I stopped by WordPlay this afternoon. They were having a quieter moment after a very busy time earlier in the day, and director Libby Hunter took time to show me around, explain the place, and introduce me to some volunteers, kids, and typewriters.
Libby founded WordPlay after confronting some kids who were throwing rocks at windows in the neighborhood and deciding that local children needed a constructive, creative place to hang out. She sold her large Victorian and moved in with her three sons over this former retail space, which she turned into a unique community center.
WordPlay's doors have been open only about a month, but it has attracted many kids, helped many parents, and gotten plenty of volunteer support from designers, teachers, and more. Libby says that my arrival the other day was serendipitous; they were down to one working typewriter, kids were waiting in line to use it, and she was wondering whether to splurge on professional typewriter repair.
WordPlay follows the 826 model and may eventually become an official 826 chapter. The idea is to create an exciting, creative place where kids can write, along with a quirky retail store that will help to support the center. The plan here is to incorporate a store called the Urban Legend Institute.
You can visit WordPlay's web site here and read news stories about it here and here.
Now let's look around:
Spots like this provide plenty of material to spark imaginations. Notice that there's nothing digital in sight. Libby says that although they may eventually include some computers, the emphasis is on hands-on, physical creation. That's where typewriters come in, although they weren't part of the original plan; one donated machine was a hit with the kids, and other donations followed.
Here's another intriguing, story-generating display:
Kids can hang out in the tubs and compose magnetic poetry on their sides:
Inside the Word Blender booth, words fly through the air and kids grab some to use in a story:
The current theme is Halloween.
In this corner we have several typewriters.
The Underwood Noiseless Portable came home with me today for service. It needed new front and rear feed rollers, as they were flat and wouldn't feed paper; some shrink tubing and latex tubing, respectively, did the trick. I've also installed a new ribbon from Spitzfaden's, on an interesting spool meant for Underwood electrics that also fits on noiseless portables.
The pink Smith-Corona Eighty-Eight is a gift from me. It was last seen on this blog in my reports on the 2011 Cincinnati Type-In (here and here). Since then, it's been languishing in my basement. It needed some work on the tabulator, and then it was ready to go to a place where it will be appreciated.
The Royal FP was the WordPlay "workhorse" before I arrived, but it needed a new ribbon. Friday morning I found a new old stock green ribbon on a metal Royal spool at Spitzfaden's, so the FP is ready to write in green.
This girl is transcribing her handwritten Halloween story on the Smith-Corona:
When it was time for her to do her homework, her brother took over the typing, expertly copying the rest of his sister's story onto a Smith-Corona Classic 12, another donation from me. I found this typewriter at the St. Vincent DePaul thrift store a few days ago -- the first manual I've seen there for several months. Let's hope it's a sign of more to come. On the table are some issues of ETCetera that I donated in case they might be of interest. One of Libby's sons is mechanically inclined and wants a typewriter of his own; maybe he will enjoy these magazines.
Another two typewriters at WordPlay are the Remie Scout, which you've already seen -- it needed some good cleaning and a tightening of the mainspring -- and this '30s Underwood portable, which is in good shape and just needed its ribbon straightened out a bit.
Then there's this old timer ...
"...+ deserves a rest." True -- but who knows, if I get really ambitious someday, I might tackle this restoration project.
The most important thing about WordPlay is that it's providing a safe, warm, interesting, positive place for kids. But spreading the love of typewriters is a nice side effect. Apparently the typewriters are favorites here and are becoming essential to the place. (If there is a similar center near you, find out whether they have typewriters yet. There are official 826 chapters in Boston, Chicago, DC, LA, Ann Arbor, Brooklyn, Seattle, and San Francisco.) Libby said that one girl who comes regularly has a typewriter of her own that she brings along. The mother of another girl contacted me through this blog when the blog was mentioned on WordPlay's Facebook page; she was looking for a typewriter for her daughter, and I was able to point her to a craigslist ad. I have a feeling that I'll be doing lots of matchmaking between kids and typewriters.
What could be better?