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Long IslandObituaries

Typewriter repairman Manson Whitlock dead at 96

Manson H. Whitlock, one of the country's longest-serving repairmen of the clattering keyboard contraptions known as typewriters, died Aug. 28 at his home in Bethany, Conn. He was 96.

The New Haven Register first reported his death. The cause was not disclosed, but Whitlock closed his shop in June, when he was hospitalized with a kidney ailment.

Once ubiquitous in offices and on the dorm-room desks of college students, typewriters have all but fallen silent in recent years, as they have been replaced by computers. But Whitlock kept plugging along, as a dwindling number of customers hunted the streets of New Haven and pecked at the door of his second-floor shop near the campus of Yale University.

He had been on the job since 1930, when he began working at his father's bookstore. Before long, he took charge of the typewriter department. He sold thousands over the years, and customers returned to him for replacement parts and for repairs when the keys became stuck or the carriages wouldn't return on their Royals, Remingtons, Smith Coronas and Underwoods.

Whitlock was at his shop every day, seven days a week, invariably wearing a tweed jacket, V-neck sweater and necktie -- looking like the Yale students and professors of yore. In dress, manner and occupation, he was a link to a long-gone world of the Ivy League and to a time when machines were operated by hand and built with an intricate structure of fitted metal parts.

When a manual typewriter broke down, it wasn't thrown in the trash and replaced by a newer model. It was taken to someone like Whitlock, who used special tools and decades of experience to put it back in working order. Soon enough, he could roll a sheet of paper around the platen and tap out, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," using all 26 letters of the keyboard.

In recent years, Whitlock sat alone at his desk, waiting for the occasional customer. He remained fascinated by the mechanisms of the classic manual models, but as a concession to modern times, he began to repair electric typewriters as well. He drew the line at computers, which he never learned to use.

Whitlock's wife, Nancy, who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, died in 1996. A son, Gilbert Ward Whitlock, died in 2007. Survivors include a son, William Whitlock, and three grandchildren.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the sentence Whitlock types to test typewriter keyboards.


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