My Grandmother Rood was a no-nonsense kind of lady. Although many modern appliances had been introduced during her lifetime, she mainly stuck with people-powered household tools she described as “tried and true.”
That didn’t keep the rest of the family from trying to convert her over to modern, electrified items back in the 1950s and 1960s. She usually received a couple “labor savers” every Christmas. It didn’t work!
I can still see Granny in her kitchen whipping together the ingredients for some cookies in an old crock bowl with a large wooden spoon. Next to her, on the counter, rested a new electric mixer (untouched since it came out of its Christmas wrappings.)
Now Grandmother wasn’t what one would describe as physically fit — she enjoyed her share of kumla right along with the rest of us — yet she somehow found the strength to drag the large rugs that covered the home’s hardwood floors outside to hang over her sturdy clotheslines. She would then beat the rugs with a contraption that looked like an overgrown wire clothes hanger with handles attached. Big clouds of dust would fill the air.
With the rugs still on the clothesline, she would get on her knees and polish the exposed sections of the oak flooring with an old undershirt and some Johnson’s Wax.
At the same time, in the corner of her “spare room” (an enclosed porch she used for storage), sat a new electric vacuum sweeper — with a floor polishing attachment — still in its sealed box.
There was, however, one mechanized piece of equipment she used — at times. It was a Singer sewing machine (normally hidden inside one of the most highly polished pieces of furniture in her parlor.)
Although she supplied the power by peddling the steel grate at the base of the contraption, Grandmother still considered it mechanized and only used it at last resort.
I must admit that as time passed by she slowly began to mellow — at least when it came to certain modern appliances.
Take the large Crosby cabinet radio that had always occupied a place of prominence in the living room. It was finally banished to the spare room.
In its place appeared a new Philco television set, complete with 17-inch black-and-white picture tube. On that tube, every Saturday evening without fail, would appear Jack Brickhouse and the toughest wrestlers from Chicago’s Marigold Arena.
It was with Grandmother in mind that I chuckle aloud when I watch advertisements touting the virtues of robotic vacuums. These vacuums cruise around the house using sensors to determine where to sweep.
The sweeper comes on the heels of the robotic lawn mower that automatically trim one’s lawn.
Evidently, that’s what our world is coming to — robotic helpers. I wonder how Grandmother would have handled receiving one of them at Christmas?
Which brings to mind her answer to one of the many questions I asked her over the years. Realizing that she had witnessed such momentous happenings as the introduction of electricity, the automobile and the airplane, I once inquired, “What do you consider the greatest invention ever?”
Her reply, “A match.”
As an afterthought I must add this. Her great-great grandson (my oldest grandson) is presently busy studying robotics.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.