A salute to all veterans of World War II on this day that will live in infamy. We haven't a proper memorial post, so we will take a tangential detour. Today we will talk of toasters.
As prelude, Lisa has a great love for functional things well-constructed, things that abide. Arctic Air oscillating fans, heavy irons and ... toasters. While not possessed of objektophilie and really a minimalist, she likes her few possessions to be of quality.
Her '52 Toastmaster went on the fritz recently and as one cannot find a really decent, stylish toaster for under a buck twenty five (maybe a Russell Hobbs glass toaster but you can't find them stateside at the moment), the solution was to turn to the world's bazaar: eBay.
Surprisingly, there were a slew of toasters from the 1946-52 range from now-defunct manufacturers: Armaid, Camfield, Arvin, Kwikway, Knapp-Monarch, Fostoria, Walter Genter, Nesco, Heatmaster, Manning Bowman, Landers Flary and Clark, McGraw, Son Chief, Rutenber Electric, Royal Rochester, A Mecky, Marion, Chicago Flexible Shaft, and on it went. Sharp, architectural, stylish -- not silly gizmos, staunch little machines that got the job done, just like her Osterizer beehive with the "On-Off" switch (does one really need to "frappe"?)
These machines are still running great, 60+ years on. What toaster today will be able to claim that? Planned obsolescence is the polite name for what happens to the junk we now buy from China.
The toaster was a foundational item of the early-mid 20th century kitchen, and like many machines that kept a household running smoothly, it was valued. It was a suggested Christmas gift for the wife who wished to set a table "with aplomb"; it would be used to prepare breakfast for "Uncle George" who boldly invites himself over. The wife in the advert gazes lovingly at the shiny object; June brides were given dibs on production that could hardly meet demand. One company offered a $2 trade-in off of new models. In one frisky ad, the man pulls the toast out of the slot, disburdening her of the chore.
There were toaster charms, Barbie starter toasters and oddly, toast salt and pepper shakers. There is even a book celebrating the art of the toaster (1909-1960). They were decorated with etchings of the Zephyr wind, wheat, daisies and World's Fair logos. But with the advent of the 60's, we have the loss of the graceful toaster. It becomes a box, shorn of its etching and cantileverous lines. The chrome recedes, giving way to plastic (one can't even kid herself that it is Bakelite anymore, the darling of every Fiesta-loving mama.)
Avocado plastic has been re-purposed as the stylish "sage" in today's ads; puke yellow now becomes the palatable "butter", but these are still ugly 60's relics denoting the transitional period when "vintage" becomes "junk". The number of stateside makers dwindled precipitously during the 1950's, leaving only a few giants in their wake.
What happened to this time of fecund production? Surely this ramped-up manufacturing was a war dividend, but did we fail to continue to support them? Perhaps they were victims of their own excellent product, but one would think Mr. Veblen's theory of conspicuous consumption would mandate new purchases for newness sake alone.
Where is today's war dividend? If it exists, it will not be enjoyed by our flagging middle class.
We sentimentally render a salute to a bygone, not-so-distant time.