Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This Thing, I Will Not Purge

It's my dad's old typewriter. Approximate vintage: 1935.

When I was in college, and my older brothers had already moved away, my dad would type a weekly letter to us. (My sister lived in our hometown and didn't get letters from home. She was sometimes envious of that even though she lived 3 miles from our parents.)

Dad used 2 pieces of carbon paper to type three copies of his letter. When he wrote a two-page letter, 2 of the 3 recipients would get one original page and one copy. The unlucky third person got only copies. The copies were not terribly easy to read, because my dad would refuse to take a new piece of carbon paper out of the box until he had depleted every last speck of "ink" on the one he'd been using and even with the pounding of the ancient typewriter keys, the carbon paper could only cough up so much blue. You have never seen anything so pulverized as the carbon paper he finally threw away. Mostly it was just vapor that he blew like a kiss over to the wastebasket.

The man knew how to get the "good" out of something. Still does. If all of us in the family took a piece of Doublemint gum, all of us but Dad would abandon it within an hour, two at the most. Dad would be chewing his at the end of the day, claiming there was still "good" in it. Nothing was to be wasted. This is a common trait among Depression-era people, but even more so from him. Which is how he managed to keep us all fed and clothed and educated and driving cars on the income of a dirt farmer.

At some point he started to write his letters with a pen. And they were individual letters, with pertinent newspaper clippings or photos added in. These were wildly comforting to receive, no matter how small the news inside. I saved every one of his letters for years, his and my mother's (which were almost as regular), the typed and the longhand, then finally burned about half of them. I now have only two suitcases full of their letters. It's one of those odd things you can look at and see the accumulation of love in an actual pile. I don't care if this makes me a packrat. I have been called worse.

Anyway, the typewriter stays, and it resides on top of my computer desk. I've given it a young pup of a halogen lamp as a friend. The lamp listens to all the old stories, and falls asleep at night resting its head on the keys.


  • At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have ever read!

    Don't you DARE ever burn those letters! Hanging on to those does not qualify you as a packrat. As a matter of fact, hanging on to such valuable items actually deducts points from your packrat score, because THESE are the things that are truly worth keeping. (I almost wrote "priceless" but then I thought that sounded too much like a Mastercard commercial.)

  • At 8:12 AM, Blogger Dana said…

    Another very sweet story about your father. My mother was depression-era as well, and we saved/recycled everything. My favorite Tupperware - Cool-Whip and Shedd's Country Crock designer editions.

    Futuresis, I agree, these are the things that are truly worth keeping! The letters, not the tubs.

  • At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hope this is part of your memoir collection you are getting together!

    Remember I had my grandma's old manual typewriter and would sit in my dorm bed, typing away? The first laptop! Some of the papers I typed on that are unbelievable-how bad they look. I tried to explain that to my kids. Correction tape, retyping whole pages, things that would never have to happen now with computers.

    I have a picture of our old dorm room and you can see that old typewriter. I will have to find it. We lived like slobs but it was such bliss. You put up with me not making my bed for a whole year. What a friend.

  • At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Book idea

    Your dad's letters might be a book!

    Always trying to publish you!

  • At 10:01 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Futuresis, I won't be burning the letters ever. I do have instructions for Scott to burn all the personal stuff if I die first. If we both go at the same time, we'll need Plan B.

    Dana, our family used those tubs over and over! Especially the Cool Whip tubs. Used until the label totally peeled off. The smaller tubs, from "oleo" as my mom called it, were used to put just a "dab" of green beans or some leftover that she could add to my dad's lunch when he came home from the field. There were always "dabs" in the fridge. :)

  • At 10:04 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    I remember, Belle! The first laptop. HA!
    You not making your bed was NOTHING compared to what you put up with having me as a room-mate. I can't even think about it without cringing.

