HOME FURNISHINGS

By Bill Grosboll
November 3, 2007


 

Recently I have received e-mails showing various items  asking if  they brought back memories or if I remembered them.  Yes indeed, I remember them well.  Itís surprising the number of things that are no longer in use that were the norm of those days.
This story will probably just be ramblings of various memories of those items and I donít know right now, where it is going to lead so I havenít came up with a title for it yet.  Iíll decide on that later.
 
If I think about it in a room by room fashion, the three rooms in the old homes that have changed the most, either because of their furnishings or appliances, are the kitchen, the living room, and the bath room.  Sure there are changes in the bedroom but not to the extreme of the these other three rooms.  So letís start with the kitchen.  The modern sink was just starting to come on the scene (Iím surprised they still call it a Ďsinkí and I donít know how it got that terrible name in the first place).  Our sink at home, before Mom put her foot down and demanded that Dad remodel the kitchen, was just a cast iron sink which had only one basin and an attached drain board.  The sink with drain board was porcelain coated and invariably had a chip in it which exposed the steel underneath the porcelain.  The chips most likely came from us kids who had a tendency to be somewhat careless how we handled the big old iron pots when we washed them.  Iron pots and iron skillets were the norm in those days and required prolonged soaking because everything stuck to them.  There was nothing better than Teflon coating, when it came to washing dishes, although Mom would say it made cooking much easier.  Since I didnít cook, I really didnít care much about that.
 
 Iíve already talked about the old ice boxes that actually required large blocks of ice, that were replaced by the second generation of ice boxes, called refrigerators.  Now, the worse part of these critters was the ice compartment.  It constantly had frost building up on the surfaces of the compartment that required defrosting by hand.  Of course, this didnít get done nearly as often as should be, so the frost built up to such thicknesses that the ice compartment door would no longer close, thereby causing pressure on the hinges when the door was Ďforcedí closed which either resulted in cracked doors or broken hinges, or both.  Defrosting was one of the messiest jobs because it was impossible to catch all the water that resulted when the frost melted.  This meant that the entire interior of the refrigerator got cleaned when it became time to defrost (actually, way, way past due).  This was improved upon with the frost free refrigerators of today. 
 
I just barely remember the old cook stove which required wood to be burned to heat the hot plates and the oven.  I do remember that they were heavily made and usually had an upper area above the hot plates and I believe these two compartments in that area was the oven.  Iím not sure.  Forgive me, but I was just a toddler and didnít mess with the stove much like I did with the refrigerator and that darn sink.  This type stove was replaced with the electric stove which sounds simple doesnít it?  Not so!  You must remember that electrical appliances were just beginning to arrive on the scene in rural America and most homes didnít have adequate service to the house, nor was the transformer located on the pool outside the house.  This meant with the new electric refrigerator, electric stove, electric toaster, and improved lighting (florescent lights) that the power company had to come out to the farm, set a new pole, mount a new transformer, and then run larger wires to the main electrical panel (which also had to be changed).  From the new electrical panel, new wiring had to run to all the various locations.  This was no easy task with a brick farm house since there were no spaces in the walls as there are in todayís homes.  Looking back at those changes, no wonder Dad fought Mom so long on remodeling the kitchen.  He should of known that he was going to lose that battle!  Oh yes, I almost forgot that Dad also had to put down a new tile floor to eliminate the old linoleum floor.  Mom wanted a new floor so that her new chrome leg kitchen table and chairs would look nicer. 
 
When Mom finally got the kitchen remodeled with the new appliances and kitchen table, she was really proud and pleased until my older sister Pat decided to have a party for her high school friends shortly after the remodel job.  It seems that either Leo Stewart or Roy Fry, a couple of Patís classmates, sat down on the side of the kitchen table and the steel understructure bent down about six inches.  Fortunately, I wasnít there at the time or Iím sure it would have been my fault.  Dad did his best to straighten the table out but for many years to come, it had a slight bow in the center.  Needless to say, Mom was not pleased with Pat. 
 
