Ding! A Wellesley family asked Tom Hanks for a typewriter, and he delivered
WELLESLEY — Tom Hanks loves typewriters. So much so that the Academy Award-winning actor has been known to give them away as gifts, with the expectation that recipients would use them.
A Wellesley family decided to test this theory in September after watching a documentary Hanks was featured in called “California Typewriter,” in which the actor known as America’s Dad and others riff about their love for the old ink-stained machines and the tactile pleasures of using them in the age of autocorrect.
Wellesley resident Nick de Peyster, a 51-year-old father of three, wrote Hanks a letter promising that if Hanks gave the family a vintage typewriter, it wouldn’t sit on a shelf gathering dust. Instead, he wrote, the de Peysters would send out weekly typewritten notes and pay it forward by buying a typewriter for another family.
On Saturday, nearly four months after sending the letter, the de Peysters found a box at the front door containing a black case with a tag that said “The Tom Hanks Collection.” Inside was an autographed Olympia Red De Luxe typewriter, as reported by The Swellesley Report. It was gray with dark gray keys.
“Two weeks ago I was saying . . . ‘Well, I guess we’re not getting any typewriter from Tom Hanks,” de Peyster said. “And then Saturday, ‘What’s this box?’ ”
There was an autographed typed note with the headline: “Eleven Reasons to use a Typewriter” by Tom Hanks. Among the best reasons: “Your penmanship is illegible,” “You are just too thickheaded to figure out a computer,” and “The Communists are back in power.”
There was also a “Hanx-O-Gram” that read: “This is something of a state of the art machine. Save the rather faded ribbon. You can’t screw this machine up. Just figure out how to make it work and make it work. . . . Then, get to typing . . .”
Independent film distributor Gravitas Ventures confirmed that Hanks had sent the gift.
“I thought if I can persuade Tom Hanks to send us a typewriter then I could go to my kids and say, ‘You know if Tom Hanks can send you a typewriter then maybe you should write a thank-you note,’ ” de Peyster said.
There is now a shrine to the Hanks typewriter in the family’s home. On a wooden desk sits a copy of his book, “Uncommon Type,” a stack of notes to type on, envelopes, stamps, the framed letters from the actor, and a pile of pens.
All in the family — de Peyster’s wife, Julia, and three sons — quickly have come to appreciate the clack of the keys and the “ding” of the typewriter bell. But household opinions about the new obligation to type and mail out at least a few notes a week to friends, relatives, and strangers have been mixed.
Tobias, a freshman at Cornell University, said something to the effect of it’s “the worst thing that’s ever happened in my life,” according to his father.
Teddy, 12, the youngest child, was also honest.
“I thought it was a real hassle,” the sixth-grader said of the typewritten notes. “But now I think it’s a really good idea, and it’ll give me a life skill that I’ll cherish forever.”
Their middle son, Rowan, is in 10th grade and a piano player. As a result, the 15-year-old is far better at hunting and pecking than others in the family and a bit more amenable to the notes.
Julia de Peyster, 53, asked on Facebook whether anyone would like a letter. People loved the idea. She’s sending a letter to one friend in Italy and to someone’s 80-year-old mother, and others around the world. It’s a type of Christmas miracle.
“Every time I do it my typing gets a little better,” she said. “I’m kind of addicted. It’s really fun.”
The family feels the typewriter gives them a daily excuse for gratefulness. It also allows them permission to make mistakes and delight in the imperfection of the faded ink and misspellings.
“You exhaust all the obvious opportunities to thank people,” Nick de Peyster said. “Then what happens is you have to start looking for who’s doing something amazing. And you have to spend your day focused on what other people are doing rather than on yourself. That’s the key.”
They’ve started keeping a log.
Since Saturday, they’ve typed out 11 letters. Four are for Tom Hanks.