Category Archives: Thrift shop finds

Best of ’68

caravelle-transistorized-watch-ad-1968

In 1968 I was with my Dad wandering around on our summer holiday in Lake Placid. I hated the place. There was nothing to do but swim, walk around town, or take a boat out, all of them by myself. There were no kids my age except twits at figure skating camp, and they were a closed group. Beside, I was a hockey player and thought boys that figure skated were weird. Perhaps my Dad took pity on me, because for no reason we went into the jewellery shop and he bought me a Bulova Accutron. At the time it was the most accurate watch, and the one used on Apollo missions! I still have that watch, and it works fine, 49 years later. However, it takes a mercury battery, and they are obsolete. If you want a battery for an Accutron now you have to pay $12 plus shipping. As wonderful as the watch is, I’m not so keen that I’d spend $15 or more to run a watch for a year, after which it would need another battery, etc, etc. I have too many other watches to wear. Recently I picked up another one for $4 at a thrift shop:

Caravelle 1968 "transistorized"

Caravelle 1968 “transistorized”

Yep, the same watch as in the advert up top. Made in 1968 or thereabouts, this was the cheaper baby sister to the Accutron, and it has a Japanese made movement made by Citizen. This is a hybrid between a regular windup watch and an all electric one, having a complete movement minus power spring. Instead of a spring it has a tiny motor. The battery is a standard 1.5 volt affair, still available today. I opened the watch and removed the dead battery which may well have been the original one, since it had the name Caravelle engraved right on it! For $2 I got a pack of 5 alkaline cells, and installed one in the watch. At first it didn’t run, but that was due to the bottom of the cell shorting out against the innards. I put tape on the base of the battery and cut a small slot for the contact, then replaced it in the watch. It started up and has been keeping perfect time ever since. It ticks like a windup watch, too. The question is, which watch proved to be the better one in the long run?

Here’s the Accutron. It said waterproof, and it was – I swam with it for years. I wish I could get a cheap battery for it.

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Accutron 214, 1968

no stem, it's on the back

no stem, it’s on the back!

Which brings me to another recent piece of 1968 technology that lives on and on and on…

1968 Olympia SF

1968 Olympia SF

I took the shell off to clean and adjust this one. The automatic ribbon reversal mechanism on the right side was jamming so the ribbon would get taut at the end and not reverse. After some examination I saw the problem, and fixed it by filing off the point on the plate  attached to the ribbon flipper, so it no longer hit the arm it was supposed to push over and thereby flip ribbon direction. Aside from that I blew out the dust and gave it a spray of silicone lube. It’s from Britain, and has many fractions but no exclamation mark. How British – no exclamations… only stiff upper lips, hmmm? I get great results with Olympia portables (the baby ones) by using old mylar ribbons. I drop the spool onto one side and thread the ribbon onto the opposite spool without going through the flipper gates. Half the mylar will fill up one regular empty spool, after which it can be turned over and reused on the bottom section. I’ve tried mylar on some other typewriters and it doesn’t work well on every machine, but works perfectly on these.

mylar ribbon

mylar ribbon

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Filed under Technology, Thrift shop finds, Typewriters, Watches

Fiacre’s Fork

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We visited the garden last week to look again at the plot and think about what would have to be done to get it ready for planting. Margie said we needed a pitchfork. Then we got to talking about the patron saint of gardeners, St. Fiacre. He’s also the patron saint of taxi drivers from an odd twist of fate having to do with where taxis used to come from in Paris, near the Church of St. Fiacre. Fiacre was born in Ireland in the 9th century, and his brother and he both became saints. So we began joking about St. Fiacre, as if he might be listening.

Jokingly about divine intervention we hit a few thrifts but didn’t see one pitchfork, although I did see an alpine ice axe. As we left I noticed a man buying it. No serious mountaineer would trust his life to a used ice axe; that I am certain of, as I am also certain the man was therefore no serious mountaineer. That made me wonder what he was going to do with it. Maybe he had a garden and planned to use the cutting end to hoe at the earth? Was he too seeking a pitchfork?

