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A Corner Room at the Y

Published: December 17, 2012

More often than not, right after class, Milvey made a beeline to his corner room at the Y. Far into the early hours of a new day you could hear him up there typing away to beat the band. So as not to disturb his neighbors, Milvey lined his room with sheets to deaden the sound.

It was a grueling three years of type, type, type—a murderous schedule of clicks and clacks, of bells and thrown carriages squeezed into his six day, 56-hour workweek at the Quik-Buy.

As was Nat’s custom during the Nathan Margolias School of Typing Champions Third Year Master Graduation Speed Test, a black cloth was draped over everybody’s hands. Milvey insisted on wearing a blindfold.

To nobody’s surprise Milvey set a record that day. In an exclusive to Hazel Blatther, social columnist for The Morning Mail, Nat was quoted as saying, “I gotta tell you flat out Haz, in all the years I been teaching Keyboard Master Course One through Three—only a hundred fifty bucks for the entire course, which includes a spiral-bound, four-color illustrated Typing Your Way to Fame Master Class Instruction Manual—I ain’t never come across nobody half close to matching that boy’s speed!”

To honor the occasion Nat had Milvey’s name engraved by Orange “Bill” Johnson, the town’s only living blacksmith, on a copper plaque in the lobby of the Nathan Margolias School of Typing Champions.

Milvey could have named his price as a typist in Dubuque, but our good buddy had bigger fish to fry. A week after graduation, Milvey talks Nat into putting him on the tournament trail.

To nobody’s great surprise, Milvey proved unbeatable. He captured the locals with ease. Breezed through the districts, the regionals, even the semifinals gave him no problem.

Then came that fateful day Nat sent Milvey to the Iowa State Typing Championship Finals. We all went, all his friends. Gruber’s dad, who owned the only garage in town, drove us there in a banged-up school bus he had painted white for the occasion.

Milvey sat directly behind Gruber’s dad, studying a cigar box full of well-traveled road maps. A few of us played checkers. Some of the younger guys were crawling on the floor to carve their initials into the backs of our green plastic seats. The rest of us were tossing popcorn up in the air and trying to catch the falling kernels with our mouths. One lunkhead scattered peanut shells all over the place. The dumbest thing though was when Clyde Riley took his thumb off a shook up bottle of soda pop. Spray hit most everybody in the first four rows and coated half the ceiling. For the rest of our trip, we had to sit there ducking strawberry drops and listening to Gruber’s dad having a hissy fit.

Soon as we drive into the parking lot behind the Des Moines University gym, Milvey scoots over to open the folding doors.

“Close the heck them doggone doors and sit yourself down,’til I get us all good and parked, else nobody’s leaving this here vehicle!” Gruber’s dad yells.

Milvey closes the doors, sits down and mumbles out: “Sorry sir, ’fraid I’m a tad overwrought, sir.”

After we get good and parked, Gruber’s dad looks at Milvey and gives him a quick nod, but Milvey just sits there mulling over the maps.

“When I move my head up and down like the heck I just did!” Gruber’s dad shouts, “That means you got the go ahead to open them doggone doors!”

“Sorry, sir.” Milvey scrambles out of his seat. “Guess I’m a mite out of kilter.” Milvey jerks the handle back and forth until the doors grudgingly creak open.

As he’s about to go down the stairs, Milvey does a touching thing, something nobody likely ever forgot. He turns to us waiting in line, nervously whisks his hands across the top of his crew cut and says in a warm, sincere tone of voice: “Somebody once said … don’t know who it was. Can’t say for sure exactly what it was they said, but it had something to do with how no dream is too small to dream!”

With that, Milvey struggles to open the folding doors a bit wider and half stumbles down the stairs. Somehow he manages to hit the ground running. The rest of us bail out behind him and start jogging around the parking lot, yelling and cheering to beat the band. Somebody lights a string of ladyfingers. Somebody throws up shredded newspaper.

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