Memories of the ‘Loyal Royal Empress’

Vintage typewriters still have a following

The classroom for typing, in the Monticello, Iowa High School had several rows of sturdy, wood tables supporting heavy Royal typewriters. The room was full of students hammering out the typing skills, clickety-clack, clickety-clack, and clickety-clack.  At the end of each sentence the carriage returned to the beginning of a new line and the typewriters would sing.… ding, ding, ding.

There are several motions to make before getting in gear and going, on a Royal. Here are some of the moves. Set the line space. Set the “magic margin” on the right. Set the “magic-margin” on the left. Select the touch control. Slip in the typing paper next to the paper guide and against the rubber roller. Push the carriage to the left.  Take a hold of the right cylinder knob and roll it down to the first line. Now we are ready to type.

 If a mistake was made while writing a letter or school paper, we painted the typo by dipping the tiny brush in the White-Out correction fluid and painting the mistake. After it was dry we could type over it. We were instructed to blow softly on the White-Out to speed the drying process. My goal was to have as few mistakes as possible so that my paper would not be blemished with white spots. I was not concerned about speed as long as the paper was perfect.  

All this sounds like a lot of extra work, but the fact remains, writing with a Royal typewriter was a great improvement over writing long hand. With patience and practice, eventually a type written paper was faster to master, and more legible.

If two copies of anything was needed we used carbon paper. The carbon paper was placed between two sheets of typing paper.  A person had to be careful and not touch the face of the carbon paper or fingers would come off black or blue and leave finger prints on the copy.

It wasn’t until 1975 that I became interested in writing as an avocation and was in the market for a typewriter. I found a second-hand Royal Empress, at Rite-Price Office Supply in Oelwein, Iowa.  It looked like the one I learned on in high school, gray with white keys. It is a monster weighing in at a solid 30 pounds! The metal label on the bottom of the typewriter says it was manufactured by the Royal Bee Corporation.

 Needless to say my typing skills were hidden away in the memory bank, and I practiced every day. I wrote my first two books, “Patchwork Plus!” and “The Pieceable Kingdom,” on the Royal and it was not replaced until the letter “e” dropped off and I set the Royal typewriter aside and bought the electronics. When I began writing this column about the advertising world in 1991 I was typing on a wonderful Swintec word processor, like those used at UNI at the time.  I graduated to a computer in 2000, with Windows Me. Now I work on a HP Windows 10 and the Royal is just a memory.

Today the loyal Royal Empress is treated like a queen, sitting on an extra desk in my den, surrounded with more of my writer’s collectibles.