14 October 2013

A Typewriter?

by Fran Rizer

Note:  This is not the column about words that I wanted to use today, but illness has prevented me from completing it.

My divorce was final when my younger son was five years old.  I admit that freedom from marriage allowed me to do some things I hadn't done while living with a husband.  No, not what you're thinking. I used to say the major changes were that (1) I could spread my clothes out in all the closet space in the master bedroom.  (2) I no longer felt compelled to jump up to clean the kitchen after dinner--sometimes I even left the dishes in the sink until the next morning. (3) I never planned to fry another chicken.  From then on, fried chicken at my house arrived in a KFC bucket and was transferred to a serving tray.

A year or so after the divorce, my sons spent a weekend with their grandmother. When they came home, the younger one told me, "Mom, did you know that people can make fried chicken in their own kitchens?"

I'm sure there are children who would be equally impressed to learn that people used to write without computers.  I'm not talking about way back when everything was written by hand (possibly even in cursive, which is no longer considered a necessary skill for students to learn.)  I'm referring to typewriters.  Some of us remember when most authors didn't have word processors or computers.  Editing and rewriting on typewriters was a pain in the Royal you-know-what.

All of that leads to my story for today, and, yes, it's nonfiction, a true story about a real man.
I picked this as the first drawing because I love trains.  In
fact, I've written several bluegrass train songs.

Once upon a time, actually on September 21, 1921, a baby boy was born.  His parents named him Paul Smith.

The odds were against Paul.  He had severe cerebral palsy, a disability that impeded both speech and mobility.

His challenges meant that Paul spent most of his life in a Nursing Home in Roseburg, Oregon.  He taught himself to become a master chess player even though he had very little formal education.  

Paul also taught himself to type; however, his palsy made it necessary to use his left hand to steady his right hand. This made it impossible for him to strike two keys at the same time. 
I've chosen this drawing because my very first recorded
original song was "Waiting at the Station."

Because he needed both hands to press one typewriter key, Paul almost always locked the shift key and typed using only the symbols at the top of the number keys.
These characters --
@ # $ % ^ & * () _
were the only symbols he could type. 

Note the signature in the lower right corner - Typed by Paul Smith. 

The drawings in this blog were all "Typed by Paul Smith," and
created from those symbols above the numerals on typewriters.  He created hundreds of pictures.  He gave many away but kept copies of some of them.
On the left is Paul's version of the

Mona Lisa.  Below is a close-up from that picture showing how his artwork was made.  

He died June 25, 2007, and his life and work are noteworthy as well as inspiring.

Paul Smith inspires me.  If a man who couldn't speak and had to steady his spastic hands to strike one key at a time could create such works from a typewriter, surely we can accomplish our writing goals with all the bells and whistles we have on today's computers.

A question for SS readers and writers--who inspires you?

Until we meet again, take care of you!


  1. My jaw is still dropped from the revelation that those pictures were typed!! My Lord!! Amazing!!! On a more personal note, Fran, get some rest, take care and get well soon!

  2. Amazing, Fran. Thanks for sharing.

  3. (1) Get well, Fran.
    (2) I am totally humbled.
    (3) Wow.

  4. You transfer KFC to a serving tray? Gee, I feel so barbaric in comparison. I just toss the bucket on the table and yell, "Go for it!" And the melee begins. LOL

    I've never heard of this man before, Fran. Thanks for bringing him to my attention; his work is fascinating. No wonder he was a chess player: planning how to angle the paper for proper insertion into the typewriter, for nearly each different key stroke, probably would require the mental depths of a chess champion.


  5. Wow, pictures are awesome. I've never heard of Paul before either. Like the old saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way." Thanks, Fran for sharing.

    Healing energy heading your way.
    Please take care of yourself.

  6. Thanks for your well wishes. I collect true stories about challenged humans who accomplish great goals through perseverance, and thought this would be a good one to share.

  7. I bet you shared these kind of stories with your students. Very inspiring!

    I hope you're feeling better soon.


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