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Old faithfuls: Trusty appliances stand the test of time

KAREN BROERMAN

{ General Electric refrigerator }

"The General Electric refrigerator in my garage and I share a special bond," writes Karen Broerman of Clearwater. "We are both 57 years old." In 1952 the fridge, and the family, moved from Flint, Mich., to St. Petersburg, where it was the primary refrigerator in three homes, then was relegated to garage duty. "It was then passed sibling to sibling in birth order. Our refrigerator has been with my family through 16 marriages, nine divorces, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Our family doesn't have any precious jewels or exquisite antiques to pass on, but we have our refrigerator. . . . My son is next in the lineage." Photo by Kathleen Flynn, Times

In a time when a 2-year-old cell phone is considered antique, we were impressed with how many of you are hanging on to ovens from the Eisenhower era and hand mixers from the Age of Aquarius. • We received nearly 300 responses to our call for your oldest appliances. Toasters and mixers led the charge, with a surprising number of refrigerators and microwave ovens in the mix. Some readers have a love-hate relationship with their "old reliables." Others see them as family heirlooms to keep in working order for the next generation. Many were wedding gifts, often from the 1940s and '50s, and more than a few outlasted the marriage. • Nothing reveals an appliance's age more than its color. Pink or aqua? 1940s and '50s. Harvest gold or avocado green? That's the '70s, baby. • We heard several theories as to why these appliances have held up so well: no plastic parts, no computer chips, careful cleaning after each use, oiling the parts yearly, etc. Many belonged to a handy guy who was able to replace cords or other parts, and some are hanging on by ingenuity (check out Cynthia Tomlin's retrofitted slow cooker on Page 5H). • Not every submission was about something that could be plugged into a wall. Some people were just proud of their own longevity. • "The oldest appliance in my home is ME! I shall be 90 the beginning of July and I am still going strong. I do the dusting, the vacuuming, the laundry, the dishes, the driving, the cooking, the telelphoning, ad infinitum," writes Betty M. Loring of St. Petersburg. • Thanks to all the readers who shared their stories. Here's to another decade of appliances on their last legs. Or no legs.

ELIZABETH A. & LAWRENCE SHEELY

{ Sunbeam Mixmaster }

The sound of the Sunbeam Mixmaster has always been welcome in the home of Elizabeth A. Sheely of Zephyrhills. "Roughly 40-something years ago as a small child I loved helping Mom in the kitchen," says daughter Wendy Schambers. "The main reason was that when she brought out that mixer, I knew something good was going to come of it and I was going to be the one to sample whatever she was mixing (usually homemade cakes and sweets)."

"There's yet another reason I enjoy hearing it purr for her," says Lawrence Sheely, Elizabeth's husband. "Shortly after we married, the switch wouldn't turn that ol' mixer on for her and she bought a new one but never used it after its first try or two because it ran too fast. . . . I took that old mixer apart — you could do that with those old products. . . . After a bit of minor surgery here and there, the many bits and pieces went back together without any problem. . . . In the 20 years since that repair job, it still does exactly what she requires of it without hesitation. One of my more successful tinkering jobs." Photo by Keri Wiginton, Times

DIANE HARRISON

{ Riccar microwave oven }

The microwave oven was a godsend to Diane Harrison of Seminole in 1984. "I was a single mother of two teenage boys and working 8 to 5. What a miracle a microwave was. We had real meals again like pot roast, chicken and dumplings and even meatloaf in less than 30 minutes. It was an adventure in cooking. The boys grew up and I moved five times, always taking my precious microwave with me. It is used every day. . . . I never thought about its age. Maybe we should have a party for its 25th anniversary." Photo by Dirk Shadd, Times

CYNTHIA TOMLIN

{ Crock Watcher }

Cynthia Tomlin of St. Petersburg has a new slow cooker. A friend from church gave it to her after hearing about Tomlin's Crock Watcher, a 1972 wedding gift, and its state of disrepair. "The lid broke many years ago. I have to cover the pot with aluminum foil and put a plate over the foil. The pot has one leg. I have to prop it up with tuna fish cans or sardine cans for balance to stand." But, she adds, "No pot can cook a roast like my 37-year-old crock pot." Photo by Scott Keeler, Times

