Obit of the Day: Yale’s Typewriter Repairman
Manson Whitlock repaired an estimated 300,000 typewriters over his 83-year career. Two fingers on his right hand were permanently curled from holding a screwdriver over a nine-decade span.
In 1930, while still in high school Mr. Whitlock began working in his father’s bookstore, which included a typewriter department. Eventually Mr. Whitlock would focus only on the writing tools and opened Whitlock’s Typewriter Shop, filling his office with hundreds of Remingtons, Smith-Coronas, IBMs, and Underwoods. He would spend hours combign through pawn shops looking for machines that he could turn into spare parts for customer repairs.
Before the emergence of word processors and computers (which Mr. Whitlock proudly admitted he had never learned to use), nearly every student, faculty member, and administrator would have used the services provided by Mr. Whitlock. Erich Segal, a professor at Yale, purchased a portable from Mr. Whitlock that Mr. Segal then used to write the 1970 best-selling novel, Love Story. Former Yale president and Major League Baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti had his typewriter serviced by Mr. Whitlock. Author Robert Penn Warren and poet Archibald MacLeish were also customers.
Mr. Whitlock, who only retired earlier this year due to ill health, died on August 28, 2013 at the age of 96. Near the end of his life, Mr. Whitlock wrote a poem which he dubbed his “epitaph”:
How many minutes? How many hours?
How many days or years?
How many miles? How many smiles?
How many laughs and tears?
Shall I leave here on earth and say ‘farewell’
and leave for a life unknown?
Heaven and hell don’t suit me well.
I’ll create a life of my own
Where the friends I have known, and have long since flown
Await me with open arms.
And the friends left behind will one day find
That no one is ever alone.
(2012 image of Mr. Whitlock in his office is copyright Daily Nutmeg/Jonathan McNicol.)