Bills Are Rising, And So Is My Mailbox

Clifton Adams 1935

This Little Fork, Minnesota farmer was tired of state road plows burying his mailbox beneath 10 foot drifts. So he used his noggin and attached the mailbox to a log boom, resembling an old-fashioned well sweep.

“Kerbey, what’s a well sweep?” you may be asking.

Per http://galleryatwellsweep.com,

A well sweep is a device used to bring water up from a well. The term “sweep” refers to the long pole which is lowered until the bucket on the end goes down into the well and fills with water. Because the pole is anchored in the middle on another pole, creating a fulcrum, it can be counter balanced, thus making it easy to raise the pole, and lift the bucket from the well.

And never confuse a fulcrum with a philtrum–that groove above your lip that Millennials pierce.

On The Radio

“I Remember Distinctly”

The two ladies above are listening to the FIRST factory-built radio made for entertainment: a 1921 Westinghouse. Did you know that radios initially required headphones?

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A year prior, in 1920, Dr. Frank Conrad, while experimenting in a Pittsburgh barn, discovered that wireless enthusiasts enjoyed listening to the phonograph records that he put on the air, and the rest…is history! Except that we need the actual history to understand.

If he put music on “the air,” did that mean radio stations weren’t already playing music? Well, let’s ask Wikipedia. Conrad began work at Westinghouse Electrical & Manufacturing at 16 in 1900. At 23, he moved up to their test department, where he invented the circular-type watt-hour meter, over 30 million of which were in use by 1937. He would eventually be awarded over 200 patents throughout his life. But it was in 1916 that he installed a radio station in a two-story garage. It used a spark-transmitter, which could only be used to transmit Morse code. So no music.

When the US entered WWI in 1917, all civilian radio stations were silenced. But Conrad, working for Westinghouse, spent his time developing radio technology, using vacuum-tube transmitters, and inventing a wind-driven generator. Two years later, when the radio ban was lifted in October, he resumed his experimental station and was able to entertain other local amateurs by playing phonograph records.

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As interest grew, he adopted a schedule of music. In 1920, Pittsburgh’s own Joseph Horne Dept Store began selling radios, aka “wireless receiving stations” to listen to “air concerts.” It didn’t take long for Westinghouse to construct its own broadcast station and sell receivers for this free entertainment.

The first radio station, KDKA, opened on November 2, 1920. Initially a tent on a roof, it soon became the indoor studio you see below (the tent kept insisting on blowing away). Draperies covered the ceiling and walls to prevent reverberation. A disk hanging below the upper end of the slanting bar was called “the enunciator” (which we now call a microphone). Early listeners used crystal detectors in tubeless receiving sets, but the development of the vacuum tube expanded the radio audience significantly.

Soon entertainers were asked to provide music for radio stations.

Young people especially were excited by the new technology, and competitors soon crept in. This Crosley model was advertised at $3.75.

“Oh, boy! There’s London! Last night I had Honolulu, and the night before that Porto [sic] Rico.  Here’s where I get Rome. This Crosley sure does bring ’em in. There’s nothing like a Crosley.”

In 1928, Dr. Conrad received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Not until age 66 did he retire from Westinghouse, having spent his entire life in radio. He received many awards for his work, including the 1930 Edison Medal “for his contributions to radio broadcasting and short wave radio transmission,” and the 1936 Lamme Medal “for pioneering and basic developments in the fields of electric metering and protective services.” The next time you flick your radio on, pause for a moment and think of Dr. Conrad, shown below.

I Remember Distinctly

Creature Comforts of 1928

As I write to you on this sweltering, oppressive August day, I find two words most lovely: frigid air. Indeed, frigid air has been welcome since Frigidaire was founded 103 years ago.

God bless frigid air, the choice of the majority. Such a democratic institution, nestled in its own kitchen nook.

But they didn’t have the monopoly on fridges. Behold the GE model, where all four food groups fit just swell–even wine, which was illegal to sell.

No drain-pipe? Sign me up! Drain pipes are the worst! But you know what’s the best? Running water. You should try it. It’s a “boon to health and pleasure.” You better believe it, sister. Simply turn the handle and PRESTO, legit water appears!

And now that you’ve got water at your whim, how about covering up that hideous radiator?

Me, I’m from Texas, so I’ve never seen a radiator in the wild. Seems like a hazard to me. I’d prefer real wood furniture instead of metal. You know–the kind that could use a nice coating of O-Cedar Polish.

Goodness, she looks happy to be polishing! And that smart bob prevents hair from falling into her eyes. I bet she can see her own reflection.

But what’s this? By the time she gets to the banister, she appears more reticent, withdrawn. Her wrist aches from rubbing.

After all that polishing, Pearl might need a coffee break. But it’s 3pm! It would keep her up all night. Nope, not with Kaffee Hag, which sounds like Cliff Clavin is pronouncing it. Kaffee Hag lets all you hags sleep.

I think I’d rather be a “Pepper, too” than a Kaffee Hag, truth be told. But what a bargain, it is!

Now that you’ve got the inside of your domestic arena addressed, what about the outside? Your coffee may be unleaded, but your roof tiles shouldn’t be.

Leadclad was clad with lead. Only the finest toxins available with exotic Spanish appeal. Ole! Now all that’s left to do is trim that grass. And that’s not Pearl’s domain; that’s Walter’s. So while Pearl massages her aching wrists, Walter needs only a twist of his.

Well, now you’re set, folks! You’re up to date and ready for company!

Why We Didn’t Keep Our Old PC’s

Cactus 1987

This picture says it all. Get a load of this atrocity. Look at the angles, the depth of product, requiring a solid foot from teensy screen to drywall. Who would bother to keep this dinosaur when new technology arrived? Not me.

Some people still have their old phones (a Nokia that fits in your palm) or their old cameras (I still have my old Nikon) or maybe their old camcorders from the pre-digital world. But I don’t know anyone who kept their personal computer relics from the 80s, 90s, or even the Oughties. Now, I am certain there are plenty of computer peeps who hold on to them (and hoarders who just. can’t. let. go.), but again, I don’t know them. Beige paint on the walls isn’t even acceptable anymore; how could one stare at a beige computer?

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In the same 1987 Cactus yearbook, you can see this student studying at what looks to be a computer terminal. You can bet your bippy this was beige as well. No Windows. Was there a prompt screen?

The RTF (radio/tv/film) dept was cutting edge. Back then, it didn’t stand for Residential Treatment Facility. But surely some of the RTF majors I knew are now in one.

RTF grading its district speaker series

You can see how it was a precursor to today’s Communication Dept at the University of New Haven. Much snazzy, as Engrish would say.

Still, at the time, all personal computers seemed pretty rad.

all gifs from giphy.com

With a little coaching from the Big Boss, even girls could do it.

Speaking of girls, a contestant on Ellen’s show yesterday didn’t know how to identify what she was handed in the game of Millennials vs Boomers. It was a floppy disk. Even once identified, she didn’t believe Ellen. I guess Millennials don’t know a floppy from a hard. Remember the write protection notch?

Let’s all be glad for the death of the beige and the modern ease of use for a world that demands personal computer use daily (even if it’s inside your phone). Cheers to that!

Commodore 64