Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The value of experience

Do you know what this is?
45 year old Greenstamp cuckoo
Click on photos for larger view.

If you are getting older like me, you start to wonder when the world passed you by. We were driving north today when we drove past the truck scales in Miranda. One of my CHP friends is the local truck cop. I noticed that he had four big-rigs and a bob-tail truck parked at his truck inspection point. I made the comment to my wife: “Wow, Brian sure has them cold-decked today”. She said: “Has them what? I said: “cold-decked”. She said: “What’s a cold-deck”? I said: “A cold deck, like where they back logs up at a sawmill by stacking them in decks. The newcomers call them log decks but the old-timers called them cold decks”. She said: “How the heck would I know that, I was born in San Jose”. I said: “sigh”.

“Cold decks” were the logs that the mills saved through the summer, so they would be able to make lumber in the winter. “Hot decks” were the logs that were fed into the mill for immediate sawing. I’m telling you that, just in case you were born in San Jose or one of those other far away and exotic places.

I was moving some parts in the shop the other day and ran across an oil can opener and pour spout. I put it in a box to take home, because I change the oil in my rigs at home. It occurred to me that they haven’t put oil in cans for years and that I wouldn’t need the spout. So, what did I do with it? Throw it out? Oh No! I kept it to see how many kids would know what it was. One of the kids that work for us at the store, who is quite an accomplished mechanic in his own right, had no idea what it was. He is 28 years old. Crap, Did the world slide by that fast? I was just using that darn oil can opener a short time ago.

We have a Cuckoo Clock that my wife got with S&H Green Stamps about 45 years ago. It needs a little adjusting from time-to-time to keep it accurate. When it stops all together, I take it apart and clean it. I take the mechanism out of the back and blast it clean with a can of WD-40 with a spout on it. I call it “giving the cuckoo a WD-40 enema.” I wipe it dry again, and it runs as good as new. As the clock got older it would stop ticking due to wear on the gears and shafts. I found that by adding just a few washers the winding weights, it would run just fine. That was about three years ago and it has kept fairly good time ever since.

Now, some people probably wonder why I would keep an old cuckoo clock running, when I have a smart phone in my shirt pocket that has completely accurate time. Well, I guess that it falls in the same category as many other incredibly stupid things that people do. The only answer that I can give is to act as smug as I can be, and say: “If you have to ask, you will never understand”.

When I was working on the clock the other day, it needed a timing adjustment, I asked my wife if she still had any S&H Green Stamps. She said, “Sure. They are in the chocolate box in the kitchen shelves, where I keep all of that kind of stuff”. I grinned and asked her if she got a lot of use out of them. She looked a little blank and walked off. That’s her way of dealing with an uncomfortable question. Being a firefighter, I was trained that every communication requires an acknowledgement. Walking away is not an acknowledgement. So, fools rush in where wise men fear to tread. I insisted that I see the collection of “Green Stamps”. Barely stifling a snicker, for her having saved those worthless Green Stamps, I remembered that I couldn’t throw away the cuckoo clock that she bought with them. Then I remembered the oil spout that I couldn’t throw out. So, I sobered-up my face and started digging though the chocolate box. It was a real trip back.

She had full books Green Stamps, and full books of Blue Chip stamps, still unredeemed, and now, unredeemable. I remember how hard she shopped and worked to fill those stamp books, to try to get us something nice as newlyweds. Our toaster was purchased with Blue Chip stamps. Our silverware came from Betty Crocker box tops. There were a few coins in the bottom of the box. Some old wheatstraw pennies, and some Mercury Head dimes that I had gotten from the pump of an old washing machine that I was repairing for sale in our Appliance store. Along with the stamps and coins were some old Betty Crocker box tops, with the price on them. I remembered when every grocer had a grease-pen that they used to mark the price on the packages. The Betty Crocker Marble Cake mix was 56 cents. Was that a good price back in the early 70s?

I got to thinking how rich and widely diversified our lives were back then. Nowadays, it seems like everybody’s life revolves around a smart-phone. If their phone breaks, they go into apoplexy. What are they going to do for memories? Their lives are digitized and compressed into MP3 files.

We had real music to listen to. The kids today don’t know what good music sounds like. MP3 files only give you 5% of the music, the rest is deleted as un-hearable anyway. However, even with my bad ears, I can hear the degradation. If you really want to hear some good music, you need the listen to a vinyl record with some good earphones. Choose a record like “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers. Now, that was music.


Fred Mangels said...

Seems to me I had one of those old oil spouts around the garage not too long ago. Maybe I still do? I'm trying to remember the last time I bought oil in a can.

We could do worse than to go back the S&H and Blue Chip stamps. Those were neat as you could actually get something once you collected enough. That seems a lot more fun to me than those points the drugstores give you for buying things nowadays.

After you acquire a certain number of points, I believe all it does is qualify you for a discount on something you have to pay yet again for. I'd prefer the stamps.

As far as the smartphones go, not me. Don't own one and couldn't care less about them. I would be in deep trouble, though, if this computer broke down on me.

Ross Rowley said...

Yeah, and there used to be pond monkey's too. And Jitney operators. And choker sett....oh, never mind.

Anonymous said...

