Underwood Typewriter Company

Before the Depression Poppy was the District Manager for Underwood. After he was a salesman both in their store and on the road. He wasn’t wealthy. He and Mommy never owned their own home. They always rented. Our father took a job in the Des Moines store as a typewriter repairman. He moved to Davenport, Iowa with Mom and me to repair typewriters there. Later we moved back to Des Moines where Dad worked at an ordinance plant for the war effort. Since he had suffered Rheumatic Fever he could not enlist. It was after the war that he was hired by U. S. Rubber in New Jersey. He didn’t have the credentials but he did have the knowledge. This is much the same path that Michael took.

Underwood Typewriters

I believe that our father always needed to claim more importance in Poppy’s job and in his. In college he became close to his three friends  who came from money and prospered. Uncle Frank married into money twice. Our father married two poor women from farming families. He was more sophisticated than the norm. He suffered from not making a huge salary. Nancy remembers Poppy and Mommy saying that they worried when our Dad was in France. He kept wiring for more money.

Nancy remembers that they said it was a financial hardship. Dad had the natural intelligence. He had the inventor’s mind. What he didn’t  have was the emotional intelligence to cope with his self sabotaging behavior. It was a tragedy.

Alcohol put the end to what he dreamed for himself. That being said, Nancy, Robert and I had a different relationship with him than the younger ones. That’s a tale for another time.

I was thinking of looking for an old Underwood typewriter on eBay. We always had one when I was young and Dad had stories about repairing them in his youth. Do I recall correctly that Poppy was a top salesman for the brand? Typewriters were the vanguard of technology until computers came along in my generation.

I truly appreciate this bit of family history. Two brothers who chose very different paths.

Our father was his own worst enemy and could have done so much more for himself and for our family.

It was a tragedy and I can only imagine what my older siblings went through.

My next question was going to be about family homes, but I probably don’t need to know about rentals.

Dad told me about working in the munitions factory and I thought that was why he didn’t enlist. If he had gone off to war, I might not exist.

I’m grateful for my upbringing and have tried to better myself. Dad was sensitive about his lack of credentials which motivated me to earn my bachelor’s degree.

He always told us to get an education, but never offered to pay for it. I don’t know why he pursued inventions, but perhaps he imagined success.

Thanks again for being so forthcoming.

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