A person created from words

Laura Deal imagines her late grandfather in one-person show

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Harold "Ramsey" Osborne's Underwood typewriter in the attic of Laura Deal's parent's home in Fort Collins.
Courtesy Laura Deal

The typewriter weighs 25 pounds, give or take a pound or two — much too heavy for a child to pick up. But Laura Deal had to learn that the hard way. 

As she and a friend played in Deal’s childhood home in Fort Collins, the 1920s-model Underwood typewriter caught their eye, and they couldn’t resist.

“It got dropped,” Deal says over a phone call from her home in Boulder. “My mom was really heartsick about that and banished it to the attic so that she wouldn’t have to think about it.” 

The typewriter belonged to Deal’s maternal grandfather, Harold “Ramsey” Osborne, a journalist at the San Diego Tribune during World War II. Deal estimates that her grandfather must have typed out some 13 million words on the machine. 

Harold “Ramsey” Osborne, age 18.

The typewriter stayed in Deal’s parent’s attic in Fort Collins for decades, until her father died and Deal asked her brother to help her bring it down for a project she was working on. Ramsey — a nickname given to Osborne by his wife Lucille — died a decade before his granddaughter Laura was born, but the intrepid reporter left behind a huge archive of newspaper clippings, personal letters and photographs that Deal has turned into a one-person show called Love, Ramsey, premiering with six showings at this year’s Boulder Fringe Festival. 

Deal says that most of her family’s archives have wound up in her possession, likely because she’s a historian by education, with experience archiving artifacts and documents. But Deal is also an oral storyteller and a “dream worker,” helping others explore the meaning behind their slumbering visions. It’s these skills she brings to bear on Love, Ramsey, weaving together the threads of Ramsey’s life “into the larger fabric of the history he lived through.”

“There are something like 95 scrapbooks that he kept, with the front page of the newspaper all the way through the late 30s as the war was building [in the United States],” Deal says. 

Ramsey lived through expansive and tumultuous times: the beginning of the automobile age, the Great Depression and the blackouts in San Diego following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He met the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, loved cats and gardening, and meticulously chronicled his own life through diaries, letters and the articles he wrote as a reporter. 

“I think there’s a kind of magic that happens with the written word,” Deal says. “One of the things that becomes very clear in the way that I was trained to do [dream work] is that anything that I say about a dream that someone else has is my own projection. And so it’s true for me at some level or I wouldn’t even think to see it in that dream. And I think that’s true, too, with sort of creating this person out of his letters and diaries, newspaper articles and photographs. You know, I’m building a relationship with somebody that I’m imagining. But it’s possible because of the magic of the written word. And it’s incredible how much his personality comes through.”

It’s also incredible, Deal says, to see the cyclic nature of history.

“Even though [Ramsey lived] in the first half of the 20th century, how much of [his story] is so familiar?” Deal says. “You know, the sacrifices that need to be made and the struggles that we go through as humans and come out on the other side. I think for me that’s been one of the big takeaways is just how ordinary my grandfather was and how simple his wisdom was and how it helped him endure some incredibly stressful times. I’ve found comfort in the resonances of history and realizing that people have always gone through really hard things.”

Like pandemics. Deal found a letter written to her great-grandmother — Ramsey’s mother — by a cousin who was a medic in the Navy during World War I. He was recovering from the flu of 1918.

“The [current] pandemic is perhaps unprecedented in its scope and impact, but it’s not the first time that people have gone into isolation because of illness,” Deal says. “My grandmother and her parents all had the flu in 1918. … The flu was absolutely devastating to those soldiers as the war was ending, and killed a lot of young men.”

Deal will present Love, Ramsey from her own home in Boulder over Zoom, with her grandfather’s typewriter and pipe organ in the background as props. She’ll share his stories alongside the photographs and letters he left behind over an hour-long presentation. 

“To be honest, the hard part was figuring out what to leave out,” Deal says. “This could be a book, and maybe it will be someday. ”

ON THE BILL: Love, Ramsey. Aug. 12, 13, 14, 19, 21. Virtual. Tickets: $8-$10, boulderfringe.com

Boulder-born Fringe shows 

There are two dozen performances by national and international artists at this year’s Boulder Fringe Festival, with offerings as diverse as a musical about polyamory to improvisational theater to shows about getting freaky over 60. Laura Deal is one of several Boulder artists represented at the festival. Here are the other Boulder-born productions you can catch at this year’s Fringe. See a full lineup and buy tickets at boulderfringe.com

The Fractal Society

Cirque de Menses: A Menstruation Celebration. 

Aug. 20 and 21. Junkyard Social Club 2525 Frontier Ave., Unit A, Boulder.

With Aunt Flo, Fairy Flow Mother, a girl goes on a wild journey after her first period. The show flows through light, comedic interpretations and heavier personal experiences to celebrate the magic of menstruation. Tickets: $25.

Wendy Miller Productions

26 Red Flags.

Aug. 12, 14, 15, 19. Virtual.

A story of a divorced woman who seeks love through online dating. A hilarious and honest one-woman show about facing what you run from. Tickets: $13-$15. 

J. Akiyama, Kinisis Photography Karl Baumann & Selena Milewski

Home: Containment & Freedom.

Aug. 12, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22.The Spark A Performing Arts Community 4847 Pearl St., Suite B4, Boulder.

Home: Containment & Freedom explores imagination within limited space. The familiar becomes a doorway to a dreamlike world with limitless possibilities. Tickets: $5-$15.

Gramma and Grampa Clown

Laughgasms: Sex in the Prime of Life (60s and Beyond).

Aug. 14, 15, 17, 20, 21, 22. Wesley Chapel Theatre 1290 Folsom St., Boulder.

Gramma and Grampa Clown are hilarious in and out of the sack and they want to share the fun with you. Whether you’re partnered or not, currently sexually active or not, or sexually indifferent (is that a thing?), you are welcome to this sexual circus. Rated R for language. Tickets: $10-$15.