Curbside find

Back when I lived in Boston, the annual phenomenon known as Allston Christmas was an exciting time for poor students. Every September 1 (the standard moving day in the area), people who couldn’t be bothered to move or properly discard of their belongings would leave them on the curb, free for the taking to those most dedicated to having their very own second-hand IKEA shelving units, without the hassle of meeting someone from craigslist and parting with $15. Truth be told, the haul during Allston Christmas can be pretty good.

Quebec has a similar moving day, on July 1, but I haven’t seen anything like it in Toronto. So, I consider myself lucky that I live in a neighbourhood where people regularly leave fairly high-end items on the curb, just waiting for a grad student like myself to stumble upon them. The selection has so far included, among other things:

– Various books, including some rare editions of poetry, and a copy of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress with photos from someone’s 1970s anniversary cruise on the QE2 stuffed inside;

– A stack of near-mint vinyl LPs;

– IKEA shelving units (of course);

– Strange (really, here I mean ugly), yet expensive-looking angel knickknacks.

I have mostly refrained from taking anything, with the exception of some books. My place is small, and I’ve really tried to keep from acquiring things I don’t absolutely need (or want). And then, last night, I spotted a neat row of objects on the lawn. I took a closer look, and found two very old typewriters and a stack of cattle vertebrae. I took the typewriters inside, figuring I could see if maybe one was in good enough condition to use for writing letters, a recently revived activity in my spare time. (I did not take the vertebrae.)

To my surprise, both typewriters–a Hermes Rocket and an Olivetti Lettera–were in working order. The Hermes is a 1960s version, barely used, and probably worth around $500. The Olivetti came with several sheets of paper from an old, now defunct Toronto publishing company and looks like it saw some heavy use. The Hermes I’m keeping for sure, adding to my small collection of old, well designed, functional things that I can both admire and use (see this post and this one). A few photos of the Hermes:













Some of the dies barely had any ink on them:












I can’t wait to write a few letters on it and send them off. It’s quite different from a computer–there’s a particular way of striking the keys to get the letters crisp on the paper. Less forgiving, but much more tactile, than a computer. Time to get out the address book (ironically, digitally maintained).

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