We checked out two stores where they sold new pitchforks. The first was $25, but M thought it was very heavy. I held it in my hands and had a look at it. On the fork part was stamped the word ‘Austria’. The handle was oak, and very thick. It was heavy duty, for sure. Next door a garden shop had one for $60. The handle was oak, but stained. I looked at the fork and there was the word ‘Austria’ stamped into the steel. This is the same tool with some more varnish, I said, hanging it back on the wall. They’re both too heavy, Margie said. I want one that’s lighter, the sort I remember from long ago. We came home with a bag of seed potatoes and a garden gnome. Later, Margie went to another garden supplier that had another heavy pitchfork for $100.

She went off to sing with friends and I went out to do errands. I decided to go down to the big thrift shop that’s always open. I hadn’t been there in a week due to the snow we had here, so it was time for a look see anyhow. I walked down to the back and saw a large cardboard barrel in which there were some shovels. Then I saw a cultivator. Thinking that might do for turning up dirt I lifted it out of the barrel, and saw that it was $5. Not bad, I had one useful gardening tool. There were several shovels too, nice ones, but we didn’t need any, so I resisted purchasing a cheap shovel.

Then I had one last look, and saw a red D handle of something that I assumed was probably an edger. I grabbed that and lifted it up when to my delight I recognized the prongs of a pitchfork, just like the one that stood in the corner of my parents’ garage 50 years ago. True Temper was stamped on the shaft, which was oak, but much thinner than those we’d already seen and rejected. The fork itself was lighter, too, with tines chamfered to reduce weight and make it easier to plunge into soil. The whole thing was half the weight of the modern ones we’d seen. It was $6. I decided to look where the others had been stamped, and there I saw the word ‘Eire’. Ireland, birthplace of St. Fiacre. In honour of our good fortune we named the new gnome Fiacre.

Bienstock, Einstein & Fiacre

Bienstock, Einstein & Fiacre

By the way, it’s not really a pitchfork, it’s a garden fork. The devil carries a pitchfork. It’s probably stamped ‘Austria’.

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Irish potato fork

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Filed under Books and Short Stories, Gardening, Thrift shop finds

www.Wine, Wallabies & Wombats

Quick quiz: what comes from Australia? Not what lives there, what leaves there! Can’t think of anything? Nor can I, except wine and souvenir boomerangs. If one were to look on the bottom of most every manufactured item in our house, I wager none of them would have the word Australia. So we were truly amazed when on Saturday, drifting through the thrift shop next to the Mediterranean grocery store (nothing from Australia in there to be sure), my wife picked up an unfamiliar looking tin cylinder with lids top and bottom. Fastened around the tin with a rubber band was a label bearing a recipe for nut loaf. The lids were embossed with the trade name “Willow” and the word Australia, as well as “NUT LOAF” and dimensions in m/m, Australian for millimetres.

Willow Nut Loaf 170 m/m x 80 m/m

Willow Nut Loaf 170 m/m x 80 m/m

A web search turned up the key to the mystery. Willow nut loaf tins were an Australian phenomenon, made to bake tiny nut loaves, usually two at a time according to the amount of ingredients in most recipes. The printed recipe on the paper was in fact wrong, as it didn’t have the necessary sugar but instead had walnuts listed twice. Never minding this, we baked a nut loaf following the web sourced instructions. Surprise – it was excellent; the recipe worked to perfection.

delicious nut loaf

delicious nut loaf

Sadly, the Willow Company no longer has a nut loaf tin among their many cooking tins. Perhaps this explains why this item is so rare, at least in these parts. Neither of us had ever seen or heard of a nut loaf tin, and that would necessarily include mothers and grandmothers, too, proof positive of its rarity. Good luck finding one; I further wager it will be another lifetime before one of these turns up in these parts, especially in like new condition. There are some for sale out there, so if you’re curious and collect unusual kitchenware, go for it. But don’t go to Australia; they don’t make them there anymore!

the lid(s)

the lid(s)

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Filed under Cooking, Thrift shop finds

The Caravan Royal

Hurry your highness, the peasants are revolting!

