Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In Tune with Typewriters; Some Still Count on Bill Pridgen to Keep Old-Fashioned Machines in Working Order

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In Tune with Typewriters; Some Still Count on Bill Pridgen to Keep Old-Fashioned Machines in Working Order

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTOPHER CALNAN

Your typewriter breaks, who you gonna call?

In Jacksonville, the options are limited. The Yellow Pages lists only five typewriter repair shops. But Bill Pridgen must be one of the most knowledgeable about the old-fashioned, but still-used writing machines.

He's been fixing typewriters for 50 years -- 35 of those in a cluttered shop near railroad tracks running along Roosevelt Boulevard. Typewriters may seem like relics to some, but they're still Pridgen's business.

"You'd be surprised at the number of typewriters out there," he said. "You can't make money like you used to. It isn't any way near like it was."

Businesses still use typewriters to complete various types of forms and documents that have narrow formats or use duplicating paper, said Pridgen and his former partner, Harold McDavid, who now operates a repair shop in Gainesville.

McDavid, who has specialized in repairing IBM typewriters for 43 years, said since the bulk of today's office work is done on computers, typewriters are used less and need less work. That means the need for typewriter repairmen has lessened also.

"It's gradually fading," he said. "No one is going into the business. It's just the old timers who are sticking around."

But typewriters are sticking around, too.

Ponte Vedra Beach-based Watson & Osborne Title Service Inc. uses three to seven typewriters in each of its six offices for completing documents, administrative manager Jackie Smith said. Most of the machines are 20 years old or more, and the company relies on Pridgen to maintain them.

"We use them every day so it's just a matter of keeping them up and in working order," Smith said.

Pridgen, a 68-year-old Hollywood native, moved to Jacksonville to attend business school to study accounting. He also got a part-time job working at Jacksonville Typewriter, where he eventually went to work full-time until 1970.

He then went into business with McDavid and Harry Sutton, but he's operated the Jacksonville shop on his own since 1982, after McDavid relocated and Sutton left the business.

The typewriter repair business took its first hit in the 1960s when IBM introduced its hugely popular electric typewriter, the Selectra, that came to revolutionize and dominate the typewriter industry, Pridgen said. …

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