They don’t make ‘em like they used to

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“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and scorching sun.”

–Napoleon Hill

By JUDITH SUTHERLAND

Farm and Dairy Columnist

I was talking with a woman recently who said she had been forced to part with her antique clock collection due to a move to a smaller place. Clocks were made with remarkable precision and incredible durability in our olden days.

She described a few of the antique clocks in her collection, and they sounded like works of art that had also managed to withstand the hard knocks of daily life, still keeping perfect time.

Short lives

It made me think of how disposable everything is in our current world. Clocks, for one thing, are plastic, light-weight things that carry only the ability to tell us what time it is for a limited duration. Even giving credence to the most ornamental of them all, there isn’t a single one in my house that would be worth passing down to my children someday.

The toy tractors my father collected could withstand just about any battering. He gave us some to play with, while others remained in boxes, placed on shelves to reminisce over. Our tractors took a beating and kept right on farming rows of imaginary corn fields through the generations.

This morning, I talked with my friend Cindy who told me she has finally found someone to re-upholster the old living room furniture she and her hubby bought in the late 1970s. It is flex-steel in its frame, still in remarkably good condition. The woman who is doing the work of recovering the set told Cindy there is nothing on the current market being made to hold up quite like it.

Foreign concept

I remember once visiting a girl after school, and when I got home that night, my parents asked me to tell them a few things about my friend. “Well, they have a white couch!” I reported as though I were revealing insider information.

We had never seen a white couch. This was unheard of in our world which was filled with dozens of energized kids, Kool-Aid and popcorn powering them to play endless games both outside and inside. The couch served as home base.

I can recall the sight, scent and texture of the utilitarian sectional couch that we had for years when I was a kid. Of course it was brown; it was built to stand the test of time, the battering abuse of many children.

Useful

The large sofa cushions of this sectional which my parents bought in the late 1950s at our local Fickes Furniture store could be pulled off and used as shields during cowboy fights, or could serve as trampolines if no adults were looking.

My mother cashed in a life insurance policy her parents had given her when she married my dad, using the cash to buy the sectional, plus two triangular blonde end tables and a blonde coffee table for $100. This new set replaced the faded burgundy couch she had tediously painted with Rit dye and a paintbrush just to make it bearable.

Roost

The brown sofa had a flat top back, and my little Pekingese dog thought it was made just for her. She would lie up there, looking out the window while we worked at carrying out ashes from the coal-burning furnace from our cellar every winter Saturday morning.

As she aged, she would lie in that spot endlessly, lightly snoozing, waiting and watching for our return from school or chores. That old couch never did wear out. I like to think it lives on forever, still serving as home base when it’s not doing double-time as a cowboy fort in someone’s play room.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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