Early Royal Caravan

Early Royal Caravan

Royalty don’t travel in caravans, unless fleeing the country. However, that never stopped the use of the word Royal from being applied to caravans, or any other thing. Here’s yet another example:

Royal Caravan: the typewriter

Royal Caravan: the typewriter

I picked this up last week. It’s a variant of a fairly common typewriter known as the Adler or Triumph, Tippa or Contessa, and of course Royal Caravan. It types well and is full featured with basket shift and tabs. Royal typewriter had a previous version that was not portable, although they always call these things portables:

Royal Caravan as used by Bob Dylan

Royal Caravan as used by Bob Dylan in the 60’s

The term “Royal Caravan” does not return the typewriter very high on the search results unless you specify the word “typewriter” however. The most interesting Royal Caravans in my mind seem to be travel trailers – here’s the most well known example:

Buckingham Palace Collection

Buckingham Palace Collection

This one was presented to Prince Charles and Princess Ann in 1955 when they were short enough to get through the door. It’s a miniature version.

no peeking at the royal children please!

no peeking at the royal children please!

There are other Royal Caravans, too:

hotel in Indonesia

hotel in Indonesia

Here’s a famous user of the latest clone, presuming from the source that it is Kubrick typing on one of the yellow iterations of the Adler/Triumph/Royal/Tippa/Contessa/Caravan.

Kubrick I presume?

Kubrick I presume?

You will see many of these on Etsy for way too much, but it seems that yellow and orange are now popular retro-nostalgia colours!

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Filed under Thrift shop finds, Typewriters, Uncategorized

Have You Heard About the Herd?

While looking through cards  in the recipe box I recently found, I came across a few pieces of paper. One of them was folded into six and inside was a recipe for Baked Beans. What was more interesting however, was what was written on the back.

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Woody Herman’s autograph, in pencil!

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I had a look on the internet and it closely resembles a number of examples of Woody’s autograph, leading me to believe it’s the real thing. I simply can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be. But why was it on the back of a baked beans recipe?

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Here’s one of my Woody Herman LP’s, with many familiar classic swing era tunes. Woody was one of the top band leaders of the day, and once had Dizzy Gillespie as an arranger! The first Herman band was known as The Band That Played the Blues, but later they were called The Herd.

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I know what I’ll be listening to later today, perhaps over a plate of baked beans…

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Mother’s Pie Crust

ye olde recipe boxe

ye olde recipe boxe

I’ve been looking for one of these  for some time. My mother had one similar, but with a tartan pattern and beige brown lid. It too was stuffed full of mostly handwritten recipes. I venture this came from the 50’s, judging by the handwriting (tiny and perfect) and the business card stuck inside, which has a phone number that begins with letters (GR in this case). Having searched most of the cards I’ve only found one that was typewritten, and of course it is clear and easily understood. It looks to be elite (12 cpi), but from what machine? The stasi would have known these things! For those who might be making pies for the holidays, here is that recipe. Note the hopeful suggestion about fingers crossed.

pastry-recipe

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Filed under Typewriters, Thrift shop finds, Cooking

Shiny Black Things

Shiny black thing 1

Volkwagen

Seen last summer

Streamliner

Streamliner

Seen today

Can’t afford either one! OK, maybe the Remington, but $130? I have a Deluxe Model 5 already…I think it was $25.

Oh to be on the road in my VW with my Streamliner beside me on the seat, typing as I drive along. Ridiculous, you say? Yes, but how many people died because some idiot was typing while driving? My guess, very very few. How may have died because some idiot was talking, texting, or browsing their smartphone? My guess, thousands. Once again, the typewriter proves its worth.

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Filed under Street photography, Thrift shop finds, Typewriters, Uncategorized, Vintage cars