JOAN GUENTHNER

{ 1960s Flair Frigidaire wall oven }

"Since I inherited this jewel 12 years ago when I bought the house, it has been working perfectly," says Joan Guenthner of North Redington Beach. "It has been the talk of every party once I learned how to open it up to cook." Photo by Kathleen Flynn, Times

SUSAN SCHNEIDER

{ Sunbeam electric curlers }

Susan Schneider of Tampa has tried new products as part of her morning routine, but nothing so far has matched her Sunbeam electric curlers purchased in 1970. "I use these curlers nearly every day," she writes. "They get much hotter than the newer versions and curl my hair much better. The set I have is completely functional, but the hard plastic case is cracked and the lid detached. They look pretty ugly and my friends make fun of me when they see me using them." Photo by Martha Rial, Times

SCOTT DROWN

{ Vacuum cleaners }

"People think that I'm absolutely crazy, but I have probably 15 old vacuums," says Scott Drown, 47, of Redington Shores. "The vacuum cleaners are truly old, but work and (some) look as new as they did 40-some years ago. I have a 1964 Kirby Sanitronic with all the attachments, and the box it came in. This vacuum was handed down to me when I got my first apartment and is still running strong. I grew up in a family that were cleaning freaks, and vacuum cleaners were always a hot topic. I guess I fell into that gene pool." Photo by Scott Keeler, Times

ROSE OLSON

{ Farberware coffee pot }

Rose Olson's coffee pot has been in constant use, at home in Gulfport and on the road, since the mid 1960s. Harriett Olson writes of her 96-year-old mother, "Rose Olson's coffee pot is a Farberware 4-cup electrical pot that perks perfect Folger's coffee in 5 minutes every day, several times. . . . That Farberware coffee pot and Folger's coffee were symbiotic; she never goes anywhere without the two of them." Though she's not the TV pitchwoman of the same name, she's every bit as loyal. Photo by Scott Keeler, Times

CARSON & KATHI BLACK

{ Manning Bowman waffle iron }

"My daughter certainly must have the oldest working appliance used by the youngest chef!" writes Dianne Jeffer of Largo. Carson Black, 11, of Riverview makes the "world's best waffles" with his mother, Kathi, almost weekly on a Manning Bowman waffle iron manufactured in 1937 and passed down from his great-great-grandmother, Bessie Gallagher. Photo by Atoyia Deans, Times

JOE MELANSON

{ Beer refrigerator }

Joe Melanson, who splits his time between Dunedin and Dartmouth, Mass., wanted to let us know, from afar, about his old appliance, a refrigerator once owned by "a little old lady who used it only for milk, eggs and butter." He's not sure of its age, but says he bought it in 1980 for $15 to use as a beer fridge in his garage up North. Up first, he says, was an "acid test of beer fridge's capacity": "Cans were loaded and double-stacked into every available square inch of space, including vegetable crispers and meat drawers. The result (drum roll, please): Beer fridge held eight 24-packs, two six-packs and one can in the butter receptacle on the inside of the door." Beer fridge still serves well, but some of its space has been devoted to milk and soda "as the excesses of youth have deferred to the wisdom of age."

LOU A. MURPHY

{ Sunbeam Mixmaster }

"My Sunbeam Mixmaster, bought in the early 1970s, is 'avocado green,' a horrible reminder of the worst color choice ever made by the designers of home appliances," says Lou A. Murphy of Kenneth City. "I keep hoping it'll quit working so I can justify buying a new one in a decent color, but it refuses to expire, even with no maintenance whatsoever."

CLARE GREENE

{ Osterizer blender }

Clare Greene of St. Petersburg says the Oster company built a blender to last by keeping things simple. Her blender, an Osterizer Model 10 likely from the '40s or '50s and known as the Beehive, has definite signs of wear, she says, but otherwise works just fine. "Here's the kicker: It has only ONE SPEED. Those folks at Waring must have lain awake nights trying to think of short verbs to describe their many buttons: Mix, Chop, Stir, Mince, Dice, Puree, etc. Not necessary. On/Off, that's it, and I've never needed more. Oster introduced the Retro Beehive recently, which is the same basic design, but in colors and with TWO speeds. Tempting, but no thanks."

EDWINA TATE

{ GE Americana stove/oven }

"My GE Americana avocado green stove/oven can only be described as a relic of the '60s that has stood the test of time," says Edwina Tate of Pinellas Park. "You wanted to know how I keep my beloved appliance working. I must admit that I am contributing to its long life simply by not cooking, which works out very well for me."

