Whoever said the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree got that one wrong.
I am about as mechanically inclined as they don’t come. I could never be mistaken for a handyman or an expert in hardware.
My father Fred and his two brothers Pershing and Charlie inherited a hardware store from my grandfather. The store’s motto printed on yardsticks they gave away was, “Don’t say hardware say Wyatt.”
There are probably more than a few people who know me that have already started laughing. One is a neighbor John Alves and another is a handyman named Carl.
Both can vouch for my lack of handyman capabilities. I’m not quite a completely hopeless case but I do come close
Besides Wyatt Hardware lasting a good 60 years with stores in Lincoln and Roseville that you could put in the footprint of a 2,500-square-foot house today, I am also the son of a mother who knew her way around hardware stores to such a degree that she’d put half the staff of a typical Home Depot to shame.
Mom not only worked in the store with my dad but she worked for the competition in Lincoln – Tofft Hardware – before she married my father. And then 25 years after the store closed, 23 years after my father passed away, a decade of owning and running a small frostie drive-in before working as a checkout clerk in a grocery store and then a bottle shop my mom went back to work at Tofft Hardware. At age 75 she was hired by the grandson of the man who had hired her to work at Tofft Hardware as World War II was winding down.
My mom had incredible working knowledge of everything a hardware store sold from the right pipe fittings to do a specific job to the various replacement parts of washing machines.
This might strike those who have never known a world without Home Depot or Amazon, but it was the norm up until the late 1950s for what you’d describe today as small hole-in-the-wall stores that sold hardware to carry more than just hardware.
In the case of Wyatt Hardware it was where you bought paint, building materials, irrigation pipe and such. You also bought sporting goods from guns, ammo, fishing poles and gear to basketballs and athletic shoes better known as Converse.
Mom, by the way, would never indulge us by buying the cool white pair of Converse that were soft-sided back then even though she could buy them at the wholesale price. The reason was simple. The white pairs were as a dollar more. They were therefore extravagant given there was no functional difference other than they needed to be washed more often as they were all off-white as opposed to black with white accents. The retail price for standard low tops was less than $7.
The store also carried cooking ware and appliances running the gamut from blenders, toasters, and waffle irons to Frigidaire washers, dryers, stoves, refrigerators, and freezers.
And when something needed repaired – toasters or washing machine – the store had its own repairman.
This trip down memory lane was jarred by a washing machine.
Mine bit the dust last week.
There was a time when the beasts – and that is what they were – would literally last for decades.
Gary Weber, the Korean War veteran my dad hired, kept many a washing machine going that first went into service before he was born. Washing machines were built like tanks.
They also made enough noise to wake up the dead. As far as water use, let’s just say its likely they went through what seems like 20 times more water than they do today.
Back in the 1950s companies like Frigidaire had basically one model. They started to get fancy when they started offering washing machines in brown, harvest gold, and green.
Much like the automobiles that General Motors — the firm that owned Frigidaire for years — sold, washing machines started rolling out new models every year. Manufacturing something so seemingly mundane isn’t something you’d catch the likes of an Elon Musk doing today unless he could get tax credits to do so.
My 12-year-old front loader needed a new water pump. Between the age of the machine, labor costs, and the inability to get parts in a timely manner besides the challenge of finding a repairman the writing was on the wall.
The Maytag repairman was supposed to be lonely because the appliances the firm sold were more dependable than Halley’s Comet based on the spiel of the Madison Avenue types hired to market them. But it wasn’t a desire not to sell an appliance that wasn’t a poster child for planned obsolesce that made the Maytag repairman superfluous. Instead, it was consumers growing fascinating with bells and whistles.
Today we more often justify shedding stuff not because it doesn’t work but because it doesn’t feature the latest tech. Somehow, we feel better getting rid of the old because we can say it is better — or has the latest — technology.
We may we prize durability and function but often time we forsake it when it continues to deliver just so we can have the latest glitz.
My options were either spending my weekends at the Spin Cycle, try my luck at finding someone to bring my washing machine back from the dead, or buy a replacement.
Another front loader — the choice I went with last time due to it being the most water efficient I could find 12 years ago — was out of the question.
That’s because to address odor issues the models had back then, the new front loaders that are full-size today are an inch wider. And given my 1952 flat-top has a laundry room at the back of the carport that is accessible by a door that is 28 inches wide, my choices were “limited” to top loaders.
“Limited” is a bizarre word to use given most manufacturers have twice the models the Tesla offers. Yes, comparing automobiles and washing machines is akin to comparing apples and oranges both exist primarily for one function. One is to get you from Point A to Point B and the other is to clean your clothes.
Rest assured the top loader I bought is more miserly with water than my front loader. It also passes the energy test as well.
But everything else is lost on me.
It offers bells and whistles that were pipe dreams in the 1950s. That tech runs from a pre-wash station and “dashboard” options tied into functions that made by 2010 washing machine seem like a Model T in comparison to being able to pour 72 ounces of detergent in at once for the machine to dole out for wash loads as it deems fit.
Not only do I possess a phone smarter than me, but I also have a washing machines that treats me like I am an idiot that can’t measure detergen5t for a load or else is convinced I’m too lazy to do so.
Although I seemingly now have infinite options when it comes to washing various items, rest assured I will only be using the basic wash function exclusively with cold water.
And given I don’t have the aptitude — or desire — to channel the Maytag repairman, I won’t be in the market for a new washing machine until this one takes its last spin.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation.