Common hobbies, mutual understanding

My friend, Roger Page, has the perfect name for what he does. He’s the owner of Island Books and loves marketing page-turners to Island residents. The collection of antique typewriters that graces his store seems fitting as well.

When I asked Roger about his “menagerie of manual machines,” I was amused at his response. Reflecting back on when he was a bachelor, he believed that a typewriter collection would make him more interesting to the ladies.

“After all, how many eligible males boast a collection of antique typewriters?” he mused.

As it turned out, his pre-computer keyboards were a key factor in unlocking the heart of the woman who he eventually married.

In the mid-80s, while working at Island Books, Roger and Nancy prepared to move. Packing up such a heavy, cumbersome collection didn’t seem worthwhile. So, he gave away his prized collection except one typewriter that had belonged to his college roommate. The old Royal manual bearing Ned’s name in white paint was the sole antique typewriter in the store. From that one store prop, his current collection began.

“People, often old men, came in the store with their tales of woe,” Roger recalls. “Their spouses were cleaning out the basement and the ‘valuable’ old typewriters needed to go. I offered them a hardcover book in exchange for their machine.”

Although that arrangement only lasted a few years, typewriters kept coming in until lack of space required Roger to turn down additional offers. Today, his collection totals half a hundred. His favorite is a World War I Corona portable that was designed to be used by war correspondents.

Roger’s unusual collection played a key role in our friendship. Because of my own collection of old typewriters, I inquired about his soon after discovering his store. We compared notes.

One of my treasured keyboards is an Olympia manual typewriter that I used in high school and college to type term papers. It is the one on which I wrote my first published articles as a young pastor.

Another in my collection is an Underwood Standard that adorns my church office. I bought it at an antique store in Fairmount, Indiana. (That’s the town where actor James Dean grew up and is buried. Ironically, the day that I purchased the typewriter was the very afternoon Dale Earnhardt Sr. was killed.)

My favorite typewriter has sentimental significance. It is the portable Royal manual (circa 1950) that belonged to my late pastor/father. It’s the machine on which he would hammer out three sermons a week.

The fact that Roger and I each have a typewriter collection may not seem all that important. What is significant is this: We have something in common that provides a conduit for interaction and shared memories. I guess you could say that collectors of typewriters are a type of affinity.

In a multicultural and multi-religious community like Mercer Island, points of common interest are anything but trivial. They are intersecting avenues where friendships are given the right of way. They are common denominators where fractions caused by denominational divisions are minimized.

When you discover that you and another person came from the same part of the country, have lost a loved one to dementia, enjoy the same hobby or practice similar family traditions, there is a basis for getting to know another’s beliefs and values.

In the five years that have elapsed since Roger Page and I first met, what began as a blank sheet of paper now bears the imprint of words, sentences and paragraphs that connote a growing friendship. I wish for you the same.

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