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Tea Time With Katina and Leah

by | Jul 14, 2023 | 1 comment



Karen Christensen

Isn’t Karen Christensen great! She does a fortnightly newsletter and the latest one caught my eye. It’s about T.S. Eliot’s typewriter and desk and introduces “analog thinking for the way we live now”. Eliot died in 1965 back before manual typewriters were everywhere. Mark Twain was among the first purchasers of a typewriter, and he was the first author to submit a typewritten manuscript to a publisher. Back to Karen: It has been forever since I saw her! After working at Blackwell Scientific Publications and Faber & Faber, she co-founded Berkshire Publishing Group in 1998. Anyway, she was secretary and editorial assistant to Valerie (Mrs. T.S.) Eliot on the first volume of the T.S. Eliot Letters (1988) (Faber & Faber). Reading her biography will knock your socks off; she is so well-connected! She made her first trip to China in 2001 while working on The Encyclopedia of Modern Asia for Charles Scribner‘s Sons and has continued her association with China since! Like I said, it’s been forever since she visited me in my office at the College of Charleston. She gave me a hand-executed coffee mug that sits prominently on my desk! Picture coming! Anyway, when I first got my job at the Robert S. Small Library at the College of Charleston, there was only one typewriter for the entire library. Mind you, it was manual, but it was a very fancy manual with correction tape and a memory which allowed you to save and reprint the same item numerous times. I finally got access to it because I was in charge of book ordering. Hooha! Thanks, Karen, for the reminiscences.

Just saw a headline “Tale of Two Cities” No, it’s not about the Charles Dickens Novel! It’s about another book: Charleston and Savannah: The Rise, Fall, and Reinvention of Two Rival Cities by Thomas D. Wilson, University of Georgia Press, 2023.  The book review is by the incredibly talented Harlan Greene, novelist, historian, College of Charleston archivist and board member of the Preservation Society of Charleston. (Post and Courier, Sunday, June 25, 2023) This book is about two of America’s most distinctive cities with hopes they can keep their uniqueness and character and not be lost to history. This is a capsule history of each city, not just events, but of the physical, tangible, and sensuous. There was indeed a subtle rivalry. I had Greek family in both cities and when they visited they always wanted to see relatives in both cities. There is no question that they are in a sense Sister Cities. Both worth a visit.

Let’s leave Savannah and Charleston and head to a totally different place: Houston, Texas.  Texas is 85% urban, has three of the US’s ten largest cities and is a stark contrast to South Carolina. There is little urban history in Texas. Chronicled in the book, We Hold Our Breath: A Journey to Texas Between Storms by Micah Fields (Norton, 2023), this book is about the author’s trip to Houston during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 to rescue his mother who had refused to evacuate “with a local’s casual grace.” This is something Charleston and Houston have in common, fleeing hurricanes and aversion to leaving home. We here in Charleston remember all the hurricane scares well. And don’t worry,  Charleston’s Post and Courier will not let us forget to be prepared!  Every day, starting in June, there is an article about hurricanes and the devastation they have caused not just here but all over the US.             

Here’s something more uplifting. Guess what? There’s a guy from New York City (where else?) who has a floating Pizzeria in Georgetown County, SC. A group of us meet regularly on Sullivan’s Island on the beach, and we were wishing for food, of course. Enter an article in the Post and Courier by Richard Caines. Anthony Barletta moved to South Carolina during the pandemic and spied a beaten-up pontoon boat. He found the owner and bought it for a dollar. He has perfected some pizza recipes from his Italian family and grandmother. The Pontoon pizzeria is open from 11 am to 7:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. There is also a delivery option, and they will be moving to other beach locations. Barletta has many irons in the fire AKA ideas under development. Visit pontoonpizzeria.com to learn more. Meanwhile, I think I will have a  pizza for lunch or dinner or even breakfast! Follow Richard Caines on Twitter @rickcaines

1 Comment

  1. Hamilton College

    Your age, or mine is showing. To me there is a difference between a manual, an electric, and an electronic typewriter. Mark Twain did use a manual, completly mechanical typewriter. You bought one that had either Pica or Courier typeface. In 1965 I’me sure electric were available, but manuals were not rare. Those worked pretty much the same as as manual but keys were easier to push and much higher typing speeds were possible. Authors who could type liked electrics because they could get their thoughts onto paper faster. I was in high school in the early 70’s and took a summer school typing class that used an electric while at home we had a manual. Learning to keyboard was so far from universal that I knew someone who said she was not going to learn to type so she could not be stuck as a secretary. High School papers were usually handwritten and college students often hired someone to type their papers. Those IBM Selectrics were miracles. I see they were invented in 1961, but I didn’t see one until the late 70s. The correcting tapes came later, but actual correction was pretty mechanical, backspacing, type the bad letter to replace the black ink with white, and the type the correct word. Their type balls allowed multiple fonts but one still needed to hit the return key so the operation was not completely automatic. When I started as a librarian in 1986 it was all Selectrics with special card platens that held cards against the it. The Wheelwriter and Quietwiters of the late 80s were truly electronic. They ‘remembered’ what you had typed, could do automatic carriage returns. But about the same time Word Processors were beginning to overtake the typewriters and the computers with Word Processing software were not far behind. Typewriters seem a thing of the past, so not we get hand addressed envelopes that might have been typed in the past, and filling out forms by hand can result in unreadable information.


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Tea Time With Katina And Leah

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