by Sally Cohen
At the Harry Potter Festival from Oct. 21 to 23, the literary streak that links all J. K. Rowling fans found its expression at the “Owl Post Office” at Greene St. & Carpenter Lane in West Mt. Airy (also known as Hogsmeade (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Hogsmeade_Post_Office), where young and old did their best, working 20-odd manual typewriters. Set up by Philly Typewriter, the Owl Post Office also featured carved and cast owls, a ¾-size mailbox and stationery with an owl logo atop and a note at the bottom that read: “Philly Typewriter will forward your missive to the designated owl for delivery.”
Philly Typewriter owner Brian Kravitz and staff handed out several thousand sheets and lots of guidance during the course of the day. He reports that no typewriter saw downtime. The activity was free, drawing young children who had never used a typewriters before, budding writers, dedicated readers, serious writers, vintage buffs and elders revisiting a key tool of their earlier work lives.
The skies drizzled all day, and so what?
The Festival was a friends-and-family affair, and Kravitz’ cousins, Harvey and Bea Segal of South Philly, helped out. According to Bea, several young people rewrote Harry Potter’s acceptance letter to Hogwarts. One young man wrote the letter first in black ink, then in white “because it looks cool.” Dozens of typists left their letters in the Owl Post Office Mail Box.
Leafing through them, I found that typos abound. Line breaks are erratic, as are single words that split oddly, given that typewriters do not automatically take a word to the next line. Keystrokes may be too light and thus not legible…An exclamation point is created on older machines by hitting the key for an apostrophe, then backspacing, then hitting a ‘period’ or dot. Who knew?
Allow, then, gentle reader, that the notes which follow reflect an initiation to a new machine, often by young people who have yet to learn the keyboard. SO they are as much about mastering the mechanics as about expressing themselves. All is forgiven when it comes to spelling, too: such skills are falling by the wayside, given the contemporary ubiquity of computers and Spell-check.
The age range of those who “mailed” the notes is not representative of Festival-goers or even of typewriter novices, but they skew to the youngest Festival-goers. We take the liberty of sharing some of the missives, omitting names but including some technical errors. Our own error, then, may be on the side of festivity as we pass along a sampling:
• “t a k e the c hance wile yo u have My name is N V… I love Harry Potter. My favori te book is the order of the phoenix. I have rear all of the harry potter books. This is really fun. Wi h you were here, love aunt Melissa”
• “Dear harry, Is hogwarts re al? From Alex”
• “I am writing this letter I am wwritin thisletter with a type writer. Sosup why not? Abcdefghijklmnop…”
• “Hi I love all 8 films do you? my favorate acter is Daniel r.”
• “Dear, harry potter and herminy, I am g lad that I was abletoof fme to yuff festival. I am having a @@ eally good time.”
• “Hello world, I am here at Chestnut Hill for the Harry Potter Weekend. I am super happy to be here because this Is awesome. I am in love with this typewriter Because it is awesome. I’ve never een so happy. This is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING: HEY AUNTIE, l ook at me ow. I ca see why you love these so mu h. Hi hi hi harry pytter… Signed, l…”
• “Dear Hermoine I love you. vYou ar my ins pirason. You are a smart person . Signed Sxxx”
• “I h aveno idea how to use t his but its cool. I h h ope tth sf inds yyou well. Yours Ccc”
• “Hello Fluffy, This is harry. I was won derringg if you would m eet me in The shrieking sjh ack on Monday at 900 am I hav e sometth To tel l yo ou. Sincerel y , Harr y potte r.”
• “Dear Lord Volt amort You are evil. This is not nice. From, Harry Potter”
• “To bj I am having fun. Harry potter. Ill call it a rely fun plAce. you’ll have a lot of here I wish you Were here love Nellie”
• “Dear mom and dad, I am sending you a howler from harry potter Festival inchestnut hill. How dare you to Hawaii without me…i can get along fine…next week in the real harry potter world”
• “Hello harry potter Since I crack my head open I felt if I hade had a connection with you and I amhappy about that Write by soon By xxx”
• “Dear Mr. Potter, This is my fourth year at the Potterfest. It iS absolutely awesome. Type to you nextfest.
By Mr. xx s”
Philly Typewriter, a purveyor of typewriters at Greene St & Carpenter Lane, is open Tuesdays and Sundays, 2-6 pm. More details at www.phillytypewriter.com