How high is a Colombian Black tail deers head while at a full run?


spyrock said...

they never gave me any money back in those days but they let me lick their stamps. i don't remember them ever getting anything with those blue and green stamps. when i used to go to uncle delbert's, counting the railegh coupons was one of the chores they gave the cityslicker as oregon likes to call me or the tenderfoot as in spin and marty. so i counted those raleigh coupons while auntie daisy listened to patsy cline on the radio. auntie daisy had short black hair and a voice like deep black coffee. she had the greatest voice i ever heard. she died from smoking those raleigh cigarettes to get more coupons because you didn't make much money running a dairy in those days. so they had a rodeo every friday night under lights. back in the 50's. my first job using a hot shot pushing cattle up in the shoot. then the barrier. then the flag and the stop watch. auntie daisy was the anouncer up in the booth. team roping. they say that was invented in oakdale by some doctor. but i sort of think it was invented in covelo or somewhere near there in the mountains where the asbills lived. i think the entry fee was $5. had lotsa fun in those days playing ditch in the horse trailers. my first job was the friday night rodeo. man was i blessed.

Ben said...

My wife collects the postcards she has received through the years and uses them as bookmarks. Ray Oakes pointed out, in his column, that postcard are threatened by the smartphones. With a smartphone, you just take a picture (of a redwood) and send it off to your friend's e mail. No more postcards. sigh...

Bunny said...

Ernie, we were the lucky one, don't you think? Don't worry Ben, we still sell lots of local postcards. So far at least. Spy, I hope you are keeping copies of all your posts about the past. You do have a book already written, a very interesting one.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I have a copy of that book that I promised you. (No Charge) It would be easier to ship to you if you would send me your UPS shipping address. (Street Location)

Send your email to:

P.S. Thank you for all of the history and good stories that you have provided us. Just remember the book was written by a blowhard bullshitter, but the real history will blow your socks off!

It will be a great book for you, because you will know all the places and players. If you dont, email me!

I like the fact that you are a decendant of both the whites and the indians of the mid 1850's

skippy said...

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane, Ernie. Those were good days. We saved Blue and Green Chip stamps and changed our own oil like everyone else. We survived inflation as long as you kept working. Life was good. Did we make more money or did things just cost less? Hmmm. Mom stayed at home, Dad worked. Later, both worked ofr us to get by. How things changed:

In 1970 an average new house cost $23,400. By 1979, it was $58,500.

In 1970 the average income per year was $9,350, and by 1979 it was $17,550.

A gallon of gas was 36 cents in 1970. We got squeezed for 86 cents a gallon by 1979. Crooks.

The cost of a new car was $3,900. By 1979 new wheels were $5,770.

Warm Leather-Lined Boots cost $39.99 during the 70s. Sears was a good place for most anything like this. You could buy stuff from the catalog and get it delivered through the mail to your door. That was a hot ticket back in the day.

Medium Eggs were 25 cents per dozen.

A Porcelain Kitchen Sink cost $9.88? Should’ve bought 4 of them.

The Quartz Alarm Clock was $12.97. It didn’t play music but it sure had an annoying buzz.

A Westinghouse 14 cu foot Fridge Freezer was $288.

Transistors were King and vacuum tubes went the way of the dodo. A JVC VHS Video Cassette Recorder was a whopping $695 and a Zenith Television Zenith, 25" color, was $599 in 1976. The RCA 23” model went for $366.88. The rich families in the 'hood got the first color TVs, then the remote-control ones. You either had rabbit ears, or an antenna on the roof you had to move around just right for the 4-5 channels you got, and hopefully, without too much 'snow'.

The CB Radio was the latest thing during the 70s and costing around $147. That was a lot of money. We were impressed by transistor radios most of all. They were the coolest and best deal of all. They, and the batteries, shrunk over time. One day they just disappeared altogether.

A Radio Shack TRS80 Computer cost $399 in 1978. Radio Shack was the greatest place for a kid to see. It still is. All the latest, coolest stuff and gizmos. Electronics got better and smaller. Prices stayed reasonable or went lower over time. All those older electronics would still work just fine today, I bet.

Fred Mangels said...

I had a friend buy a VCR right after they became commercially available. I think that was the very late 70s or early 80s. He just couldn't wait and bought his for over $700.00- a hefty price at the time.

I don't know that it was even a year later that the price dropped dramatically and I bought my first one for something like $200 or $250. My friend was hating it.

I remember when video recording first started being used. I'd see it on TV sports when there'd be a questionable play and the announcer would say, Let's see that again on instant replay.

I couldn't figure out for the life of me how they could replay something so quickly.

Ross Sherburn said...

When I was a little guy,I used to get "cold deck" and "cull deck" mixed up. Sometimes there was a deck of cull logs also!!!

David Mullinax said...

How much is that "Green stamp cuckoo clock" worth? I am taking my Mom's old antique cuckoo clock to a clock repair shop right now for repair. She got that from green stamps back in 1963 and it looks just like the one posted on this blog. Made in the Black Forest.

Elaine said...

I have my dad's cuckoo clock which has was purchased with S&H Green Stamps. One of the weights doesn't "hold" any more and falls straight to the floor. Took it to a clock shop and they wanted $225 to fix it. When I laughed and said that's a lot for a clock bought with stamps, the guy had no idea what I meant. Hahahahahaha One day I will get the nerve and try to repair it myself but until then it still holds a place of honor on the wall. Sure miss the sound, though. Thanks for the memories!