Snyder: What Awaits In The New History Museum?

Old Royal Typewriter from the 1930s visitors will see at the Dec. 30 Grand Re-Opening of the Los Alamos History Museum. Courtesy photo

 

By SHARON SNYDER
Los Alamos
 
  • The first in a series previewing artifacts you’ll see at the Dec. 30 Grand Re-Opening of the Los Alamos History Museum

What makes an old, everyday object historic? On display in the new Museum Shop will be an Old Royal Typewriter from the 1930s. Many such manual typewriter must still exist, but this typewriter’s finest moments were undoubtedly the hours Peggy Pond Church spent writing the story of Edith Warner and “a house that stood for many years beside a bridge between two worlds.”

Edith Warner died May 4, 1951. Only days before, her friend Ethyl Froman had written to Church with a special request that she write to Edith. “She has told me of how words as you can use them mean so much to her,” Froman said. In view of Edith Warner’s appreciation of Church’s gift of expression, it seems appropriate that she would eventually be the one to write about Warner’s life. Five months after Warner died, her sister Velma Ludlow asked Church if she would write “a little something about Edith.” That little something became a Southwest classic, The House at Otowi Bridge. Since the book was first published in 1959, it has never been out of print.

Church wrote the first draft at her home in Ranchos de Taos, where she and her husband had moved after the closing of the Los Alamos Ranch School. However, as pointed out by her friend May Sarton, the draft needed work. In February 1956, Fermor and Peggy Church—and the typewriter—moved to Berkeley, Calif., where she revised and rewrote the manuscript. It was accepted by the University of New Mexico Press and published first as a serial in the New Mexico Quarterly in 1959 before being brought out in a hardcover edition the following year.

At some time in the future, Church retired the old manual typewriter and purchased an electric model, but there was at least one feature of the manual that she missed. There is a yellowed 3 x 5 card that must have been kept in a strategic place on her desk as a reminder. On the card, written in Church’s hand, are the words, “Turn Typewriter Off!”

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