Friday, March 18, 2011

Jay's typewriters

I know that nobody who looks at this blog will have any idea who this person is, but I thought almost anyone could appreciate an obsessive collector of antique typewriters. When I was in high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts, this fellow, Jay Williams, was the school's in-house piano tuner and technician. He's also an excellent composer and trombone player and one of the more interesting people I've ever known. I spent a lot of time with Jay during those three years, talking about everything under the sun, listening to music, and occasionally serving as his amaneunsis (how often do I get to use that word?)--notating his music as he dictated from scores he had written in Braille.

Since that time, Jay has had a second career building mostly electronic prototypes for a company that develops new equipment for blind people. I lost track of Jay for a long time, but recently discovered that he and his wife are now retired and living in Marietta, Georgia. So last weekend, when Tammy and I represented Penland School at the photographic education conference in Atlanta, we stopped on the way to visit Jay and Kathy and, among other things, got a tour of Jay's fantastic collection of typewriters--he has 80 or 100 of them.

Look that this little beauty. A Blicksenderfer from the late 19th century. This crazy little machine had all the type on a cylinder that flipped around and changed angles to make the right letter--almost exactly like the famous IBM Selectric of the 1960s.


who me? said...

Thank you for sharing Jay's friendship and collection with us.

Carla said...

Wow. That's a lot of typewriters. Where would you even being to store and display them?

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sdrucker said...

Definitely excellent. xoxo

cstretick said...


I too attended the North Carolina School of the Arts and spent a great deal of time with Jay Williams. I would like very much to contact him after all these years to say hello. Clifford Tretick

Bugboy said...

I lived with Jay in 1975 while attending the School of Arts in music. The real classroom was in Jay's house. I learned more about music from that experience than anything before or since. I lost touch with Jay when he moved to California.
What a great thing the internet is. Just for a lark I Googled 'Jay Williams piano tuner' and there he was!
Would love to have some contact info.
Scott Bryan

John Hanks said...

Jay taught me how to listen deeply. Beautiful person and mind.

saxsolos said...

One of my fondest memories of Jaybird in the 70's was being at his house and listening to one of his compositions. What he could do to your mind and ears with music was amazing. I still remember the sensation of being on a carnival ride but being perfectly still. Jaybird taught me how to listen to music too. I can still imagine the sound of a piano falling down an elevator shaft.

JohnS said...

I knew Jay at the North Carolina School of the Arts 1976-77. I've been wondering what happened to him. We spent a lot of time listening to music, talking, and even went hiking in the woods. what a wonderful person.