P.B. DABAGIAN

{ Hamilton Beach Mixette }

P.B. Dabagian of St. Pete Beach says she picked up her 1948 Hamilton Beach F51 Mixette for 50 cents at a Salvation Army thrift store in the early 1970s. An overheating cord indicated something was wrong in the late '80s, but "once brought to the attention of my scientist/electronic engineer husband, this simple beater became his pet project. Over the years he has replaced the power cord, rewired the electronic components, tuned up the motor and greased all moving parts. . . . I will never have a chance at getting a new beater. Hopefully he doesn't attach himself to my vacuum cleaner — I really want a new one!"

JANE URBAN

{ Toaster }

New appliances often have appeal because of sleek or unusual design, but it would be hard to match this funky toaster owned by Jane Urban of Clearwater. "This toaster is still a member of my kitchen appliances after more than 80 years of service," she writes. "I remember it being used as I was growing up in the '20s and '30s. We also used it on our trips around the country to prepare a quick breakfast in the motel."

KELLI P. LINEBERGER

{ Sunbeam toaster }

Kelli P. Lineberger says her parents, Margaret and Rod Post, received their Sunbeam toaster as a wedding gift in 1960 and it did its job effortlessly, year after year. Then, she writes, "long story short, I inherited the toaster, not through death, but divorce." It lived with Kelli and her family in their Driftwood home in St. Petersburg until Margaret and Rod realized they belonged together after all. "They remarried after 20 years — after being married to others — equaling about 40 toaster years after their original nuptials. What could be a more fitting gift, but to give them the toaster?"

NANCY SCHLERETH

{ GE oven }

The 1950s General Electric oven owned by Nancy Schlereth of Clearwater came with the house and keeps running, even though she gives it no special care or maintenance. Which is far better than her treatment of her glass-top stove.

"Funny thing is, it seems to take care of itself. It even caught fire, yet it lives on. One must consider all its eccentricities when you bake anything in it, seeing as it has a mind of its own. My husband is very set in his ways and he swears by the old rule, 'why fix it if it ain't broke,' meaning we won't be getting a new oven until this one dies. But somehow I don't have the heart to kill it like I killed my glass-top stove, which by the way, would not die, even with a large hammer. Apparently General Electric did something right."

REV. FREDRICK S. BALDWIN

{ GE electric toaster }

For the past 30 years, the Rev. Fredrick S. Baldwin of Tampa and his sister, Elizabeth Ross, in Syracuse have shared a 1930 Sunbeam GE Model B electric toaster that has been in their family since it was purchased nearly 80 years ago. "It is in perfect working order, has outlasted dozens of other modern toasters, still makes the BEST toast, and the only thing we have had to do is replace the cord once. About every two years, we wrap it up and send it as a Christmas present to each other."

LINDA BREWER

{ RCA television }

"I have a 33-year-old RCA TV that I absolutely love," writes Linda Brewer of Seminole. "My parents bought it when they moved here in 1976. The picture is crystal clear and the sound is perfect. My friends make fun of it when they see it, but I don't care. I don't have it on all the time, so maybe that's the key to its longevity."

MAGGIE HALL

{ Supermax hair dryer }

Maggie Hall of Dunedin, who still uses her 1970s Clairol True to Light VIII mirror to get ready each day, wrote to us about her Supermax hair dryer by Gillette, purchased about 1973. Though she now uses it rarely because she no longer blow-dries her hair ("it's another century after all"), she says it works great. Her camera phone? Not so much. "I tried taking a photo of these old reliables this morning, but wouldn't you know that the newfangled phone I have now malfunctioned and I never got the shot. If I still had my Kodak Instamatic with the flashbulb cubes, I could have sent you the photo in another week or so."

JENNY ST. JOHN

{ Freezer }

"I have a small chest-style freezer that I can find no date on, but it was in my mother-in-law's garage when I married her son in 1966 and it was not new then," says Jenny St. John. "The main reason I've held on to it is that it is the only outright gift the woman ever gave me and that's because she thought it was so old and worn out. That was 15 years ago — and it works just fine."

Old faithfuls: Trusty appliances stand the test of time 05/22/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 4:48pm]

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