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IBM Selectric golf ball

IBM Selectric golf ball

My mom was an extremely fast touch-typist. I don’t know what her WPM was, but she could also turn her head to the side and read the copy while typing. I’ve never been able to do that for more than a few words. She also never looked at the keyboard because the F and J keys told her everything she needed to know.

When I was 8, we moved to Anchorage, where my dad began teaching music theory and composition at the University of Alaska Anchorage. To supplement that income, my mom worked in the registrar’s office for Anchorage Community College. The University and the College shared a campus, but they were actually different schools. ACC was more of a technical/vocational school, while UAA was more about theory and research.

My dad’s office, in Building K, had a heavy steel door and walls of painted concrete block. And after a short time, it was filled with stacks of books and papers. Everywhere. My dad is a stacker, like me, so it’s good that he doesn’t share workspace with others.

My mom’s office was little more than a triple-wide motor home on the other side of campus. A temporary structure for use while the schools built more concrete block buildings, I don’t think it ever had a name (Z? M? MM?). It had wood panel siding, painted dark red, and a ramp of plywood running up to the front door. Inside, the uneven carpeted flooring supported a small army of workers, filing papers, looking up grades, and typing. Always typing.

A blue IBM Correcting Selectric II was my mom’s model of choice. Actually, there was no choice, since everyone had a blue IBM Correcting Selectric II. She loved that typewriter. It was fast, accurate, and solid as a rock. Everything else about her office was rickety and temporary, but those blue Selectrics at every desk were solid and modern. Here’s a photo from fishbonedeco:

IBM Correcting Selectric II

IBM Correcting Selectric II

I spent a lot of time on campus after school or during the summers. I loved going because I usually hung out in my dad’s office, which also featured a blue IBM Correcting Selectric II. I don’t think my dad used it very much, but that was before the music department had a secretary, so the faculty had to occasionally do their own typing.

I loved that machine. When you turned it on, it hummed impatiently, waiting for you to get to work. I mean real work, like pressing-as-many-keys-at-once-to-see-if-you-can-jam-the-works work. IBM designers probably had children, though, because they’d built a machine that was impossible to jam. Which meant that, ultimately, I had to actually type.

We had another blue typewriter at home, but it was cheap, with a cheap plastic shell, and cheap little arms that swung wildly toward the paper, each letter striking with a different amount of force, and at a slightly different angle than its colleagues. It was easy to jam.

At work, the IBMs had a solid metal shell and a round element, covered with letters and numbers, that spun around efficiently and accurately. I remember staring at that thing while pressing a key as slowly and gently as possible, trying to figure out how it worked. But you couldn’t slow it down to really see what was going on. At some point it just fired off a shot and that was it. Bang, there’s your letter.

Oh, you didn’t want that letter? No problem. I’ll let Wikipedia explain:

The correction key (an extra key at the bottom right of the keyboard) backspaced the carriage by one space and also put the machine in a mode wherein the next character typed would use the correction tape instead of the normal ribbon, and furthermore would not advance the carriage. The typist would press (and release) the correction key and then re-type the erroneous character, either lifting it off of the page or (if using a fabric ribbon) covering it with white-out powder, then type the correct character. Any number of mistakes could be corrected this way, but the process was entirely manual, as the machine had no memory of the typed characters.

To an 8-year-old in 1978, that’s magic. Hell, to a 41-year-old it’s still pretty magical. Just the idea is magical. Even better, if you looked closely at the paper, you could still see the impression of the erased character.

Selectric correcting tape

Selectric correcting tape

My mom’s office eventually moved into a real concrete block building, carving out space from the cafeteria. Her Selectric went with her, of course, and it went with her again when she moved to the financial aid office at the opposite end of Building K from my dad. And it even went with her several years after that when the schools merged and she moved across campus into the sparkling new administration building. It was around that time that my dad, towing his Selectric, also moved across campus into the sparkling new arts building. Right next door.

