Putting the squeeze on
WAY BACK, WHEN MY job seemed to be lugging an eighty pound (36 KG) box of tools behind a guy who smoked often and explained little, I began to notice a pattern. Almost every plumbing job required the use of one particular set of pliers, which Boss called the 430’s. These side-jaw pliers were of a size that fit nicely around the trap nut on a kitchen sink drain, with many uses in addition. One could squeeze, bend, pry, hammer, support, scoop, and more with these pliers. Multiple jaw widths were possible with these tongue-and-groove, slip-joint pliers.
After I finally began buying Craftsman tools for the lifetime warranty, I asked, “Why doesn’t Craftsman make a similar product?”. Simple. A tradesman could buy one set of each size,
and never have to buy another. As it is, the original Channellock, patented in 1934, will last the typical plumber for several years before replacement is necessary. And the 5th generation of the DeArment family, still running the private company founded 1886 in Evansburg, Pennsylvania by George B. DeArment, has a great warranty, if there should be something amiss.
Channellock Pliers Model 430 • The Perfect Gift
LOTS OF PEOPLE MY age grew up when Friday night meant Rockford on the television. All the kids would lay on the floor, with the adults upon the chairs and couches. Together, we would watch Jim get himself into a mess, and then connive and wriggle himself back out of it. And solve the case to boot, although payment for services rendered was often absent.
James Garner was more than Jim Rockford. His biggest accomplishment may have been his marriage, leaving Lois Fleishman Clarke Garner a widow less than a month before their 58th wedding anniversary . His driving skills with Formula One race cars in Grand Prix, a 1966 film, could have led to a successful racing career. Jim did his own stunts, which is particularly rough on one’s body.
I’ll remember Jim Garner as a guy who didn’t give up.
James Garner and Steve McQueen with director John Sturges on the set of The Great Escape, 1963
The last place on earth one ever wants to buy a beach chair is at the beach. When you have a business open four months a year, markup has to cover the lean months. Naturally, being the prepared, forward-thinking individual I am, a week at a beach resort would find me in want of nothing other than food and drink.
However, a few years back, catastrophe struck. The comfortable but old chair I’d used for a decade popped its rivets, tore it’s seams, and was condemned to the rubbish barrel. To keep peace in a crowded, loud, sandy environment, I agreed to purchase a replacement.
Miles from any decent department store, we ventured into a local Everything Store to see if I’d need a payday loan to fund a replacement chair. Not surprisingly, options were limited. Plenty of cheap, flimsy imported garbage. A limited selection of sturdy but expensive domestic production. Time is money and the decision was easy. Hoy’s 5 & 10¢ would be able to pay their taxes through the winter.
For an extra $35, I could buy a sturdy, USA-made product. For the price of a couple of pizzas, I’d support a family business near the New York – Vermont border. A tradition of excellent manufacturing stretching back generations, offering employment in design, fabrication, marketing, and shipping. As well as the Five & Dime (established 1935) getting their cut.
Looking back, the purchase was an excellent decision. Six seasons have been kind to the chair, and my purchase price was about half the current list price. Buy once, cry once.
Planned Obsolescence. The manufacturer’s credo. Just about the time a pair of shoes begin to feel perfect, they fall apart. Without need, there is no demand. The decision-making process to buy will not exist.
A sales position beckoned after an injury forced me to take a break from rigorous tradesman labors. The product formerly installed would now, through new skills taught by Sales Training Managers, be sold (by me) for others to install. I breezed through instruction, and two weeks later hit the pavement running. And running. And running. Until my dress shoes fell apart. The old adage, “Wanna be a success, start your day with a decent breakfast and a good shine on your shoes” was not quite working, with the upper detached from the sole. The other salesmen started calling me Flappy.
Decades of living finally produced one new thought. Shoes start to fall apart just when they begin to feel really comfortable. So began the decision-making process with me. I was to become a buyer of premium-quality shoes. The salesmen saw me coming!
