September 14, 2019

Old Appliances Stick Around and Get the Job Done

We all say it: “They don’t make ’em like they used to.” Well, Donna Vickroy at the SouthTownStar offers hers and others thoughts on this:

Milan and Helen Varichak’s grandkids say their kitchen looks like outer space.

The South Holland couple have a 51-year-old Westinghouse stove and a 54-year-old General Electric refrigerator.

“They’re both in good condition,” Helen said. “The refrigerator could use a good polishing but other than that, it’s OK.”

By contrast, their son, who lives in New Lenox, has had his refrigerator replaced three times already.

When Helen and Milan moved into their home in 1958, Helen’s father gave them a new double-oven stove as a housewarming gift.

And until recently, the gift continued to warm their house. But Helen said now she is in need of a repair man because she recently had all new electricity put in her house and the stove won’t work.

“I think it just needs to be updated,” she said.

Dennis O’Malley, who owns O’Malley Heating and Cooling in Orland Park, still has the refrigerator his grandparents bought in 1934.

The General Electric appliance was the first item his grandparents bought on credit. The price tag? $222.60.

O’Malley still has the documents and warranties for the appliance.

Ron Steffek still has the original tag with the model number for his 1928 GE refrigerator. The Oak Lawn resident also has another GE that is a year older.

The fridges, both of which sport the compressor ball on top, have never been serviced and are still being used to store pop and beer.

Marge Beddow, who lives in unincorporated Palos Township, has a cast iron stove that is at least 70 years old. The wood-burning device has two round circles on the top where her mom once placed pots.

“My brother is 82 years old, and he remembers it when he was little,” Beddow said. “I remember my mom making soap on it.”

Today, the stove and its accompanying shovel are used for decoration.

Brad O’Connor’s old ice box is part decoration and part storage unit.

When they used to have parties, O’Connor remembers his mom going over to Lang Ice on the corner of 59th Street and Lawndale Avenue to pick up a block of ice. She’d put it in the family’s ice box, stock it with sodas and it would be good for the day.

O’Connor doesn’t know exactly how old the ice box is, just that it predates electricity. It has three doors, one on the left, one on the right and one on the bottom for ice.

“It’s probably pre-1930s,” he said.

When he moved from Chicago’s Gage Park community to Hometown, he brought the box with him.

After World War II ended in 1945, there were few appliances to be had. The newly married Rosettis put their name on waiting lists at Sears, Montgomery Ward and a little hardware store across the street from their Chicago Heights home.

Two years later, on the day their son turned 1, the owner of the hardware store called.

“He described this GE refrigerator to me, and I say, ‘Oh my, that sounds too big,’ ” Daphene Rosetti said. Still, they wheeled the fridge across the street, plugged it in and it’s still running.

Now it is relegated to the basement and used to stock pop and beer.

When Leonard and Joan Stubenfoll got married in 1955, they bought a used 20-year-old refrigerator. The Stubenfolls keep their GE model in the garage, stocked with pop and beer. They’ve never had to have a repair man out – not for that fridge, anyway.

“We’ve had three or four newer fridges (in the kitchen) since then,” he said.

Stubenfoll has a theory.

“They made the old models too good,” he said. But apparently, “they’ve” learned their lesson.

“If companies continued to make ’em like they used to, they would have gone out of business.”

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