Of course, everyone in my mom’s office got a computer with a green flickering display, or was it orange? She liked the “pooter” well enough, and it could do things like access the university database up in Fairbanks, but the pixels it sent over to the office printer came out slow, ugly, and faint. And it needed special paper with a strip of holes on either side.

As a teenager, I’d visit her office and she’d let me play with the Selectric she now rarely used. It still put down nice clean letters. On real paper. I’d sometimes flip up the plastic tab that held the element in place, and pull it out to get a closer look. It amazed me that all the necessary letters and numbers were on this one little ball. Years later, I learned that they sold replacement elements with different typefaces and alphabets.

I typed up some forgotten stories on my parents’ two Selectrics. Sometimes, I’d type a story at home on the cheap typewriter, and then take it to work to type it up permanently. I also typed homework on those machines. I think at one point we even brought a Selectric home, where it absolutely did not belong. That was weird.

I now type on an Apple Aluminum Keyboard, which I love because it’s solid metal. And even though I still look at the keyboard too often when typing, the F and J keys in the home row have raised bits that constantly remind me of the raised bits on those same keys on my mom and dad’s Selectrics. 25 years ago. At work.

Triggered by this at GOOD

Also see Mr. Martin’s Typewriter Museum

And definitely check out the IBM100


Phyllis Cozzola, 1925-2009

Phyllis and MT Cozzola, Christmas 2008

Phyllis and MT Cozzola, Christmas 2008

My mother-in-law passed away Sunday, just 4 months after my mom. It’s been quite a year.

1pm on Thursday
Divine Savior
6700 Main Street
Downers Grove, IL

Open house:
Following the funeral through the evening (probably until 8 or 9)
1033 West 61st Street
Downers Grove, IL 60625

MT wrote the following on Facebook:

My mom passed away on Sunday, November 8.

legacy.com obituary

Mom was diagnosed in May with mesothelioma cancer, and although she was 84, her strength and resilience meant that she was remarkably active up until very close to the end.

The six months following Mom’s diagnosis were not a time of fading out so much as of reflection and appreciation — and fun. The house was flooded with visitors… first to extend their concern and sadness for Mom’s illness, but then because she was just so good to be around. So funny, so appreciative, so honest about what she was feeling at each moment. One of my favorite things she said was, “I know you’re going to miss me. Heck, I’m going to miss me, too.”

We had a beautiful summer in Chicago, lots of cool sunny days, and Mom got in the habit of sitting on her front terrace and entertaining neighbors, relatives, and friends. Laughing, remembering, singing, all of it. I can’t remember how many times I thought, surely this is the last good time we will all have. She can’t stay this strong for much longer. But although she did weaken physically, being with loved ones always perked her up. One minute she’d be feeling down, then Auntie Marie and Uncle Vince, or cousin Liz or Matt and Mary Jane would come over, and Mom would be up hunting for cold beers and serving people.

Or during the week, Mom would get her daily visit from neighbor Fran and Fran’s new baby, whom Mom christened “the Baby Dumpling.” She’d say, “It’s four o’clock. The Dumpling will be here soon. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to see him…And he shouldn’t be around an old person like me. Maybe I’m too tired today…” Then as soon as Fran pushed her stroller up the sidewalk, Mom would be waving them to come up and sit for awhile. The Dumpling always smiled for her, and seeing his little adorable face was a high point in Mom’s summer days.

The Dumpling was maybe the youngest new friend Mom made, but there were many other people she touched in her last few days. Her hospice nurses, Barb and Molly, were amazed by her spirit, her stubborn refusal to take much in the way of pain medicine, and the way she could make them laugh.

Mom grew so much as a human being during those months, and through all those visits and honest conversations with so many people. Maybe because we spent so much more time together than we had in the past, and maybe because there was no sense in holding anything back, knowing that our time was limited, I feel like each of us kids got to know Mom better and she got to know us better. She seemed to be much less interested in judging our actions – not that she was ever really bad about that, but as a Mom I know it’s part of the territory – But she seemed to want to really learn more about what made us tick, what made us happy, and what made us who we were. I feel like our friendship grew so much, and I know that was the case for each of my brothers, too.

