Custom Search

Sunday, February 22, 2009

For the Love of Old Things

There are reasons to love old things ...

Some of my most precious possessions are nearly as old or older than me. Considering I am almost 50, I guess your could call them antiques or, at least, vintage.

Take my stapler, for example, made in the 1950s by Speed Products of Long Island, NY. It is heavy and clunky looking, but it is made of sturdy metal, still works, rarely jams and looks great on my bookcase next to my vintage copies of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and “The Prince and the Pauper.”

My wooden desk chair is also mid-century and has the nicks and scratches, and a worn leather seat to prove it. Even though I sometimes worry about falling through the seat, I wouldn't trade it for a brand new $1,500 Herman Miller.

The pencil-holder on my (Pottery Barn circa. 2002) desk is one that I was given at school in the 3rd grade. It twists around to convert standard measurements to the metric system. The tallboy that holds my linens is from the 1940s, and the men’s dressing chest that hides my husband’s favorite “secret compartment” dates to the 1920s. (Even my PowerMac G4 is almost 10 years old, which makes it ancient in computer years.)

Perhaps my love of old things comes from being born when my family lived in an old wooden farmhouse that was built in the 1880s. Or seeing the gentle way my gruff farmer father handled his old metal memory box containing childhood trinkets, including his first nightshirt.

Or maybe it happened later in the 1980s when I worked in an office that used 30-year old IBM electric typewriters, heavy wooden desks and office supplies from the 1950s. It was like stepping back in time every day I went to work. And, oddly, at the age of 23, I found it fascinating.

Just something about knowing that an item or building has history gives me pleasure. I love to watch the classic old Hollywood movies sometimes just to observe the period clothing, furniture and vehicles.

My current home was built in 1952, and though it is older than me it is not from my dream century. In fact, my goal is to live in a house that is at least 100 years old. But our house still has character. And the best part about the house is that it only had one primary owner for almost 50 years. A lady named Mary raised two children in the 1,100 square-foot concrete brick ranch-style home. Can you imagine raising a family in a house this size these days?

Today smaller homes are being torn down to make way for newer structures two or three times their size. Who needs a yard when you have a 1,000-square-foot family room with all the latest and greatest in electronic entertainment?

Regrettably, a piece of Middle America is being lost forever.

Since only one family occupied my home, it didn’t have to go through the renovations and opinions of many owners. It has retained its original crank windows and removable screens, all the beautiful original wood doors, thick oak hardwood floors, and solid built-in wood kitchen cabinets. We even have the original custom-fit metal window blinds -- and still get compliments on them.

It is the love of old things rich with history that draws me to places such as St. Augustine, Florida, Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. But, sadly, most of the “souvenirs” you can buy while visiting these historic landmarks are imported from Asia. How can I treasure a keepsake from a great American city when it’s not even made in America?

Even though it would be nice to be youthful again, I am proud to wear my wrinkles and be able to remember an era when things were constructed well and with pride. Quality craftsmanship, using real materials like wood and copper, created with a built-to-last mentality. People cared for their possessions and didn’t buy them as throwaways. Most things were made by hardworking Americans in small productions, not shipped in massive quantities from some foreign land.

It is hard for me to shop in stores that are stacked to the ceiling with mass-produced merchandise. Somehow that “Made In China” label just doesn’t give me pride of ownership. I worry about all those “things” clogging our landfills instead of resting in a place of distinction on someone’s mantle or bookshelf.

Where will all of those staplers made in Taiwan end up in 50 years? Not on my desk.


  1. Oh Kenda, this is your best yet. I feel the very same way.

  2. I am very impressed! Good job!