I choose Alden of New England, shoes made since 1884 in Massachusetts. They are recraftable, a construction that is designed to allow rebuilding. Which I’ve done once so far; the shoes came back looking, literally, brand new. Most importantly, Alden is an American company that stands behind their work. When a bit of stitching came loose, I posted the shoes back to Alden with a note, and they came back repaired and shined up, no charge.
You get what you pay for. Premium shoes feel better on your feet, and, with care, will last for decades. Run the numbers and you’ll see, it is less expensive to buy quality.
Alden is now the only original New England shoe and bootmaker remaining of the hundreds who began so long ago. Still a family owned business, still carrying forward a tradition of quality genuine-welted shoemaking that is exceptional in every way.
TREKKING THROUGH THE WILDS of colonial Philadelphia on a sweltering summer morning, one comes to appreciate the offering of a cool Italian soda in a chic café. Americans are inured to pleasures a quality soda-pop over ice in a clean glass may produce, but there was a time when the drinking of sugary carbonated beverages was not taken for granted. Planning and location dictated when one could “grab a Coke”, as a soda bar at the Pharmacy was the de facto sole supplier of these addictive, rejuvenating beverages.
When I tumbled through the doors of Old City Coffee one particularly hot July morning, I thought first of an iced coffee. An ultra-hip hipster, arranging bottles of flavored syrup behind the counter, had another idea. “How about an Italian soda?”, he suggested, nodding to a leaving customer. I’d never tried one, assuming factory-bottled sodas to be superior. But the look of delight on an exiting customer’s face as she tasted her fruity concoction seemed endorsement enough.
“I’ll take one of those”, I asked, pointing to Miss Red Fizzy Drink. The Hip Barristo poured a finger of raspberry syrup into a cup, added a bottle of Pellegrini, ice, and capped it. “Here you go. Two-fifteen, please”. And what did I get for two bucks?
A refreshing fruity soda made with quality seltzer water, pure cane sugar, and natural raspberry flavor. Most stimulating, I assure you! A little syrup research reveal’s a company history dating to 1912 in Bourges, France. Within years, the Monin family is shipping around the world. 1996, Tampa Florida, sees construction of a plant to supply all of the Americas. This French company producing a quality soda syrup in the USA earns an American Toolbox Five Thumbs Up recognition!
AMERICAN TOOLBOX USUALLY LEAVES women’s clothing reviews to others. Let’s face it, we’ve never reviewed woman’s clothes nor intended to. But while watching a yoga attendee gleefully unwrap and model her latest purchase at the local Stretch’s Studio, I noted two items: the material was very nice, and among the labeling materials was the tag. MADE IN USA / FABRIQUÉ AUX É.U.
Not all of PRANA’s products are made here, so if you’re particular, check the label. Sometimes the material is domestic but not the assembly. The yoga wrap I saw was USA-made with partially recycled polyester fabric blended with organic cotton. The yogee gushed to her friends over the silky smoothness against her skin. Made me want to try one. Almost.
The Julz Burnout wrap from prAna offers a great cover-up before or after yoga practice.
2300 BLOCK OF NAUDAIN STREET, PHILADELPHIA: In the wee hours of May 1st, 2014, a complaint of carbon monoxide went out to the Philadelphia Fire Department. Within an hour, the block was evacuated. Then came the explosion and 3-alarm fire.
No one died, but homes were completely destroyed. Several people lost EVERYTHING except the clothes on their backs. Pajamas & slippers, actually. Within my news-vacuum, two weeks passed before I got the news: Friends of long acquaintance had lost their home. Photos, clothes, dishes, Christmas ornaments. Mementos, furniture, computers, tools.
Wait, did I hear the word “Tools”? Yep, it appears that, after an initial well-received gift of an old black-and-white photo, a jazz CD, a favorite cookbook, and a couple of crystal tumblers, there were still items of great import we could give to our friends.
For this couple starting over, I chose the canvas version of a tool pouch previewed earlier on American Toolbox, along with a mint-condition vintage Sears Craftsman Slim Tape – 8′. Perfect for checking the size of an armchair or bookcase, and slim enough to disappear in a pocket.
Quality tools: the gift that keeps on giving.