The backyard mechanic is long gone — broken things are built to be chucked, not repaired

It’s Tuesday May 17, and it’s me again Margret (heh-heh-heh) with the weekly report of the Old Men of the Mountain.

On May 17, the Old Men of the Mountain were as high as they get at any restaurant they visit because the restaurant was the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. As usual, the OMOTM have their morning greetings and weather reports, and this morning it was mentioned that not many of the OFs had ventured out the past week because of the wind, and the fact that they were cold.

The OFs bet that the hummingbirds that have returned wish they stayed down south a tad longer.

This is a continuation of one of the discussions of the Tuesday prior (really many Tuesdays) only this further dialogue delved into other things besides just cars, tractors, and trucks.

This chatting was the lack of being able to work on, and repair, many appliances that the OFs used to repair with common household tools. Parts for the appliances could be bought at the hardware store or where the appliance was purchased.

It used to be (what a worn-out phrase but true) the OF could put brushes in an electric motor or power tool, or change a trigger, or replace a lead. Now the OFs can’t even find the screws to take the things apart.

One OF said the reason they can’t find the screws is because there aren’t any — a lot of these appliances and tools (once the innards are done) are encased in plastic; there is no way to take them apart.  So then you can just chuck it in the trash can.

Raise the hood of a car, and the OFs say they need $10,000 worth of special tools just to get at what needs repair. The backyard mechanic is long gone.

To work on just about any small appliance today, the OFs say it is necessary to apprentice somewhere, go to a factory training school, or attend BOCES to learn how to do appliance maintenance or repair.

One OF had a new energy-efficient furnace installed with a small stack that was just warm to the touch when the furnace was running. The original oil man looked at it and said, “Don’t call me to fix this thing.  It looks like a TV set inside that cover.”

The OF said it used to be (note the phrase) that he could put a new nozzle on the burner and adjust the air by himself; now half the repairmen who come have to call in an expert even when they are supposed to be heating and air-conditioning technicians themselves.

One OF said that many small appliances, and economically priced tools are not meant to be repaired — they are throw-aways.

Another OF said that goes for cars, too. Some of the upholstered roller skates they call automobiles these day are throw-aways. It costs more to fix them than the car cost.

NEAT dinner is really neat

Some of the OFs live alone, like many seniors, and they travel around to find meals that are cheap or free.

One they find particularly good is the NEAT (Not Eating Alone Tonight) dinner at the Reformed Church in Berne. According to the OFs, the NEAT dinner is really neat and they look forward to that one on the third Monday of the month.

This scribe did a little follow-up on this and found that the meal is served at 5 p.m., and requires a phone call to say you are coming.  That phone call is really appreciated. They have room for 95 people, and it is just one setting.

This meal is by donation. If you can afford it, drop something in the bucket; if not don’t worry about it, that is really what the meal is for.

Brother’s keeper

Walking to school: Here is a topic one can only appreciate if you are of a certain age. The OFs go back a ways (1930s to ’40s) to when the Hilltowns were dotted with one-room school houses and the OFs had to walk to school.

One OF said that, on his way to school in the springtime, the swamp on the side of the road would fill up with the spring rains and snow runoff, then the swamp would cover the road. This OF said his older brother would carry him and his other siblings through the swamp. The older brother went to school wet while all his brothers were nice and dry.

Some OFs were picked up by horse and wagon and sleighs in the wintertime, and some trudged their way two miles or so to go to school.

Back then, most of the one-room schools also had only one outhouse, so LGBT was not a problem — just lock the door.  Also back then, not many bothered locking the doors; they were farm kids and nature was natural to them.

The outhouses did not have heat either so there was no lingering when you got permission to go to the privy in the wintertime. There was no running water either; there were hand pumps with a bucket and a dipper. Some teachers gave the job of getting water from a creek to various students.

In the wintertime, some students were also given the job to go to school early to start the fire, and make sure the ice was broken if the water were frozen. No wonder many OFs look at the kids of today and say, “What a pampered bunch.”

One OF mentioned one winter was so bad that the school was held at his house for about two weeks. The house was on flat ground and the teacher and the kids could get that far. No snow days back then.

But now, when the OFs go to the hospital, they want the best of the “pampered bunch” to go and grab his laser to operate on the OFs back even if the doctor performing the operation isn’t old enough to shave. Go figure.

Those OFs who made it through their one-room schoolhouse days and who found their way to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville in their late-model chariots were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Ted Willsey, Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Jim Rissacher, Art Frament, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.