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Typewriter's last stand.

Byline: Karen McCowan The Register-Guard

He's the last local example of a disappearing breed, the keeper of an endangered, once common, sound:

Clack. Clack.

Clack clack clack clack clack.


Jim Cagle owns The Typewriter Shop, the only business in the Eugene-Springfield telephone directory that still includes the word "typewriter" in its name. But he's not quite an anachronism. Not yet. Not so long as the likes of Dalene Schram are still around.

Schram, office manager at Wentworth Buick-Pontiac-GMC in Eugene, still uses a typewriter.

"We all do," Schram said one recent afternoon. "There's one, two, three, four, five of them here - IBM Selectrics. And Jim comes in and repairs them all."

The office is computerized, she added.

"But we do a lot of Department of Motor Vehicles work, and we don't like putting that information through our computers," she explained.

Cagle said other customers prefer the computer's nondigital forebear for more aesthetic reasons.

"It's just the feel of it," he said. "When you type on a typewriter, you feel more like you're interacting with the equipment. You can go from one typewriter to the other, and it will feel completely different. With a computer, you just don't have that feel."

And the best feel of all can be found in the round, black keys of the classic Royal manual, he says - "The big one, the office size."

Cagle, 68, started in the business straight out of the Navy at age 21, hiring on with a typewriter manufacturing plant in San Francisco. He'd seen new-fangled electronic communication technology in the miliary, but typewriter repair seemed a safe career.

"At that time, they were saying we only needed six computers for the whole world," he said.

He went on to become an independent dealer, selling and repairing typewriters in the Bay Area for 17 years before moving to Oregon in 1989 to be near his wife's family. His skills were still in such demand that he landed a job by phone before even arriving here.

Cagle worked for Modern Business Machines, then The Typewriter Shop in Springfield, which he bought when the owner retired. Cagle continued to operate the shop near 28th Street and Olympic Avenue until the personal computer began choking off sales.

He closed the storefront in 1999, but kept its Springfield phone number (747-2340) and continues to run a part-time repair business out of his Junction City home.

When Cagle answers the telephone now, it's in a converted family room that he shares with family Chihuahuas, Cubby Bear and Captain Midnight. The walls are covered in shelves and peg boards holding repair manuals, typewriter ribbons and bins of parts. Surprisingly often, he solves customer's problems by phone.

"Did you turn it on?" he asked one recent caller upset that a newly-acquired electric typewriter wouldn't work.

The room also holds about three dozen manual and electric machines he's cleaned and repaired for possible sale. If you think a computer keyboard soda spill is disgusting, consider what Cagle has confronted.

"The worst thing I ever saw was a dead mouse in an electric typewriter," he said. "It had been decapitated by the motor belt."

While typewriters evoke some nostalgia, most have little financial value as antiques. Cagle does have a couple of lovingly restored gems, including a 1917 Corona with a fold-away return carriage. But most of his used manuals go for about $45. Electrics fetch about $60.

He also sells reconditioned adding machines, complete with yank-down wooden handles for cranking out a total.

"But nobody's using those anymore," Cagle said. "You can buy a new calculator for less than it costs to repair an adding machine."


This early 1900s Corona typewriter in Jim Cagle's collection has a folding top section to reduce the machine's size for traveling. Jim Cagle runs a typewriter repair business part time out of his Junction City home. "You can buy a new calculator for less than it costs to repair an adding machine." JIM CAGLE THE TYPEWRITER SHOP
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Title Annotation:Business; There's still someone who makes a living fixing the outdated machines
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 8, 2006
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