Tuesday, April 30, 2013

OT: Cooling With Gas

Servel Refrigerator c. 1940

Back in the Olden Days we had some modern appliances, believe it or not, including a Kenmore automatic washing machine just like the one in this 1952 Christmas Book. We could not have gotten it in 1952, but probably did so in 1954. Before that, we had a counter-top model.  We also had a Wedgewood gas range something like this one. We kept both of those appliances as long as we lived in Southern California, but they stayed in the house when we moved.

We were always replacing refrigerators, however. They would seem to last only a few months before conking out, and so another one would be found and brought to the house:  Frigidaires, a Westinghouse, Norge, and finally a Servel like the one above. Initially, I didn't understand that these were all used refrigerators, and some were quite old. Then I realized that the grown ups didn't want to pay the money it would cost for a new refrigerator, didn't see why they should, when a (supposedly) good used one could be picked up for $50 or less. (New ones were $250 - $300 in those days, which was a lot of money comparatively.)

But the used ones kept breaking down. The compressors wouldn't work. The coolant would leak out. The door wouldn't close. Your basic things.

Finally, my mother threw up her hands and said, "I'm not going to go through this any more. I'm getting a Servel!"

Indeed. She found one at the used appliance store, I think it was priced at $65 or something like that. And it looked just like the one in the picture above -- only it was a bit less banged up and rusty. We had to have a gas line put in for it, but that turned out to be quick and easy since the refrigerator was close to the stove.

It worked, amazingly well, and absolutely silently. It came up to Northern California with us when we moved, but because we were initially living in a rental house, we couldn't install it. Had to get an electric one -- it was a Coldspot, something like this. In fact, it was pretty much exactly like that.

Of course, it was much more modern than the Servel, but it didn't seem to work as well, and it had that funny odor new refrigerators have. I didn't like it, though my mother seemed happy enough with it. At some point, the Servel, which had been sitting unused in the garage, must have been sold or given away, but I don't remember exactly how or when. It was just gone.

Gas fired refrigeration was exotic as heck in those days, but really practical people swore by their Sevels. I understand you can still buy new ones -- they're very popular off the grid and in the woods and the outback and such -- though they seem to cost a whopping amount for a European sized model, but then, I suppose for the convenience and reliability of them, the cost is within reason...

I was put in mind of these appliance memories because we left our old washer and dryer in California when we moved -- I think one of the people who was helping us took them, but come to think of it, I don't remember! Stove and refrigerator were already in the house here in New Mexico, so we left those appliances behind in California as well. But we had no washer and dryer here. We went six months without -- and survived remarkably well. We thought of just getting a washing machine and putting up a clothes line. Many people don't use dryers here. But as it happened, there was a pretty excellent deal on a Maytag set at Lowe's, so we got both a couple of weeks ago. They even gave us a discount when they scratched the dryer installing it. We're getting used to the Energy Star low-water consumption washer, though. It only uses about fifteen gallons of water to wash and rinse a load of laundry.  And the first time I looked in, I said, "They forgot the agitator!" for there is nothing in the tub but a low button with some vanes -- looking something like what an agitator might be mounted to.

But according to their literature, that's it, that's what agitates the laundry. It seems to work, too, no complaints. But it is a bit odd. Not having bought a washing machine in 20 years or more, it didn't occur to us that... well, things aren't quite the same as they used to be, are they?

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