Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Here we go again

Often at the dinner table during my growing up years, my father would wax nostalgic and tell us tales of his youth. When he launched one of his monologues, my brothers and I (my sister wasn't old enough yet) would roll our eyes and chant in chorus, "Here we go again." We groaned, but we loved the stories. That said, be warned, "Here I go again."
Cousin Chris in Florence blogs that she recently inherited a 50 year old sewing machine from her husband's grandmother. It reminds me that I got my first sewing machine 50 years ago (and it was a dandy!).
I had been sewing a bit on my mother's old Singer -- it was electric, but it had a long spindle bobbin and could not sew in reverse, nor could it make buttonholes. So, when my grandmother asked me what I would like for graduation, I told her I wanted a sewing machine. She was in town to see me graduate and she took me shopping at Sears, Roebuck. We entered the hospital-green building located on Broadway, just north of downtown Oakland. (I think it was Broadway, may have been Telegraph, and I think it was north -- toward Berkeley.) We found the machine of my dreams, a portable Kenmore for $99. Grandma reached in her purse and drew out an orange Atlasta Ranch check, filled it out and handed it over. The salesman looked at it and said, "I'm sorry, we can't take out-of-state checks." Grandma began to sputter and fume, she was as mad as I've ever seen her. An affront to her solvency was about the greatest insult you could deal her. She squawked about her Dunn and Bradstreet rating and how no one had ever questioned her trustworthiness. How dare he! Finally somehow, she managed to convince them she would be good for the money and they let us have the machine.
I loved that machine and could really make it hum -- forward and backward. The buttonholer was fabulous -- a large maroon chunk that screwed onto the machine and came with several dies for making buttonholes of various sizes and configurations. Later, I bought myself a new Singer which could also zig-zag, but the Kenmore remained my first choice for buttonholes and solid straight seams. It had one major flaw -- the flimsy case was held together by clamps which had a perverse way of jiggling their way undone. This was a fatal flaw -- during one of my many moves, the clamps came loose while a friend was carrying the machine and it crashed to the concrete. If I had that machine today, I would still be using it.


  1. Thats quite the memory. I don't have any memories like that, but I think that my sister probably feels that way about her sewing machine (and the new one that she is pining after).

  2. I love to hear old stories about Grandma Minnie. She's one of my heros. Even though I never met her, I admire her greatly. Grandpa tells me that she and I would have gotten along great. Too bad about the Kenmore. It looks like it was quite a machine.

  3. It is still on the corner of Telegraph and I think Grand, Melody, but it is now painted an ugly brown color. The name Sears and Roebuck still appear over the main door but not so's you'd notice. I was by there last week on my way to Nordic House and Nelden's Danish Bakery.