Connect
To Top

Meet Bob Marshall

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bob Marshall.

Hi Bob, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
A handful of years ago; I was in a hospital room with my hero also known as my father. He had had a triple bypass heart surgery earlier that week and we were going over a printed out – rough draft version of my first book: American Road Runner. While plugged into all these monitors and adorning the latest in hospital gown attire, he looked up at me with red pen in hand and said “why don’t you use a typewriter? All this writing and editing would be a lot easier if you used that good writing instrument and it really is a machine I see you using.” I held up my cell phone and pointed to my laptop ” I have all this pops, I do not need a typewriter.” Several hours later, he died in my arms.

A month went by and I started to think that maybe — like most things — he was correct and a typewriter would be a good writing instrument for me. I put a post on social media asking if anyone had an old one I could purchase. My mother responded that she had my grandfather’s typewriter and I could have it. A 1946 Remington Rand Model 5 – that my WWII pilot of a grandfather purchased to put himself through college after the war – graced my hands. It was old, dirty, beaten up and needed work.

By my character and trade; I am a mechanic. There is nothing I can not build, rebuild or have fun taking apart and putting back together. I hold a degree in vocal music and play stringed instruments like the guitar and mandolin. For many years I had a shop in Riverside repairing guitars, amplifiers and the like. I currently work as a building mechanic and locksmith for the County of Riverside. My grandfather’s typewriter was my kind of machine to resurrect. Then; I got a few more machines and resurrected those. Then, I started resurrecting, rebuilding, repairing, servicing and selling the fine writing instrument that we know as a typewriter. As a published author, audiobook narrator and podcaster; it was not hard to take my desire to share my story and others through a podcast I am part of called Austin Typewriter Ink. I serve as their West Coast Host, interview guests, put on events and offering general maintenance advice all for typewriters.

Lately, I have taken my typewriters to the streets. I have rebuild and retrofitted a vintage travel trailer with a full typewriter service shop and sales floor. I am completely mobile and at several events throughout Southern California. Calling Riverside my home, I can be almost anywhere people find a need for typewriter services and hunger for education on typewriters.

So who still uses typewriters? The answer can be both complex and simple. Yes, a lot of my clientele is made up of famous and not-so-famous writers. I am after all, in Southern California and there are very few people who can or do this type of work. Writers both novice or professional still write on a typewriter. They have a lot of reason for this; from not wanting to be hacked in Hollywood – to working all day on a computer and wanting a real tactile experience to write on. I know for myself, there are few pleasures in life like writing out my work on a typewriter. Embossing my thoughts, my ideas in ink on white paper is a soul-moving experience and the click – clack is pretty nice as well. I use typewriters for all my rough draft work, usually 2 or 3 laid out in front of me at a time. I then mark that up for edit, re-write it into a google drive for my beta readers and editors and then on to publication. This is just my process and the typewriter is just the tool that facilitates a more intimate writing experience. Lucky me to get to enjoy the mechanical aspect of these fine analog writing machines and provide them to others.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Not at all. Typewriters are part of what we call: The Wants Market. Most people do not need typewriters or service to the typewriters they own as they are well built machines. I have however; been able to etch out a small corner of good business in all of this by investing wisely in a mobile shop versus a brick and mortar shop so my costs are lower than the next guys. I also insist on verbal communications just like I did 20 years ago in my guitar and amp repair shop. Point of sale, face to face, phone calls and handshakes. It may only be my moonlighting gig but Typewriter Muse is a family affair with my loved ones and above all; my fifteen years old son assisting me.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
When I was younger, I just wanted to play and sing music. A few years later, I learned I needed to make a living and was not going to be a rock star like my childhood friend Tye Zamora (most known as the bass player of Alien Ant Farm). So I started repairing the equipment for the people in the music field. It was a great success because I never lost sight of the passion my customers had for their equipment that they made their music on. Fast-forward several years and typewriters are no different. The writer that sits down to their mechanical typewriter is exercising their art and passion as I do. I do not ever lose sight of that when I service their machines. Some of these typewriters might be 100 years old but they are still something special to someone as they once were and will continue to be because they were designed manufactured THAT well. I am a fellow writer with a great mechanical understanding of the writing machine. I recently got to do an exhibit at the local Riverside Art Museum where I laid out no less than eight machines in a great room for the museum patrons to play with. I also gave a 2 hour talk that no-less than fifty people attended in this room. It was all greatly received by the local art community and I have been invited back next year.

I also am proficient in touch typing but only type 50 words per minute or so. I have gotten to do a few ‘learn to type’ clinics for the public and love sharing my passion for good typing – I view it no differently than playing the guitar. I type to bring story to the world the same way I play to bring music to the world. I have noticed that a lot of people who repair typewriters are not very good typists and it seems my clientele admire my typing abilities.

There used to be a large world market for typing accessories that no longer exist. I have started manufacturing a lot of the accessories needed for a typewriter like ribbons, cleaning kits, dust covers and the like. Wholesale distribution of Typewriter Muse Products have been well received my the typewriter community.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
There has been a greater resurgence in people collecting typewriters since covid 19 hit. Be it the affordability of the machines, the cool vintage factor or hundreds of other reasons; people are collecting more than using typewriters these days. This is great for the old typewriters that need good homes but my business is not in exchange, buy and sell or the like. I am here to get these machines typing again for the writer. All the machines I sell work in near new and/or good used condition. This turns some collectors off from my business because my machines are priced in a ‘ready to type for you’ category. I also do not ship machines as others do who might live in rural areas because this is Southern California; all the customers I could ever dream of share in my sunshine. There is a large typewriter community we call The Typoshere that has emerged from all of it. Bringing information and education on the use of typewriters through blogs and social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. This has been the greatest benefit from the crisis for the typewriter as of late.

Pricing:

  • Most Resurrected Machines approx. $250.00
  • Most Services approx. $150.00
  • Most Accessories Approx. $10.00

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Bob Marshall

Suggest a Story: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in local stories