Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Otra Vez: Toast 2.0

From time to time, I've mentioned my acquisitive nature. I have what some might consider to be strange collecting urges. One of them is toasters.

There are only five or maybe ten of them split between the two houses, all popup models, all more or less functional, but this one is my favorite by far.

It's a 1934 Toastmaster popup toaster, model 1 B 4, sturdy and heavy as a Volvo, and chromed to within an inch of its Deco life.

When I got it out of one of the discard bins at the Goodwill, the plug had been cut off and the clockwork that runs the popup mechanism was frozen, but with a new plug and some gentle coaxing (together with several burnt offerings) I was able to get it to make toast, and we've used it every day since.

Unlike most toasters -- and pretty much all modern ones -- the heating elements of this one don't get cherry red, in fact, they show almost no color at all. They're embedded in mica sheets, and the whole heating gizmos -- mica and wires together -- get toasty warm; the timing mechanism moves the bread very slowy between the heated sections, and when it's done, the toast pops up smartly -- pretty nearly perfect every time.

I'm impressed. Pretty good for a nearly seventy-five year old appliance. But then, people paid a lot of money in 1934 for this moderne marvel. I've seen ads for a similar one (not this one exactly) for $25, the equivalent of $250-300 (or more) today.

Over the years, we've accumulated quite a lot of Old Things. We use a lot of them, too. An old Electrolux model 1205 can't be beat for vacuuming the rugs. The 1942 Philco radio is the best for AM reception, and we used to use it to listen to the Air America station, until that station had an unfortunate format change. The 1935 Crosley radio still brings in excellent shortwave, though I have no idea where most of the stations originate.

Couldn't have waffles without the service of the big, square c. 1948 Knapp-Browning waffle iron, and the coffee is made in a GE/Universal 11 cup percolator that probably dates to the 1950's. The stove is an early 1960's model Kenmore.

We have typewriters... and actually use them!

Sewing machines? Sure! My favorite is a cast iron but streamlined c. 1940 Montgomery Ward rotary that was missing a bobbin case, and so was useless. I checked online and found one available, for $70, and decided to pass. Then one day when I was driving to an appointment, I passed a sewing store, and there was the same model M/W machine sitting on the sidewalk. I went in and asked for a bobbin case for it. The man was very nice, said, "Sure, I can get you one. Come back in a couple of days." Went back, and he showed me a regular bobbin case that would fit in most modern machines. I said, "No, that's not going to work. Too big. I need one that will fit a machine just like the one on the sidewalk." Hmm, he said. So we went out there, pulled the bobbin case out of the one on the sidewalk. He said, "Is that it?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "OK, you can have that one, this machine is only to get people to look when they pass by." I said, "I guess it works!" He said, "Yep!"

So I got a bobbin case for the M/W, threaded it up, and it was perfect. (Good thing I had an operator's manual, cause I could never have figured out how to thread it on my own. Of course I wouldn't say I have any sewing skills, but that's another issue.)

Then there are the Books.

But that's for another time.

Need a couple of slices of toast!

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