Sunday, 26 April 2020

Tom Hanks donates typewriter to bullied 8-year-old boy named Corona


Tom Hanks writes to boy called Corona who said he was bullied

Here's another good news story to come out of the current crisis and further proof that actor Tom Hanks is an all-round top chap.

A collector of typewriters since 1979, Mr Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson were among the early high-profile individuals to be affected while travelling in Australia last month.  Such is Mr Hanks' passion for typewriters that he took one of his portables with him - a rather aptly-named one as it turned out!

Tom Hanks pens heartfelt letter to bullied Australian boy named Corona 

Now that same typewriter is back in Australia after Mr Hanks received a charming letter from an eight-year-old boy whose shared name with the disease du jour was sadly causing him problems at school.  What turned into a delightful correspondence ended with Mr Hanks sending the young lad the typewriter in question with the request to learn how to use it "to write [to] me back".  I'll wager that's something little Corona never expected! 

The incident also serves to highlight the problems that can be encountered by people and organisations whose name falls foul of topical events.  "Corona", as Mr Hanks points out, means "crown" (or "wreath") in Latin and until this year was most likely used in reference to the rings of material around the sun which resemble a crown (and indeed its use in "coronavirus" is because under a microscope the Covid-19 virus also has wreath-like projections that give the appearance of a solar corona).  Unfortunately it is this latter use that is on everyone's lips at the moment, so for people like Corona DeVries it is understandably causing them some grief.  Hopefully this will be only a temporary issue, however, and once this is all over we - and especially young Corona - can reclaim the word and not have it forever tarnished by this ghastly virus.

This is no doubt just as true for the makers of the Corona typewriter, for the company that produced it is still trading as Smith Corona albeit now as a manufacturer of barcode labels.  It can trace its origins back to the Smith Premier Typewriting Company, which was established in New York in 1886 by the wonderfully-named brothers Lyman, Wilbert, Monroe and Hurlbut Smith.  Over the following 30 years the business went through several iterations as it bought out or merged with other typewriter manufacturers including the Union Typewriter Company and the Rose Typewriter Company (renamed by Smith Bros. as the Standard Typewriter Company).  In 1914 the company introduced its first portable Corona model and so successful did it become that Standard was again renamed to the Corona Typewriter Company, focussing solely on portable typewriters while L.C. Smith & Bros. continued to produce office models.  Smith-Corona continued to be a major player in the typewriter market - being among the first to introduce electric typewriters in the 1950s - right up until 2005 when it finally gave in to progress and stopped typewriter production.

This has all served to remind me of my most recent typewriter acquisition, which is - you've guessed it - a Corona!  I say "recent", it was actually over a year ago in March 2019 when, passing the window of my local charity shop I espied a topping-looking Corona Special portable in pride of place in a display case.  The condition was immaculate - clearly it had been professionally restored - but the price was barely a third of what I'd seen lesser examples go for on eBay.  It was rightly attracting much comment from other passing shoppers (one of the volunteers later said "I knew it wouldn't hang around for long") but unfortunately I was unable to get at it straight away as work kept coinciding with the shop's opening hours.  I was eventually able to duck in early one afternoon and convinced them to hold it for me for a week while I went to get the money and arranged to pick it up on the Saturday.  I am therefore now also the proud owner of a 1920s Corona [Special] (I haven't been able to identify the exact year as I can't find the serial number, which has possibly been obliterated by the restoration).

The case has seen better days but no less than one would expect from something nearly
100 years old - in fact to still have the case at all is quite remarkable! 

It doesn't look much like a typewriter in the above photos, does it?  "How does it work", I hear you ask?  Well, take it out of the case...

Still looks a bit odd, doesn't it?  Well, see how the carriage is held over the keyboard by the two arms?  Lift the carriage up and it pivots over and onto the typebars, whilst the keyboard rises up from underneath.  Hey presto!

A very clever piece of machinery and one I am immensely proud to own.  Sadly I haven't had a chance to use it in anger yet - life getting in the way as ever, plus it needs a new ribbon and the spools seem unwilling to move even when fully loosened.  Hopefully I'll be able to get it up and running soon and then, perhaps, a typecast will be in order!

To return finally to the original article, Robert Messenger over at the oz.Typewriter blog has also covered this story with some splendid pictures of the two Coronas together(!) that I have not seen elsewhere.  It is all in all a lovely story that shows those involved in the best light and has (hopefully) created a new typewriter aficionado in Corona DeVries.  In any event it will doubtless be something he will remember and treasure for a long time and with luck will help him forget his troubles with small-minded bullies.  Once again it is a case of typewriters (with the help of Tom Hanks) to the rescue!

1 comment:

  1. It was fantastic that Mr. Hanks gave that fellow a typewriter.

    I really like using my Corona 3, but it is not as nice looking as yours.


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