Who put them there? I asked
the postmistress of Pioneertown
on the afternoon of the winter solstice.
I meant the old typewriters rusting
into artifacts in the old West-movie set town,
placed by someone more than a decade earlier
atop kids’ small desks, the kind with attached
seats found in schoolrooms of my youth.
The postmistress of Pioneertown, in the high
desert of the San Bernardino mountains,
had to think for a moment. We’d driven
from Palm Springs to see if we could find
the ghost typewriters that turned out to
sit listing behind a rickety picket fence
on deteriorating desks with rusty wells
where their chairs once perched.
Linda set them out there, she said, but
before I could ask, Linda who? a man came
through the door, packages in hand.
So we thanked the postmistress in her
genuine P.O. in its weathered, faux
wild West building, and ambled down
the wide, dusty street that once welcomed
camera dollies and crews and actors,
a living, breathing movie set.
Where Gene Autry filmed his weekly
cowboy show and where Roy Rogers
opened the Pioneer Bowl in 1946 with
a strike on lane 1, bowling a 211 game
in his cowboy boots, and where Mrs. White
served as the first postmistress when
the P.O. lived inside the bowling alley.
We paused again at the typewriters,
so I could call their names—Remington,
Smith-Corona, Royal, Underwood—
paying homage to the fingers that once
pressed those keys, as I do now on
a newfangled typing machine that will
one day be as obsolete as these
magnificent dinosaurs, their typed words
as transitory as the high desert wind.
I donated my beloved 1938 Underwood to the Reno High School Museum. Last time I visited it was out of sight, The custodian complained, “Everyone wanted to play with it!”
Yeah, like that’s a bad thing?! Play away on those gorgeous old machines! Your 1938 Underwood must have been quite the machine!