this place?”
She pulled out my file, shuffled through the paperwork, then said, “Somebody made a mistake. You’re in.”
You were good unless you got bumped
The airlines were clear that your seat was safe only so long as the seat wasn’t sold to a full-fare passenger. Planes flew with lots of empty seats in those days (which is why they calculated that a half was better than a nothing), so the odds were pretty good that you were OK.
I never got bumped, but I saw others having to leave the plane. That always made me nervous because I had seen enough of those crash stories where some kid was interviewed, “Yes, I was going to be on that flight, but, at the last second, I was bumped. If that hadn’t happened, I’d have been on that smashed tin can still smoking in a cornfield in Iowa.”
I was doubly nervous when I finally became a paying customer that bumped the last standby. That was REALLY tempting fate.
When did it end?
I tried to find a little of the history of student standby, but didn’t run across much. The Daily Pennsylvanian had a story in 1968 that said that several airlines were phasing out the half-price standby fare, going for one charging two-thirds of the tourist class price. The trade-off was that it would be considered a reserved seat not subject to bumping.
TWA, interestingly enough, was NOT one of the airlines eliminating standby at that time.
In addition to bringing in revenue from what would otherwise be empty seats, the youth fares hooked a whole generation on flying, and airline execs were quoted as saying they hoped to build brand loyalty for future sales. “With a student fare, the student’s taste is catered to a particular airline. When he is 22, he is more likely to use that airline.”
I got to see this view of the Gateway Arch from I-55 twice on my last trip to Missouri. Once on my way to drop off Wife Lila at the airport to fly back home to West Palm Beach on October 28, and once when I went to Lambert to pick up Curator Jessica on October 30.
Jessica had already done the obligatory Arch Lick last fall, so she said we didn’t need to go do it again. We opted to go to the City Museum instead.
And, there were no safety hazards involved in the taking of this photo. Road construction had traffic dead stopped at this location both days, so I had plenty of time.to shoot.
Brother Mark has my old portable Olivetti typewriter. I call it mine, but Dad never specifically gave it to me. I remember how proud he was when he brought it home: It was a cool blue color and lived in a red felt-lined case. He was impressed at how light it was and how good the keys felt.
It ended up on my desk in the basement, typed a gazillion high school papers, then it went away to Ohio University with me.
Because Dad always had an office at home, in addition to one somewhere else, I always had access to a typewriter and a hand-cranked adding machine. That explains why my handwriting is lousy (and my math skills are equally bad).
An excuse to run typewriter photos
The lead shot is an excuse for me to run some photos I took July 3 when I was in St. Louis. On the way to meet Mary, an old friend from my Jackson Pioneer days, I saw an interesting typewriter repair shop on Manchester in Maplewood. I was running late (what’s new) and figured I’d never get back there again. As it turned out, I was meeting up with someone else the next day and passed the shop again. This time I stopped.
This is where the story gets embarrassing: I took a bunch of notes when I talked to the two brothers who owned the joint, but I must have left that notebook in Florida.
In the absence of real info about the Jones business, I’ll blather on about my other typewriter experiences, then run a gallery of photos from the place where typewriters and calculators go to be reborn, even if cannibalization must occur.
I don’t know how Mark ended up with the typewriter. I probably brought it back home after I left Athens. By the time I started working at The Athens Messenger, I had access to a full-blown typewriter and good workspace to do whatever schoolwork needed to be typed.
Special IBM Selectrics
Not long after I started at The Palm Beach Post, the newspaper’s old manual typewriters were replaced with IBM Selectrics that had special characters on the magic spinning balls that put words on paper. Reporters would type their stories and the pages would be scanned and turned into type that was pasted up by the composing room. The special characters were formatting commands for bold, italic, and the like. You could use them as a regular typewriter if you avoided the special characters.
I kept putting in budget requests for more typewriters for the photo department, but they kept being rejected because “we’ll have lots of spares when we get the new pagination system.” After being turned down three times, I decided drastic measures needed to be taken.
Shhhh, here’s a secret
I’m going to tell you a little secret. I’m not with the company anymore; all of the old Selectrics are probably in a landfill, and I think the statute of limitations has run out on my transgressions, so I think I’m safe.
I would wander around the building until I saw a typewriter wearing a cover sitting in a corner or a hallway, obviously not in someone’s workspace. I would wait until nobody was looking, take off the cover, type, “Am I being used?” on a scrap piece of copy paper, then replace the cover.
If I checked back two weeks later and the note was still there, the typewriter would find itself in the photo department. Management never asked where the typewriters came from nor why I had quit asking for new ones. So far as I know, nobody ever reported any missing typewriters to security.
Besides, how could it be stealing if the property never left the premises, right?
Where’s the green ribbon?
I just noticed that my old Olivetti at the top of the page has a conventional black and red ribbon. For those folks who have never used a typewriter, you normally typed with the black portion of the ribbon. If you were doing bookkeeping and wanted to emphasize a negative number, you’d switch to the red part. Hence, the expression, “in the red” for losing money.
Dad had a thing for green. He had a green ribbon in his typewriters, painted his tools green and wrote with a green fountain pen. I did the same, for the most part.
I have a weakness for hardware and office supply stores. Since Missourian Office Supply was next door to the newspaper office and since I had an employee discount, I bought a selection of colors of ink cartridges for the fountain pen I used for school work. I think some of my teachers may have objected to my unconventional color choices, but I likely ignored them or switched to blue or black for their classes.
Thank goodness for felt tips
I had a few of the really old-fashioned fountain pens that had a bladder inside that you filled by pulling up on a lever while the pen’s tip was dipped in a bottle of ink. They leaked and always ran out of ink at the wrong time. Ink cartridges were much neater and you could carry spares. I abandoned ink pens when felt tips became common. They fitted my sloppy note-taking style better than fountain pens.
To show how old I am, I can remember that some of my grade school desks still had holes for ink wells. Or, they might have been to hold water for the dinosaurs to drink, who knows?
Hurricane gives, hurricane takes away
My favorite ballpoint of all time was a Papermate pen I found on the steps of The Post in 1979 when I came back from vacation because Hurricane David was barreling down on Florida. David was a Category 5 storm went it went over the Dominican Republic, so this looked like it was going to be the real deal.
I drove 19 hours straight and pulled into West Palm Beach about 2 in the morning just as the winds were really starting to whip up. Fortunately for us, the mountains had knocked the storm down to a Cat 1. Still, we had some aluminum awnings blow off our house, never to be seen again.
I carried that pen every day until it slipped through a hole in my pocket while covering Hurricane Elena in 1985. I hope someone in Pascagoula, Mississippi, found it and loved it as much as I did.
Jones Typewriter Company photo gallery
The place was a cross between a repair shop and a museum. I hope the brothers and their typewriters found a new home if they did decide to move. There are a lot of writers out there who prefer turning out their works on a manual typewriter rather than a computer word processor. (I’m not one of them.) Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the sides to move through the gallery.