America is flush with personal stories, those bits and pieces of history often told ‘round a crackling campfire or on a grandma’s warm lap. Nonetheless, as memories gray and young’uns colorful images fade, repeated tales stretch – with a wink or two.
But what if these tales had been captured in black and white?
Back in the day, Paul Fisher made sure future storytellers got his tales right. His remarkable experiences were either handwritten or tapped one key at a time on a faithful Remington typewriter.
“He was the talker, so he’d have my mother type it or write it down,” Jane Sherrick of Lima, Ohio said, reminiscing about the pages she holds nowadays. “My mom wrote them up and he was dictating.”
Evenings or weekends you might hear the scratch of a fluid pen or the zing of the carriage return accompanied by a rhythmic clickety-clack. This was Paul and Noralee’s “together time” recording pieces of their lives.
Typewriters and cursive were a familiar part of their world. Daughter Jane remembers how even as a youngster he had said that one day “there’d be one (a typewriter) that would make the letters look like writing” even before there was any thought about italics.
The intriguing machines were in his future too.
After the second World War and marriage to his hometown sweetheart, Paul worked as a typewriter repairman in his brother’s downtown shop in Lima. The U.S. Army veteran was up close and personal with metal keys, rollers and ribbon – any part that would keep a boss’ secretary humming or a news reporter’s fingers flying.
It was in this typewriter shop off the beaten path that an unforgettable incident happened -- and later recorded for generations to follow.
“According to him he was working there alone,” Jane said, as she set the scene. “He had some kind of accident with his screw driver, must have slipped in his hand.”
The tool and the force he was using on a stubborn typewriter sent the sharp metal edge into his opposing hand with disastrous swiftness. A deep gash flowed red from his nearly severed finger. Grabbing a tired rag to stem the stream of blood, Paul clumsily wrapped it, holding his makeshift bandage tightly.
But how to summon help?
This was the 1950’s, long before smart phones and a 911 call could be made with only a plea to Siri. Back then a black rotary telephone only mocked any attempt Paul might make at dialing. To complicate the accident, the repair shop was well off the main street in town with few walk-ins. Only someone intent on a purchase or a typewriter mend would seek out the small building.
As Paul quickly considered his options for emergency care, he was startled to look into the faces of folks he had never met before, in a town small enough to know your neighbors.
“These two people came in -- he hadn’t heard them enter -- and they didn’t look like people who’d be coming into the typewriter store,” Jane said, retelling the story. “They were dressed very well, just something about them that was different.”
As the strangers listened to the injured man’s brief apology -- obviously unable to assist them -- they immediately dialed a taxi, one that he could expect to arrive in a few minutes. Relieved, he worked the bandage tighter.
“When he looked up, they were gone,” Jane said. “And he hadn’t heard the screen door close, which always made a sound. They just disappeared.”
Visiting angels? A thought the typewriter repairman pondered, and then recorded.
A remarkable experience in black and white -- without a stretch or a wink.