Moving on to the living room, we had a radio sitting on a small table and that was the extent of the home entertainment, other than an old hand cranked Victrola record player.  This radio was replaced with a Magnavox console, combination record player and AM radio.  FM radio was still in itís infancy and so AM was the only option.   Spent many hours sitting on the floor in front of the radio, listening to Amos and Andy, Jack Benny, The Lone Ranger, and Gunsmoke.  I was thinking that maybe The Hit Parade was on radio also but Iím not sure.  I know it was on the early television programs.  The record player portion only played 78 and 33-1/3 RPM records (long play) (no 45 rpmís)  It also had a record changer that allowed the user to stack multiple records (one size only) and when the arm reached the center of the record it was playing, the arm would raise, swing out, a new record would drop, and the arm would swing back in and lower to begin playing.  It was amazing!  Do you remember the old 33-1/3 rpm record that were just a thin sheet of plastic and would not lay flat for all the tea in China?  Also, the 78 rpm records were made of a material that would shatter like glass if you tried to bend them or dropped them on a hard surface.  Mom used to buy us kids, albums that were long play and came in a hard book like cover which had various stories.
 
Another big change to come on the scene in the living room was the Ďreclinerí.  They were the rage in the late 50ís.  Maybe not the late 50ís but that was when Mom finally talked Dad into redoing the living room so that was when we got our first recliner (for Dad, of course).  Mom had to wait some time for hers.  The three way light bulb was just making itís appearance so that meant changing the floor lamps.  They were just as frustrating as they are today when the switch doesnít work like it should!
 
Next, Iíll discuss the bathroom.  We had a heavy cast iron bath tub which was on four Ďdecorativeí legs.  We werenít allowed to use but just a couple of inches of water since water usage had to be kept to a minimum on the farm.  Rain water which ran off the roof was captured via the guttering and was kept in cisterns (an underground brick or cement lined tank).  This water was used for bathing and basic household cleaning.  Well water was only used for washing dishes and drinking.  Anyway, back to the bath tub.  With only a couple inches of water in the cast iron tub, you did not lay back, relax, and soak because the sloped portion of the tub was ice cold, or felt ice cold, even in the summer.  Talk about something that will take your breath away, lean back in a cold cast iron bath tub!
The sink was mounted to the wall and all the plumbing was exposed.  Nothing fancy and definitely no single lever faucets, just two four-spoke ivory handle faucets, one hot and the other cold.  The toilet or stool was just one step better than the outhouse.  It served just one purpose and it definitely didnít need to be decorative for that purpose and it wasnít.  It usually had a wooden seat and the tank which held the water for flushing was mounted a couple inches above it and was attached to the wall.  The flushing mechanism was not all that reliable and it either leaked water down into the stool or the water wouldnít fill the tank properly.  Thatís enough about that room, other than it was upgraded with an enclosed sink, combination tub and shower, and one piece toilet in the late fifties. 
 
One side note about the bathroom before I move on.  This was Dadís favorite reading room.  Mom, my two sisters, and I always had wait and wait and wait for Dad.  He would go in with a copy of the Farm Journal and he wouldnít come out until someone insisted that THEY needed to use the bathroom.  Even then, he made us feel guilty because we felt we were disturbing him and his quiet time!
 
The one final room Iíll discuss was Momís sewing room.  We called it a sewing room because that is where the sewing machine was, along with a small dresser in which she kept different kinds of cloth, and the ironing board.  Didnít have steam irons in the early days, so we had to lightly sprinkle the article of clothing with water before ironing.  This was usually done with a horse shoe shaped small brush with a wooden handle.  If a lot of articles were to be ironed they would be sprinkled at one time and then rolled or twisted up to keep them damp until they were ironed.  No such thing and perma-press in those days.
I always ironed my own shirts once I got into high school.  I guess I was somewhat particular with how the sleeves were creased.  The first sewing machine I remember was foot operated with a treadle.  It was a black Singer mounted onto a wooden top, wrought iron legs and with the foot treadle underneath.  Mom was like a kid with a new toy when she got her first electric Singer sewing machine with the button hole attachment.  I remember that when ever it came to buy chicken feed or cattle supplement, she would either pick it up herself or go along with Dad so that she could pick out the pattern of the sacks.  That is one of those things that is long gone, seed corn sacks in cloth and a pattern usable to make clothing.  I feel sorry for Pat and Sue, my sisters, because they wore many dresses made from those sacks and they were easily recognizable because of the texture and pattern.  Times were tough in those days and Mom made due with what was available.
 
 

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