    And yes, I'm working on a long version of this post, all about my dad's letters. A separate essay will include lots of excerpts from his WWII letters. I literally pulled those out of the fire when my mom tried to burn them. I have 100 or so. They are the most precious thing I own. And hearing my dad smooch on my mom when they were in their early twenties is mind blowing. He was so mushy.

  • At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Alright Candy. Here's a deal for you. If you and Scott die together, I will burn the personal stuff without reading it. Just put it in a box with some code word that only you, Scott, and I know. And if D and I die together, you must promise me that you will burn THE paper, along with my journals, if I don't keep shredding them after I write in them. I can't see me doing away with that ritual though. Anyway, if you agree to this, I will tell you the location of the paper later. I know. I should just get rid of it. But I cannot, for some reason. I know. It isn't a big deal. But I just don't want anyone else to read it.

  • At 10:34 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Futuresis, you're killing me. "THE" paper. HAAAAA!

    Now, praytell, are you going to fly from the midwest to Phoenix to get rid of our stuff? Oh, and I don't care if you read it all first. You'll feel so much more normal afterward.

  • At 11:26 AM, Blogger Jerry said…

    A nice man with a nice daughter--that sounds like an American dream.

  • At 12:12 PM, Blogger Lisa Dunick said…

    I'm always so moved by the affection and admiration you have for your parents--and your writing conveys it so beautifully.

  • At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'll fly there, if you fly here to dispose of THE paper. I'm sure I won't feel more normal after reading your stuff. You've read THE paper. And my journals are lame. That is why I shred them after I go back and read them again. I shred all of my writing. Sometimes, when I reread my writing, I feel like I should shred myself for writing what I write. Except THE paper. I never know if I'll need it again. But I have come close to shredding it as well.

  • At 1:04 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Jerry, he really is a nice man. Even in his diminished mental capacity these days, he's still very sweet. Lots of people with Alzheimers get angry and lash out. Not him.

  • At 1:07 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    LD, it surprises me what I find out about myself when I hear comments like that. I don't even know what I'm writing half the time. I start on one topic and veer off. No, I careen. I like "careen."

    I also like "jettison."

  • At 1:08 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Futuresis, we need to just shred everything and live off the land. Let's take off on a Thelma and Louise trip, minus the sexual assault and the, uh, unpleasant ending.

  • At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OK. Deal! I am sure we could live off the land. Or, we'd just need to have enough money to buy a lot of Rice Chex. If we brought a metal detector along, we'd be able to scrounge up enough change for gas and Chex.

    In our adventure, we need to have aliases. I mean, aside from Candy and Futuresis and all of our other aliases.

  • At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    can I come too? I think futuresis and I would get along.

  • At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Being your roommate was one of the highpoints of my whole college experience. Please don't cringe.

    We had a ball.

  • At 2:57 PM, Blogger Domhan said…

    That typewriter is nifty! Have you pretended to be Kerouac with a long roll of paper? Stream of consciousness writing with that wonderful clack of the keys against the platten? (Who else knows what a platten is? That's vocabulary from high school typing class, NOT "keyboarding"!)

    I have an old typewriter stored away, too. I refuse to give it up, but I don't have the emotional ties to mine like you have to yours. I just think it's something good and solid and real that needs to be taken care of and loved. Like my 1940s era cabinet radio. No FM band back then, album rock lovers! We had this one restored, and I listen to hissing AM radio on it.

    And then there's my grandmother's old 1918 Brunswick phonograph and all her 78s that I can still play. Isn't there something comforting about things so old that still work? Then I look wistfully at my four year old laptop and wonder just how much longer...

  • At 3:39 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Sigh. In a former life I had my dad's old Remington typewriter, circa 1950s and built like a Buick Roadmaster (and way older than me). Learned to type on that thing and typed several early 'manuscripts' that have miraculously vanished. Unfortunately, the Remington went with them.

    Precious things. People who've never smelled typewriter oil and ink ribbons will never understand...

