Monday, September 9, 2013

What's That Smell?

My friend was having a garage sale and as we were VIP’s, we were invited to come the night before for her ‘early bird sale.’


So off we went, money in hand, eager for a deal or two. My husband was on the hunt for vinyl records – the man of the garage-sale-house is an avid collector. And me? Well...I didn’t know what I was after.

We had lots of laughs and giggles as we perused her goodies. My husband did find some records, including a 45” vinyl of Rick Springfield’s ‘Jessie’s Girl.’ And while I purchased a bunch of toddler clothes for my sister’s kids, a new tote bag and some Tupperware for me, my boys graciously helped my friend by putting up signs on the street.

As we were leaving, we joked back and forth, “Hey, is this for sale?” My husband pointed to her potted plants outside. “Hey, what about this?” I pointed to her Christmas decorations stowed up in the rafters of the garage. “What about those shoes?” I pointed to her shoes by the garage door.

As we joked about her selling her worldly possessions, my husband pointed to a box.

“And what’s in there? Is that for sale, too?” My husband teased my friend, assuming it was something personal and not for sale. She had yet to really separate personal items from sale items in her garage.

It was an old-looking box with snap/secure closures and handle, and just big enough to be a....The hairs on the back of neck tingled.

“Oh, that’s for sale, too! That’s a typewriter.”


I knew it!

As my husband picked up the case, I could tell by the weight it had to be ‘good.’ I started to get the shakes. He put it down on top of another box on the garage sale floor, and I kneeled before it, as though in prayer at an altar. Up close – OH THE SMELL! That old, musty, antiquey kind of smell! I flipped open the closures....and....

I flipped open the closures and slowly lifted the lid. The first glimpse of telltale keys had my heart quickening – and not just from the overpowering smell. I lifted the lid fully, and...

A Royal! A REAL LIVE ROYAL typewriter right in front of me!

And it was OLD!

I started laughing and crying all at once. You would too if you were a writer/antique lover. My friend, who isn’t a writer, thought I was nuts. My kids and their friend...well they already knew that about me.

I stroked the keys: classic raised ridges encircling the letters made me drool. The metal ribbon spools underneath the cover were shiny and pristine. And what looked like an instruction manual was clipped to the inside of the lid.

I didn’t care if worked, if it smelled, or if it was rigged with a listening device – I wanted it.

Through my tears I asked my friend “How much?”

She shrugged, still looking at me like I was nuts, “I don’t know...$20?”

I didn’t even need to look over at my husband for agreement on the price. I didn’t even need to respond with a cry-muffled “I’ll take it.”

“We’ll take it.” Was all I heard him say.

Money was exchanged. I hugged her, my husband, and grinned at my kids who I could barely see through eyes that were blurred with tears. I didn’t need to be able to see them clearly – I knew they were looking at me like I was nuts.

We got it home, I cranked up the Rick Springfield 45” record, and opened the box, again.

Oh the glory - OH THE WONDER!

This wasn’t going to be scrapped for parts like so many do for jewelry or decor. This was going to be displayed, loved, and drooled over (note: drool is not good for antiques.)

What I thought was an instruction manual clipped to the inside was actually a guarantee/warranty between seller and buyer, from Duncan, BC, dated in typical perfect 1930’s handwritten script of that time, dated November 16, 1937.

And it was mine – ALL MINE!

I dusted it off, and ceremoniously placed it beside my other antique typewriter, a Smith Corona from the 50’s (both beside an iphone charger sitting on the same shelf). After a sigh, a few sniffles, and a flip of the 45” record now sitting idle on the turntable, I took the carrying case downstairs and put it in our bedroom which has become a kind of storage place for things we don’t know what to do with.

Later, I sat down on the couch for an evening of R&R after my night of excitement. Rick Springfield was safely tucked back away in its records’ sleeve, and MY Royal typewriter was just off to the side, the recipient of my ever-loving glances.

Sniff sniff. “What’s that smell?” A few of the menfolk of my house complained.

“Oh, it’s just the typewriter. It’s VERY old and VERY mine. The old smell will go away in a bit.”

Later when I went to my bedroom....sniff sniff. UGH! What’s that smell! The whole bedroom smelled of ‘OLD!’

I realized it was the carrying case, and although closed, it really stank.

So I put it in the crawlspace where it could stink all it wanted, in there.

The next morning when I went up to the living room where my BEAUTIFUL ROYAL typewriter was, I barely got up the stairs when....sniff sniff...UGH! What’s that smell?

The typewriter had stunk up the whole living room.

Well THAT is definitely NOT going in the crawlspace, NO SIREE! I live in a house of three men and one cat. If I have to put up with them, they can put up with the smell of a beautiful antique, I figured.

After numerous complaints over the next day or so, a few ‘mountain fresh’ scented dryer sheets were placed underneath it, hoping to ward off the smell.

Gradually, and with my ears plugged from listening to the complaints of the smell, the smell subsided – a bit. I have been actively researching how to de-stink antiques, but without much luck.

So there it still sits, finally loved again after being stored away for so long....with dryer sheets tucked all around it.

Good thing I have a brand new box.


  1. That is so cool! (The typewriter--and it's warranty--not the smell.) That's a beautiful specimen. Too bad about the smell. I've heard crumpled up newspapers work at pulling out odours. Maybe put it in a box with newspapers??

    1. Newspapers! Wow! What a great idea, Ros. Will have to give it a try, for sure! Yes, it is gorgeous, isn't it? Thanks for the tip, and thanks for reading - Lisa

  2. That's awesome, what a great find! Sorry about the smell. Maybe you could febreze it?

    1. Isn't it great, Janelle? It's beside my Singer Sewing machines! Yes, will try Febreeze..thought about that, as well! Thanks for reading - Lisa