Through Barb, We were lucky to find a caregiver to live with Mom for her last couple of months. Having Olga gave us much more flexibility and peace of mind in our comings and goings, though Mom didn’t see why she needed to have someone there. But after getting used to the affront of having someone else in her kitchen, Mom took a shine to Olga. She came to trust her and depend on her, and made sure that we knew to treat Olga well when it was all over.

It was only in her last few days that Mom began to feel the need for a stronger pain medication than Tylenol. She was never in what she considered great pain, though clinically we couldn’t understand that. She was communicative and sharp-witted until the very end, enough to pray and talk with all her kids and her adored sister Marie on her final day. Auntie Marie and my mom had a friendship that spanned 80 years. During that time they saw each other almost every day.

Seeing them together on that last day was a bittersweet joy. Marie has long been a sunny and steadfast beacon of faith. Mom had tended to be a bit more cynical, more questioning, and more doubtful of her own worth as a child of God. Marie helped Mom to trust in her faith and in her own goodness, and reassured her through her actions and her very being that we will all be together again.

Mom spent Saturday evening with our brother David, up until about midnight. David read her some passages from our beloved late dad’s journals, another activity that had brought her and all of us so much joy and surprise over the past few months. My dad observed things with so much insight, it was so cool to see our lives as he had seen them back when we were growing up. Dave also played a tape he’d made years ago of Dad talking about various things — a golf game and other everyday things, and so Mom got to hear Dad’s voice, too.

She passed away early the next morning, just a little before seven. All in all, she had a beautiful and complete life, and when I miss her voice and her humor and her honesty and her cooking advice, and all our times together, I remind myself of that. Knowing she is together with Dad and her parents and her dear brother George, and her sister-in-law Aggie, and her cousin Corinne, and whatever manifestation the divine spirit takes in the afterlife, I feel calm. I don’t know what Heaven looks like, but I believe that Mom is part of that mystery now.


Mickey Belden, 1938-2009


“Mickey” Sandra Duane Riley Belden, 70, died July 1, 2009, in Gloria’s Golden Heart Assisted Living, in Anchorage after suffering from a brain tumor.

A memorial service was held 2:00 pm Sunday, July 5, 2009, at UAA Fine Arts Building, Music Recital Hall with the Venerable Norman H.V. Elliott officiating. She will be inurned at Anchorage Memorial Park Columbarium at a later date.

Mrs. Belden was born November 27, 1938, in Belleville, Kansas to the late William Orville and Mildred Irene Harding Riley. In 1956, she graduated from Belleville High School and went on to Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas where she graduated with a Bachelors of Music in Voice in 1960 and a Bachelors of Music in Education in 1961. Mrs. Belden received a Master of Education in Adult Education from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1999.

From 1960-1973 Mrs. Belden was a music teacher in the Kansas Public School System and then went on to be a records clerk at the University of North Texas, Denton from 1973-1978. In 1978 she and her family moved to Anchorage where she worked at Anchorage Community College and University of Alaska Anchorage from 1978-1992 as a records clerk. She is most well-known, however, for being instructor of voice at ACC and UAA from 1980-2009.

Mickey was past president of the Anchorage Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and she was a long-time member of the Col. John Mitchell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Mickey was a wonderful singer, inspired teacher to countless students, a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, and true friend. She took passionate interest in music, the arts and education. She was a voracious reader and water aerobics fanatic. We’ll miss her wry humor and her open approach to the people she met and to the challenges and opportunities she encountered.

She is survived by her husband, George Ross Belden; sons, Steven Ross (Rhea Richmond) Belden of Ninilchik, Alaska and David George (Mary-Terese Cozzola) Belden of Chicago, Illinois; grandchildren, Anneliese Mazatlana, Severn Rhead, and Esme Hedera Belmond all of Ninilchik, AK; aunt Betty Ann Cwik of Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

A memorial scholarship fund will be established at UAA in the near future.