My Ocala: The Sweet Sound Of Dad’s Typewriter

There is something almost ethereal about the clatter of the keys. The clack-clack-clacking seems to ebb and flow with bursts of inspiration and denotes urgency ahead.

The majestic sound of a typewriter.

Words are commanded by the fingers. In my father’s case, since he was a two-fingered typist, it was a hunt-and-peck concerto with single index digits from each hand.

Wilton Martin performed such music in newspaper offices from Ocala to Tampa to St. Peters-burg to Bradenton where he wrote for and edited newspapers. Dad was an Underwood man, first chair.

As generations cycle in and out, personal belongings become scattered or garage-saled into oblivion. Many years after Dad was gone, it occurred that I had almost nothing as a tangible remembrance of him—a fact that I happened to lament to my much-younger and more-famous brother, Bill.

On my last birthday at a party of close friends and family members at the old Martin house in Southeast Ocala, Bill showed up with a present, despite the no-gift mandate. Going back out to his car, he hoisted a bulky, boxy-looking object from the trunk and lugged it up the stairs. “Boy,” he said, “this thing is heavy!”

Bill, the morning show co-host on The JOY FM, came from a time when typewriters were an endangered species. But he also has an appreciation for important family artifacts.

There it was—the circa-1951 Underwood, a sort of brownish-gray object with green keys bearing white numbers and letters. Because it had to be semi-excavated from the Tomb of The Unknown Typewriter, the chrome was tarnished and the rubber roller rock hard, but the body parts were all there.

Just to know dad’s typewriter existed, however, was a joyful discovery and the generosity of my brother was overwhelming.

The Underwood seemed to have a pulse. Immediately I thought of the only typewriter hospital within a hundred miles of Ocala.

Leonard’s Office Machines, once a large downtown supplier and repairer of typewriters and other desktop gadgets, is now located off Silver Springs Boulevard at 10th Avenue, reduced to a one-man operation in a small kiosk-like setting.

Bill Leonard is one of the last typewriter doctors. He’s retired, but shows up at the office several days a week because he knows a friend or former customer might need him. Bill looked at the Old Underwood and agreed to give it a makeover—but with no promises—and then set it down in what looked like a museum for typewriters.

“I’m a dinosaur,” Leonard said. “Do you realize I’m the only person between Orlando and Jacksonville who does this anymore?”

A few weeks later Leonard called to say Dad’s typewriter was ready. There it sat, glistening like a new car with sparkling chrome. I placed my hands on the keyboard and tried to type, but all the years on cushy computer keys had robbed me of my punching reflexes.

Bill had refurbished the old Underwood not once, not twice, but three times in a labor of love. He would not take a penny for his work.

It now sits in a place of honor on our brick hearth in the living room, waiting for a player.

I went over and placed my two index fingers on the keys and typed: “Welcome back, Mr. Underwood. Your music never sounded sweeter. Thank you to both Bills. And thank you, Dad. Now, could you give me an ending to this column?”

And he did. 

Buddy Martin is the executive editor of
Gator Country Magazine and

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