Typecast: The last typewriter repair man

BREMERTON, Wash. -- Times change. Technology changes. The whole world changes, and there's nothing anybody can do to stop it.

That's why we take comfort in the notion that some things are constant, and some people are constant, too.

Lucky are those who find their place in this world. Blessed are those whose place finds them.

Bob Montgomery will be 93 years old in January, and for 85 of those years he's been doing the same thing.

Every day, Montgomery walks into a building in downtown Bremerton and heads to his typewriter repair shop on the fifth floor. When he walks in, it's like he's stepping back into another time.

It's in that office that the ancient little man pushes back against the irresistible force of change, giving last rights to a dying technology.

Montgomery has been working on typewriters for so long he barely remembers why he's so attracted to them.

"You know, I don't really know anymore," he said. "I've been involved with typewriters since I was little. I mean really little!"

His dad owned a typewriter repair shop in the 1920s, and Montgomery started working there when he was just 7 years old.

When he joined the Army and went off to liberate Europe in World War II, someone found out that Montgomery could fix a typewriter. They took away his rifle and put him to work liberating stuck keys and broken space bars.

His is a world populated by little do-dads, thingamajigs and whatchamacallits, intricate relics he's collected forever.

The typewriter: How many masterpieces? How many scripts, office memos, manifestos, poems? How many love love letters were banged out on the clickety-clackety contraptions that have punctuated Montgomery's life?

"I'm catering to people who are willing to pay $125 for a machine that was obsolete 50 years ago," he said.

Typewriters, like the friends Montgomery has known, are almost all gone.

"I'm the last of the breed," he said. "There's hardly anybody who knows how to take these machines apart and put 'em back together and make 'em work. "

Watching Montgomery resuscitate an old ribbon mechanism, you can't help but think about the passage of time and what it does to people and the world.

Asked who will fix these typewriters once he's gone, Montgomery says: "I don't know. Nobody."

He never married and has no kids. He works for a while, then collapses -- then he works a bit more. But Montgomery isn't pining away for the good old days. There are no romantic notions about the way we were, no mourning the demise of the instrument of his expertise.

He says he's already lived 15 years longer than he thought he would. Montgomery and his clickety-clackety contraptions have taken care of one another for so very long that in his little shop, it's somehow comforting to image the two of them when the time comes, going off to become quietly extinct together.
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