Marty the Typewriter Guy. If you have seen him at events around Puget Sound the past couple of years, you are likely to remember him. He is friendly, knowledgeable, and above all, passionate about the typewriters he rescues and restores for modern-day users. Whether you grew up learning to type on a typewriter in high school, remember one nestled in your parents’ attic, or have just always been curious about these vintage machines, it seems typewriters hold a timeless pull of nostalgia for us all. Walking by a display of Marty’s Typewriters, meticulously cared for and arranged by decade, nearly everyone stops and smiles.
Marty’s goal has been to bring these classic machines back to life and find good homes for them. After 50 years in social service work, Marty retired and has found typewriters a fun change of pace. “This has really been a delight to me as a retirement hobby,” he says. His interest was sparked when his son, William, got interested in the machines. The two started researching together, and a passion was born. He rescued neglected and unused typewriters from “in the wild,” cleaned them up and taught himself how to fix them, and soon found himself with a collection of over 60 in the house (ranging from a 1910 Underwood No. 5 to 1970s IBM Selectrics). His wife Marilyn had worked for a time selling typewriters at an office supply store, and the whole family enjoyed talking about this new interest together.
“My wife wanted the spare bedroom back,” Marty jokes about how he started selling the machines. But really, he found that it was a joy to connect with others around typewriters, and help people from all ages and walks of life to find a machine that would bring them pleasure and many years of use. From children who are fascinated by the tactile experience of pressing keys to senior citizens who enjoy using them to write letters (and remember getting awards for typing), they’ve been a hit with all ages.
Marty aims to keep his pricing reasonable, and makes sure each machine has a new ribbon and is in good working order (typewriter ribbons can actually still be found online). Each machine represents several hours of cleaning and tinkering until it is in its best possible shape. When a customer purchases a typewriter, it comes with a case, care instructions, and a genuine connection with Marty. “They come with adoption papers,” Marty jokes fondly about how sincerely he takes the re-homing of machines.
He and his daughter sold his typewriters at Tacoma’s La Paloma Marketplace in Proctor the past two summers. Customers remembered him and would often come by just to say hello and see what was new. He thanks Molly Alvarado at La Paloma for helping him reach a broad customer base and for the opportunity to interact with so many members of the community. Marty also gave a talk about typewriter maintenance to a rapt audience at Olympia Zine Fest this fall. And always generous in spirit, he donated some upgraded machines to the typewriter room at the Olympia Timberland Library.
Along the way on Marty’s typewriter journey, he met Paul Lundy, owner of Bremerton Office Machine Company. One of the few remaining typewriter shops, Paul has taught Marty much about typewriter repair, and Marty takes machines in need of serious TLC to Paul for professional servicing before they come to market. The two have struck up a friendship over their shared interest. “I highly recommend Paul for typewriter repairs and also to find high-quality machines in his retail space,” says Marty.
What is the lure of typewriters all about? Marty says, “Typewriters have it all. They have impacted our way of life and they are a microcosm of early manufacturing. There were over 1,000 patents issued. Each one has over 1,200 to 2,000 parts. Millions were made, and they were made to last for daily use for many years.”
Literary greats from Ernest Hemingway to Agatha Christie had personal relationships with their typewriters. And millions upon millions of people have used them to communicate through writing reports, letters, notes, and so much more. Now, a new generation is discovering their charm, whether for zine making, scrapbooking, or decorating period houses. In short, says Marty, the history of typewriters is also a history of us as a society. Not to mention their beauty – from the Art Deco curve of old manuals to the streamlined style of mid-century electrics, typewriters seamlessly merge form with enduring function.
Typewriters also offer an intimate connection with our choice of words versus the copy-and-paste and auto completion of today’s devices. Being with one is “a time out from the hustle and bustle of modern life,” Marty says. “It’s just you, the paper, and the typewriter.”
What’s next for Marty? He is diligently preparing his machines for two unique holiday events: La Paloma Marketplace’s Tacoma Strietzlmarkt, a German-themed Christmas market (read more about it here) and the Grit Gatsby Holiday Artisan Market 1930s-themed event (no typing tests, just holiday fun!). After these events, Marty will likely be doing personal sales of select typewriters from his home base in Olympia.
It’s been a fun road, says Marty. “It’s been an honor hearing people’s stories, helping them find the right fit, and hearing from people who are really, really happy with their machines.” Abiding by a family love of puns, it seems it seems his typewriter hobby been just the right “type” of interest.