It’s early on a Wednesday afternoon as Paul Lundy bends over a 1919 Underwood 5. The 100-year-old typewriter — keys yellowed, carriage sticking —sits on a table adjacent to the small tools and bottles of Windex used for its cleaning. Lundy is quiet as he tinkers with the machine, brought into his shop for a total refurbishment.
“Everything came off — the tab rack came off, the carriage was removed, the type bars and all the ribbon feed came out,” said Lundy, who owns and operates Bremerton Office Machine Co. The 59-year-old bought the company in 2014 from Bob Montgomery, who opened the shop in 1946. The two worked alongside one another, Lundy as Montgomery’s apprentice, until Montgomery’s death in September 2018 at age 96.
Now, it’s just Lundy in the narrow-halled, typewriter-stacked shop, spending his days working with machines that he said are special and archaic.
“Bob and I agreed on one thing always,” Lundy laughed, “and that was that our customers must be crazy. They love a piece of obsolete equipment. And yet people still love typewriters — these beautiful, durable goods. They have such enthusiasm about them, and that enthusiasm is really infectious.”
Lundy’s own enthusiasm is apparent as he works away at the Underwood 5, brought in by a customer who once was gifted the used machine by his father. It typed all the man’s papers throughout his university experience and has since sat unused, until it was rediscovered and brought to Lundy to bring back to life — likely for sentimental reasons.
“A lot of people bring in family heirlooms — that’s a lot of fun,” Lundy said. “It’s usually something that belonged to someone’s grandparents. Some people still write with typewriters because doing so disconnects them from the digital world that is so distracting. And, you know, typewriters only move in one direction: forward.”
These enthusiasts — whether they actually use the machines or simply enjoy having them as décor — keep Lundy busy: In the winter, when there is more business, Lundy will have anywhere from 60 to 80 customer machines in his shop, with about a three- to four-week backlog. Summertime, which Lundy said is slower, still turns up 30 to 40 typewriters at any given time. And even though Bremerton Office Machine Co. repairs any kind of office machine — as the generality of the name suggests — Lundy said 99 percent of business is based on typewriters.
“If someone brings me a stereo, a turntable, a clock, an Edison phonograph, I’ll do it all,” said Lundy, whose career before stumbling into typewriter repair was as a facilities technician. “It’s all just fun.”
Lundy’s discovery of his mentor Montgomery and Bremerton Office Machine Co. was largely accidental: He said he saw an article about the shop in The Seattle Times and was intrigued by the idea of Montgomery, who was believed to be the area’s last person dedicated to typewriter repairs.
“I went down on a Saturday to meet him,” said Lundy, who lives in Kingston with his wife, Lisa. “Sitting on the bench, watching him — I mean, it was clear that he was a master craftsman. I started coming down here on Saturdays just to talk to him. And then I realized there were piles of typewriters in here, just stacked up. That article generated so much business, he couldn’t stay on top of it.”
Lundy asked Montgomery whether he could help and was put to work cleaning typewriters. Before he knew it, he was bringing home manuals and binders to learn the ins and outs of repairing certain machines and was coming to the shop four days a week.
“I had never done anything in typewriter repair before that, but I like fixing stuff,” Lundy said. “And it was Bob (who) really reeled me in. He would just talk for hours about the typewriter he was working on — the company history, the different things they designed into it and out of it, the idiosyncrasies of the model. I thought, if I can just learn one-tenth of 1 percent of what this guy has learned, I know I can be successful.”
Montgomery’s profound knowledge about, and love for, typewriters came from more than eight decades of experience with the machines: He started changing ribbons and doing repairs at his father’s Seattle shop when he was 7 or 8 years old.
Following in the footsteps of such a master craftsman, Lundy knows he has big shoes to fill. But he also is glad to have discovered Bremerton Office Machine Co., which he said might have otherwise closed after Montgomery’s death.
“I’ve known other typewriter guys and repairmen where, after they pass away, their businesses just dissolve,” Lundy said. “And it’s sad. You know, the work isn’t glamorous. It’s not going to make you a lot of money. But you’re going to be happy every day and have a lot of fun and meet wonderful people and do work that’s important.”
Lundy’s ability to do this work in Montgomery’s absence is thanks to the time the two spent together as mentor and apprentice, during which Montgomery passed on pieces from his deep well of knowledge. As a result, Lundy became increasingly comfortable with diagnosing and repairing the vast array of typewriters brought into the shop.
“Sometimes when he let me assess someone’s machine, we’d argue about (what was wrong),” Lundy laughed. “He’d say, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Customers sometimes asked if we were related. But, you know, he was always willing to have a good discussion about things. He was such a good guy. I would rather have had many more years with him by my side.”
In almost two years since Montgomery’s passing, Lundy has established his own routine in the shop that once belonged to the region’s renowned typewriter repairman. He begins his day working on operations necessary to keeping a small business afloat; then, once shop doors open at 10 a.m., he’s at the bench, focusing on the machine of the moment.
Work on the 1919 Underwood 5 that now demands his attention is close to done. Lundy has reassembled all the pieces he took apart and is troubleshooting. Deep in concentration, he maneuvers around the machine, peering inside at the mechanics. He turns the yellowing keys — a result, he said, of chemical cleaning over the last century, a mechanic not being as neat as he could have been — toward him and presses the tab key. The carriage, previously sticking, whizzes forward and glides smoothly from end to end, stopping with a bright and satisfying ding.
“A-ha!” Lundy cried out, his facial expression one of pure delight. “There we go!”
It’s clear, seeing this small moment of joy, that Lundy is doing what he should be, that his love of taking things apart and putting them back together — and his belief that doing so is important — is genuine. Even without Montgomery and his decades of experience standing by his side, Lundy’s attitude and demeanor help him figure out any typewriter problem that he is presented. Sitting concentrated at his workbench with a satisfied smile on his lips, Lundy is perhaps the area’s last known dedicated typewriter repairman — his mentor living on through the expert nimbleness of his hands as they reach into the mechanics of a beloved old machine.