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Hunt and Peck program perfectly typecast for museum showing


December 7, 2022

Courtesy of Skagit Historical Museum

There were many keys to the Skagit County Historical Museum drawing a standing-room-only crowd to Sunday afternoon's program in La Conner.

One was the role played by actor Kevin Tighe, star in the popular 1970s TV series "Emergency," among many highlights in a career dating to the 1967 film "The Graduate."

Tighe and stage director Angela Marinella provided voices for famous authors who credited use of typewriters for much of their literary success.

A key component of the 45-minute presentation was the clever, briskly paced video compiled and edited by writer Brian Young, guest curator of the museum's "Hunt and Peck" north wing exhibit featuring vintage typewriters.

And, of course, there were the keys themselves, aligned in the familiar 150-year-old QWERTY format on the array of classic typing machines Young set out for viewing.

Museum Director Jo Wolfe, opened the program, sharing how Young had approached her with the idea of displaying his unique typewriters for a museum exhibit. She was on board from the start, though initially unaware of quite how extensive his collection is.

"He showed up with carloads of typewriters," she recalled, "and it's been so well received."

Young began with video clips of typewriters portrayed in famous movies from "Citizen Kane" to "All the President's Men" to "The Shining."

"The typewriter," said Young, "is one of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of mankind."

He credited Mark Twain as the first author to submit a manuscript written on a typewriter.

Tighe then channeled his inner Twain by reading a lengthy quote from the revered humorist spelling out his impressions of early typewriters. Tighe later shared observations from novelist Ernest Hemingway and beat writer Jack Kerouac.

Marinella shared passages from prolific author Danielle Steel, a fan of her 1946 Olympia typewriter, which she fondly named "Ollie."

"It weighs as much as I do and I'm happy to say it's older than I am," said Steel, via Marinella.

Marinella also brought to life Katherine Anne Porter, whose novel "Ship of Fools" was made into a 1965 movie starring, among others, Vivien Leigh, in her final film role.

Young emphasized that unlike computers, typewriters were made solely for composition.

"Not being able to access the internet is a feature, not a bug," he joked.

Composing on a typewriter requires greater concentration and focus than doing so with a computer, on which it is much easier to edit copy and correct keystroke errors. Typewriter composition, he noted, requires a certain precision and concise writing style.

"They are beautiful machines," said Young, stressing that first-generation typewriters were not mass produced and embraced a sense of elegance.

He values both their history and utility.

"I'm just a steward of these machines," Young said. "When I find them and restore them, my hope is they will be around long after I'm gone."

Young told the Weekly News afterward that he, Tighe and Marinella had rehearsed their presentation a couple times.

"I couldn't have done this without them," he stressed.

Young was grateful for the large turnout at the trio's "Hunt and Peck Stories" forum.

"I'm a bit overwhelmed," he admitted. "I was just expecting five of my closest friends."

Instead, he discovered a much wider circle bonded by a common appreciation of a writing machine whose impact appears timeless.


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