Abuzz about electricity | July 20, 2007 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - July 20, 2007

Abuzz about electricity

Historical exhibit shows how new devices changed life for Americans

by Rebecca Wallace

Today's breathless crazes over new technology are by no means new. Ruffle through a 1939 issue of Ladies Home Journal, and there you have the dream of millions, standing proudly upright in an advertisement: the electric vacuum cleaner.

This story contains 854 words.

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Posted by Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2007 at 12:34 pm

I remember a very hot scorching Illinois day about 1932 or 1933 when I heard my Dad call my mother. "Mother, your box is here." A 'box'? How strange. It was an electric Westinghouse refrigerator - stood off the floor on legs - and that was the end of the old wooden 'box' that took ice for refrigeration. These now bring big money. The new one must have cost a fortune during the Great Depression. No more signs in the window for 25# of ice or whatever, which I would flip over and Mom got the wrong mount of ice. But we now could keep milk cold which was delivered daily, and things didn't spoil in the heat. And ice cream, so there must have been a freezer compartment. I remember Mom's Hoover vacuum cleaner. and a a Bissel non-electric carpet cleaner. I remember the neighbor who did her washing outside in the summer - with a vat for hot water, one for bleach, and one for blueing. We had a dirt basement in our 1888 house, so Mom sent her laundry out each week to Weem's Laundry in Quincy, Illinois. I also remember the phone on the wall, party lines, the policeman, Mr. Bruger, who walked the 'beat' during the week, mail twice a day and on Saturdays, and horse drawn milk wagons. We ground up the beef for 'hamburger' and used it immeditely , and I still have the grinder. And chickens were bought the day of use or Saturday for the traditional Sunday dinner. Fried in the summer and baked in the winter. And long lazy summer nights with parents sitting on the front porches and the children playing and "Kick the Can" Mother May I, and Statue. Chasing 'lightening bugs" and drinking "black cows". This is an exhibit I definitely want to see. Thanks for the memories.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 3:15 pm

The youngest son had the duty to empty the drain pan before it overflowed. When he inevitably failed he got to mop up, propelled by harsh words.
In 1938, a friend proudly showed off his new radio that had a small patch of glass in the front for television as soon as it was available.
Another little boy chore was turning the mangle to wring out the clothes or, in families with a maytag, feeding the wet cloths into the wringer without feeding their fingers.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2007 at 5:11 pm

I am always amazed when my kids say things like, wow you had tv back then when you were a child, or wow, how did you manage without electricity. There is the feeling that it was all or none. It is the rotary phones that get them, give one to an average teenager and have fun watching them try to dial their phone number. They just do not have the patience to wait for the dial to do its thing, they want to hurry it or they dial the next number too quickly. Very amusing.