Posted by: Brad Nixon | June 2, 2018

Nostalgic Encounter with an Old Friend

Nostalgia inheres in the mind, not objects. We may associate nostalgic thoughts with things, but objects, themselves, are mere signifiers. They may remind us of a halcyon day, a significant milestone, a face or voice now lost to us.

Cabinets, attics and drawers everywhere are chock-full of those nostalgia-laden items: pressed flowers, wedding programs, old comic books, grandma’s turkey platter, shells plucked from a seashore, ticket stubs from that major date, like this one, circa 1972.

Front and back of 2 stubs

2 stubs with front and back

Elton John! I wonder what became of the girl I went with to that concert, and if she ever thinks of me? Not certain who paid; $4.50 was a lot of money in those days.

One hangs onto gifts, of course, like this one I’ve written about before:

Housman Brad Nixon

A high school graduation present from Mom and Dad. It’s made the decades-long trek with me, and I treasure it still. Thank you.

A few nostalgic items also have practical uses, like any number of tools I have from my grandfather. They were already on the job when I started working in the family business, and they’re still ready to go, even though they show some wear.

Tools Brad Nixon 2577 640

It’s a mistake to get too attached to too many things. Not only does the need to store them become onerous, associating strong emotions with mere physical objects can get out of hand and become a bit obsessive.

Still, I was brought to a standstill this week, browsing through the basement of an antique store. I saw this.

portable typewriter Brad Nixon 640

For those of you younger than a certain age, that’s a portable typewriter. It produces printed pages, despite the lack of a screen, hard drive or software. Sort of like a printer, only manually driven. It looks to be in pretty good condition. As it happens, that’s the same model in the identical color of blue as the one on which I typed my first-ever high school research paper (thank you, Mrs. Drake), then took with me to college. I can still hear the hum it made sitting on the desk, the sharp sound of the keys striking the platen, the feel of those keys.

No, I wasn’t in the least tempted to buy it. I don’t need it to spark the endlessly spiraling recollections of composing papers for English classes, writing letters home and to friends (we did that sort of thing back then), and a thousand or ten thousand associated memories. I have those memories, including of that girl at the Elton John concert. As it happens, she’s just down the hall, writing, although not on a typewriter. Lucky me.

How about you? Does any machine or piece of technology have nostalgic value for you? Or not? I welcome your comments. And … what about your first typewriter?

© Brad Nixon 2018


  1. Splendid! Thanks, Bard!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome. I know you had intimate acquaintance with some uncountable number of typing machines on behalf of Uncle Sam in a foreign land!


  2. Yes, I was sort of a Remington Raider.
    I didn’t really have my own first typewriter, per se, I think we had the old Underwood dad claimed to have fished out of turtle creek, they had a Sears electric later, but i do still have my stereo amplifier from 1973, the tuner and 4 speakers (what ever happened to quadraphonic anyway?) and the non-working turntable, which is in the garage, all date from that time too. My working turntable is probably from the 80s.


    • You are bordering on the nostalgia-for-technology, having recently transported a non-working piece of obsolete audio gear across state lines. Careful! Anyway, thanks for your contribution in keeping Europe free from total nuclear destruction during your time in Remington’s Raiders.


  3. Your electric typewriter was far superior to the MANUAL one I took to college. I had to press down on the keys very hard to get a good black print of the letters striking the ribbon onto the paper. One possible unintended benefit: probably made made hands stronger and improved my golf game!


    • I was happy to have an electric. Learned on a manual un HS. Never looked back. As a result: no golf game.


      • I never owned an electric one. My first job after college introduced me to the IBM Selectric. No memory, and not like a printer. You just didn’t have to hit the keys as hard as a manual typewriter. 🤭

        Sort of like the difference between power steering and no power steering (if there are any of your readers old enough to remember such things). 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank the stars for computers and backspacing for corrections! Your photo of the typewriter and mention of manual typewriters, sent chills down my spine with memories of high school typing classes. With each timed test I was convinced I would do well and that my frozen-ham hands would nimbly skip across the keyboard. Never happened.
    Technology is good.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I found my old typewriter — thanks to technology, of course. That one’s long gone, but there is an old manual in my collection of hurricane supplies. With water, food, batteries, typewriter, and paper, I’m ready.

    I’m not sure any technology stirs nostalgic memories for me, unless you expand the definition of technology to include things like the aluminum pan and original candy thermometer my mother and I used to make Christmas treats in the ’50s and ’60s. I still remember the first time I was allowed to make a batch of fudge from beginning to end, and learned about crystallization. Sometimes, knowing when to stop is as important as starting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hah! I never thought of a typewriter as part if the earthquake preparedness kit!


  6. This is the part where I pretend I don’t know what that thing is that you used for your high school term paper…

    Seriously, great post! We are sentimental creatures (most of us), but I agree with you that it’s in the memories, not the objects.

    Great to know you know right where “that girl” ended up!

    Liked by 1 person

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