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Where the El Cajon Typewriter Co. sign leads

Hanging on the outside of the building, is a large rectangular sign: Smith Corona Factory Outlet.

The view from Main Street
The view from Main Street

Anyone who has been in downtown El Cajon has probably noticed the large El Cajon Typewriter Co. sign at 130 E. Main that, alas, no longer announces a real live typewriter shop. Though the internet is surprisingly short on any information about the place, its demise, whenever that happened, has been noted by a single (unhappy) Google review for the business, which awards it one out of five stars: “NOT A TYPEWRITER STORE, anymore.”

Place

El Cajon Typewriter Galleries

130 East Main Street, San Diego

No, it’s not. Instead, the nicely painted sign survives atop a number of small art galleries. But I think we should be glad that the lettering is still there. Old signs almost always outdo their more recent competition, and when they remain as part of a neighborhood, they keep up some small sense of historical continuity.

When I first walked by, I thought the sign was the only remnant of the old business, but as I kept walking, and turned right on Magnolia, then right again into El Cajon’s Arts Alley behind the building, I found myself facing a mysterious window on its weathered white back.

The writer’s son investigates.

From the middle of the alley, you can’t see much of what’s inside, other than a large two-colored neon sign: “Office Machines.” Underneath the window, hanging on the outside of the building, is a large rectangular sign: Smith Corona Factory Outlet.

I walked up closer to get a better look inside, and was delighted to find a well-preserved, cozy, low-ceilinged office, so filled with nostalgic feeling and alluring objects that it could have been an art installation. Maybe it was one. The atmosphere was mostly circa the early ‘70s. Back against one wall, past the Absocold fridge and under the Office Machines neon, stood a work table sporting a vise and a beat-up industrial lamp, plus various parts and gizmos for fixing typewriters, and a single-burner hot plate. Whether it was used for lunch or for some repair-related heating, I’m unsure.

Among the numerous decorations on the wall were two film posters, one for 1968’s Ice Station Zebra and one for 1970’s Airport. A couple of tortilla-warming pouches from El Indio were hanging around as well. A clock with hands stuck at 8:40, two baseball hats (Heinz, Simpson’s Nursery), more old signage from the typewriter business. There were also six chairs spread around. The desk supported a rotary phone, a barbell, and An Introduction to Physical Geography. Behind the desk chair stood an illuminated globe.

Then there was all the Pittsburghiana: a black and white art photo of its skyline; banners for the Pirates, Steelers, Duquesne and Saint Francis University. Clearly, this guy left at least part of his heart in his old hometown. The most intriguing Pittsburgh items were a church bulletin on the desk from Blessed Trinity parish, which sat next to a calendar from the same. The calendar was open to July 2022 and the bulletin was from May 1. Someone was still using this place, at least sometimes. It must have been his buffalo check jacket that was hanging on the door.

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The view from Main Street
The view from Main Street

Anyone who has been in downtown El Cajon has probably noticed the large El Cajon Typewriter Co. sign at 130 E. Main that, alas, no longer announces a real live typewriter shop. Though the internet is surprisingly short on any information about the place, its demise, whenever that happened, has been noted by a single (unhappy) Google review for the business, which awards it one out of five stars: “NOT A TYPEWRITER STORE, anymore.”

Place

El Cajon Typewriter Galleries

130 East Main Street, San Diego

No, it’s not. Instead, the nicely painted sign survives atop a number of small art galleries. But I think we should be glad that the lettering is still there. Old signs almost always outdo their more recent competition, and when they remain as part of a neighborhood, they keep up some small sense of historical continuity.

When I first walked by, I thought the sign was the only remnant of the old business, but as I kept walking, and turned right on Magnolia, then right again into El Cajon’s Arts Alley behind the building, I found myself facing a mysterious window on its weathered white back.

The writer’s son investigates.

From the middle of the alley, you can’t see much of what’s inside, other than a large two-colored neon sign: “Office Machines.” Underneath the window, hanging on the outside of the building, is a large rectangular sign: Smith Corona Factory Outlet.

I walked up closer to get a better look inside, and was delighted to find a well-preserved, cozy, low-ceilinged office, so filled with nostalgic feeling and alluring objects that it could have been an art installation. Maybe it was one. The atmosphere was mostly circa the early ‘70s. Back against one wall, past the Absocold fridge and under the Office Machines neon, stood a work table sporting a vise and a beat-up industrial lamp, plus various parts and gizmos for fixing typewriters, and a single-burner hot plate. Whether it was used for lunch or for some repair-related heating, I’m unsure.

Among the numerous decorations on the wall were two film posters, one for 1968’s Ice Station Zebra and one for 1970’s Airport. A couple of tortilla-warming pouches from El Indio were hanging around as well. A clock with hands stuck at 8:40, two baseball hats (Heinz, Simpson’s Nursery), more old signage from the typewriter business. There were also six chairs spread around. The desk supported a rotary phone, a barbell, and An Introduction to Physical Geography. Behind the desk chair stood an illuminated globe.

Then there was all the Pittsburghiana: a black and white art photo of its skyline; banners for the Pirates, Steelers, Duquesne and Saint Francis University. Clearly, this guy left at least part of his heart in his old hometown. The most intriguing Pittsburgh items were a church bulletin on the desk from Blessed Trinity parish, which sat next to a calendar from the same. The calendar was open to July 2022 and the bulletin was from May 1. Someone was still using this place, at least sometimes. It must have been his buffalo check jacket that was hanging on the door.

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