The Vintage Life!July 6th, 2013 by Diane Fish
Vintage is in…totally. There are etsy shops, tag sales, Facebook pages, storefronts, museums, ..all dedicated to vintage wares and lifestyles. You can hardly turn around without bumping into an instagram photo of a toddler in a wading pool taken yesterday but looking for all the world like circa 1974. I get it – because I love the kitschy, whimsical, and fun bits and pieces of a life gone by! But while it takes us back to a simpler time, remember there was no etsy, Facebook or instagram then! Those orange floral dresses and bouffant hairdo’s were real life! We lived it and wore it and worse yet, thought it was hip and tasteful!
On the farm we have lots of vintage stuff as well – the 1930s vintage Allis Chalmers tractor that belonged to my father-in-law, the 1960s vintage International B-414 tractor that belonged to my dad …. and the 1980s vintage Isuzu pickup with more than 300,000 miles on it that my husband loves and refuses to part with. Now, the tractors have both been rebuilt and run well. As for the Isuzu, well it runs, but not well. The seat is sagging, the floorboards are leaky and when you turn on the heater/defroster the cab fills with an obnoxious blass of antifreezy air that promptly fogs up all the windows (which rather defeats the whole “defrost” function!) I think that there must be a hole in the heater core. All this makes rather entertaining driving during the winter.
Old stuff on farms is nothing new. Years ago when we were making hay down in Lewis County at my mother’s farm my son had a friend come and spend a couple of days. James and Trent were about 10 or 11 and thought they were in heaven. Haymaking took several weeks so we moved the entire family down to the farm and the kids enjoyed long summer days playing while the men made hay and I cooked and drove tractor! My mom still owned my father’s old pick up truck and we used it for pulling wagons and short trips into town for tractor parts and the like. It was the quintessential farm truck – dented, smelly, even more beat up than the Isuzu. Someone had removed the bench seat and replace it with bucket seats – that were sort of attached to the frame of the truck but came adrift occasionally – just often enough to make turning corners a bit interesting! The person sitting in the middle perched on a block of firewood with an old pillow on it. In defense of the mechanic who made the change – he did leave the seatbelts in it!
James and Trent (who was probably sitting in the middle at the time!) and I made a run into town one day and as we were sitting at the stop sign (Toledo doesn’t have a stop light!) waiting to turn and head home Trent said, “Mrs. Fish, why does everyone here drive junky trucks?” I looked around town and sure enough, there were more than a couple farm trucks parked along the street! I explained that farm trucks work hard and don’t always get taken care of the best but they run just fine. The contrast between vehicles on the farm and in the ‘burbs was pretty noticeable – even for a 10 year old – but because of the need to be thrifty every bit of use and life was squeezed out of vehicles and machinery! And, when it didn’t run anymore chances were it got parked out back where it became part of the “strategic reserve” and stripped for parts.
This spring my mother had a stroke and had to leave the farm where she has lived since 1978. We stopped making hay on the place about 10 years ago when it was divided up into five-acre parcels and sold for building lots. Now, the neighbors still mow the old hay field with John Deere tractors – only they are lawn tractors instead. Cleaning out Mom’s house was a bitter sweet experience. So many lovely memories of summers in the shade of the huge oak trees, long hours spent exploring the woods and swimming in the river, the sweet smell of hay as you entered the barn to feed the cattle during the winter. It was sort of like a bit of July during the cold, wet months of winter. My middle son was especially sad about her leaving the farm and the apple trees that he loved to climb in and so we are going to get some scion wood from them in the spring and visit the Peninsula Fruit Club‘s spring grafting show! We will plant the new apple trees in our orchard and perhaps our grandkids will get as much pleasure from them!
As I was packing up the bits and pieces of her life I thought a great deal about the current fascination with vintage items. Since my mother embodied the adage “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without!” her entire life was vintage! However, rather than being displayed on a shelf or being a “decorator accent” these items were used every day! All her pyrex dishes and bowls were chipped and stained – not museum pieces but kitchen workhorses that served thousands of meals for her family. There was precious little to send to thrift stores or garage sale. It was all worn out! I packed up a few boxes of keepsakes and precious mementos, but there was very little worth saving. I kept her recipe books, a few dishes and heirlooms, and some linens. In the bottom of the kitchen towel drawer I came across a few worn but serviceable items. One homemade muslin dishtowel had a bric-a-brac trim sewed on by Mom years ago. I brought it home along with a couple of others – and put them in my towel drawer – because these things were made to be used, not just displayed on a shelf.