  • At 5:16 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    I am VERY glad you think so, Belle. You have no idea.

    Domhan, the phrase "high school typing class" just makes me happy.

    And yes, old stuff that still works is superb. My parents had an extremely cool jukebox with 78s and sold it for WAY too little to some slimebag from St. Louis.

  • At 5:17 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Mel, what happened to your manuscripts??

    The ribbon on this typewriter is dry dry dry but you can still smell it. The fresh ribbons were deliciously bad and oily.

  • At 5:18 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…



  • At 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Belle--you're in! :-)

  • At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lovely piece, Candy. Yes, your family story and your father's letters would be terrific. A specific instance of the Greatest Generation. Do it!

  • At 9:46 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    TONY! Man, I wish we could have a leisurely lunch and catch up. It's been a thousand years since we did that.

  • At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    When do we leave Thelma and Louise? What is my alias? Guess it is Belle. I wish that was my real name and I would need an alias.

    Futuresis-we can talk about the 70's! On Candy's new post, is that a Little Kiddle doll?????? The doll by the airplane.

    Candy-new book idea-writing about your college days. Remember the Rely tampons and putting the sausage in that girl's bed. Also, found memories of Candy skateboarding down the long hallway and almost going out the window at the end. never a dull moment.

  • At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Belle and Candy,

    I am working on our aliases, along with new identification papers. Will keep you posted.

    I think that the picture is of Polly Pocket and her party jet--because everything in Polly World is related to partying or fashion. Just like my life.

    I cannot wait to hear stories about the college days, you two!

  • At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    O.K. Here we go.

    Candy--You are Natasha DeRossier.

    Belle--You're Olympia Rockwell.

    I am Mahogany Whipple.

    If anyone asks us, we are three friends that partnered together to open up a very successful button shop in Thermopolis, Wyoming. We are thinking of expanding our enterprise, so we are scoping out possible new locations across the country. And maybe Canada.

  • At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love the name Olympia. Used to swim at a pool called Club Olympia.

    What is our itinerary?

    Futuresis-You are right about the Polly Pockets. You know your toys!

  • At 1:53 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 1:53 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    WAY cool. Wonderful, wonderful story... Great share. = ]

    Old toys: my fav was a Baby Beans. Found one on eBay once, tried to bid and lost w/in seconds. It ended up selling for over $100... Yeah. That comforting feeling I get from all my sand animals -- lizards, frogs, spiders and stars -- it all started with my Baby Beans. If I had her still I certainly wouldn't lump her in with the rest of the pack-rattedge. No, just like that precious typewriter and the incredibly priceless letters, she would have a special place in my life.

    Thelma & Louise? It's one of those that keeps escaping me. Ha, escape. Must be 'cause I know the ending already. I'll have to force myself to watch it some day. You guys be safe out there... lol. = ]

  • At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just wish I wasn't so trapped in my life so I could really go.

    Citali-you have to find that movie just to see young Brad Pitt. The best part!!!!!

  • At 4:26 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Dang, there's a whole plan forming here. I've been in the air and missed it all!

    BELLE! You're remembering stuff even *I* had forgotten! I do remember skateboarding down the hallway of the dorm and nearly buying the farm.

    The sausage. Whose bed? I can't remember.

    We have to talk in person. And write it all down.

  • At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    That's the best part of our trip! There is no itinerary! We just wake up each day and do whatever we feel like doing, go wherever we decide to go next!

    Yes, I do know my toys. I am a fount of useless trivia.


    I've never seen Thelma and Louise, either. I've just heard about it. How is it that we've gotten this far along in life and never seen that movie? (I thought I was the only woman over 30 who hadn't seen it!)

  • At 4:28 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Little Kiddles. OH how I loved those.

    I had sand animals, too, Citlali. They may show up in a box eventually.

  • At 4:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I cannot wait to hear these stories!!!!

  • At 8:00 AM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    Wonderful story. My Dad was a lot like that.


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