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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Gadgets of Yesteryear

Gadgets of Yesteryear

Look around any basement, attic, garage, or flea market and you’re sure to find a variety of obsolete or nearly obsolete items: 8-track tapes, floppy disks, films, and rotary dial phones. E-mail has endangered the fax machine, and DVDs mean that VHS tapes are rapidly joining their BETA brethren in that great junk drawer in the sky, while the Global Positioning System is pushing paper maps to the back of the glove box. Technological advances, from cell phone applications to MP3s, have clearly changed how we communicate. And lifestyle changes have affected the day-to-day running of the household and put many once-common items on the road to obsolescence. Here is a list of once-ubiquitous items that, while they may still be in use and even available brand new, have seen their glory days come and go. Pull any of these out of the back of the drawer and have the kids guess what they are for. Remember when we couldn’t live without …

Flour Sifters
Time was when flour came from the local mill and could be lumpy and even have a bug or two in it. It had to be sifted. Then presifted flour became the norm, and while some home bakers still sift, claiming any presifting is undone by settling in the bag, most bypass this step‹or bypass baking entirely. I personally remember playing with my mom’s sifter in the sandbox, once presifted flour hit the store shelves.

Aluminum Ice Cube Trays
You know, the ones with the removable cube separator and a release handle, that you spent a good deal of time swearing at and banging on the counter in the 1960s. These were eventually replaced by molded plastic ice cube trays that you twisted to get the ice out. In turn, those were abandoned when refrigerators started coming with built-in automatic icemakers. Thinking back on time spent with some of these items makes one wonder what we do with all our free time today.

Removable Storm Windows
Climb the ladder. Take them down in spring. Store them all summer. Take them out in the fall. Wash them. Dry both sides of them. Climb the ladder. Put them back up. Repeat. Ah, those were the days when the changing seasons meant something. Now we can just slide our storm windows up and down on a whim. Or, thanks to doubleglazed energy-efficient windows, many of us don’t have any storm windows at all. It’s a good thing birds still migrate or we’d never know what season it is.

Correction Fluid
Nowadays, we just highlight, hit the delete key, and try again. But back in the days of typewriters, this mysterious white liquid you could brush over boo-boos and then type over was a godsend. It didn’t make holes and smudges in the paper like erasers did and was barely detectable if you had a gentle touch. It still comes in handy on handwritten homework assignments when kids are first allowed to write in ink, but as homework goes high tech, the delete key steals the show.

Want to continue this walk down memory lane? Read about more gadgets of yesteryear in the 2011 Farmers’ Almanac. And be sure to share your favorite antiquated household gadget below.

22 comments

1 Judy Stone { 01.25.12 at 12:19 pm }

Oh what wonderful memories we share! Being from the 60′s raised by a grandmother makes me very well acquainted with the older gadgets. My favorites are the cooking gadgets. I still have the old wooden grinder with the rolling pin that she would crush the herbs in, the medicines we couldn’t swallow as well as the lemons for the tea. The large sifter with the handle and crank we used for big batches of flour that came in 20 pound bags we shared with friends and family. And who could forget the potatoe mashers with the red wooden handles? Still have and use all the above and have never had a food processor, electric beater, food chopper or any of the other newer gadgets. I’m also an iron skillet cook with every size and shape available hanging on hooks in the kitchen. Wish the younger generation had a taste of our years!

2 kat { 01.11.12 at 12:34 pm }

Please, give me the good old fashioned storms and screens. Much better than decrepit triple tracks.

3 Judy { 08.30.11 at 9:27 am }

I was born in 1954 and remember all of these items and more..Give me the “good ole days” anytime. I really miss the ways of past years, and I have to agree with the above writer, technology is great but at what price? I love you Farmer’s Almanac, wish the world could go back to the simpler times….

4 Ellen Ryan { 06.17.11 at 1:18 pm }

I am still using the aluminum icetrays. Also baby safety pins when cloth diapers were used. I still have 2 duck safety pins from when my son who is now 30 was a baby. Also I have the cloth diapers that I had to fold to fit. I also have a nut grinder that has a jar attached to it that i still use, instead of the food processor, my mother used it and when I am baking and use the grinder I think of Mom. Surprise, but I also have her flour sifter.

5 Nano { 09.21.10 at 10:27 am }

Well, I still use a flour sifter, but now it’s in the garden…to sift potting soil! mine is not so sleek as this. It’s got a crank. Of course I have a big wooden screened sifter for large amounts, but the hand sifter still has a place. As for ice cubes, I have some of each because my refrigerator doesn’t make ice.

6 Jamie Stephens { 09.13.10 at 9:24 am }

I was born in ’80 and I have 4 young children that I try very hard to include thoses wonderful things of the past. Including collecting the eggs for breakfast, vegetable gardening, home canning, we’ve made butter and icecream. Trying to create memories and pass on a way of life that is all but extinct.

7 Tuesday Fuller { 09.06.10 at 11:53 pm }

I myself have run into many younger co-workers who have no clue what I’m talking about or those that laugh at me for still using a tape player. I was born in 79 and lived with my grandmother, who exposed me to many older tools and techniques, like the giant 5-gallon tub of lard under the cabinet and of course her sifter. Things did seem much easier back then and not just because of the innocence of my youth, but because everyone took the time to create something wonderful and took the time to take care of that item, so respect and appreciation were wide spread and honored. Not like today when I’m teaching my 10 yr old son to hold the doors for people and he notices that old men say thank you but old women walk right by him. Younger people say thank you too. It’s like in our efforts to become independent, many women forgot what is was that made a woman a true woman; including white gloves, blushing, quick and witty comebacks without degrading everyone around us, and of course the metal flour sifter!

8 linda w. { 09.04.10 at 10:34 am }

With all of today’s technology, will it create the memories we remember? We have made great strides in making things easy, but I have less time to enjoy doing things.

9 Mel Free { 09.03.10 at 4:07 pm }

How about the typewriter?…a thing of the past…How about a slide rule?…I never could figure that one out?…How about 78 records…I still have some, along with the Victrola so that I can play them!…How about a Regina Music Box & the big metal discs that go along with it?…I love mine!…Anyone remember those key-punch cards that you had to have to make that room-sized computer work?..and, How about all of those people..mostly women..who lost their jobs, when they invented the much smaller computers?…Remember those Christmas wreaths that everyone made out of those?…lol…It is fun to remember these things…Thanks!

10 deborah { 09.03.10 at 7:51 am }

still have a rotary dial phone in my basement

11 suziyork { 09.03.10 at 12:21 am }

I almost called my iPod a Walkman earlier today… I have a flour sifter that I use regularly when I bake… My mother-in-law’s house still has storm windows…

12 John Reed { 09.02.10 at 9:49 pm }

Flour sifters are still sold in kitchen stores because you need to sift flour and powdered sugar for some recipes. But the old kind with the wire handle and a single screen do the best job and clog less. My grandmother would have a fit if you washed one because it clogged the screen. As to the well water, tens of thousands still have it and it tastes terrible.

13 Sara { 09.02.10 at 5:49 pm }

This was so great to read. I am 38 years old and long for the simpler days. I couldn’t wait to have a house with a front porch so I could drink iced tea and visit with my neighbors. I recently called my daughters binder a “Trapper Keeper” (a popular item from the 80′s for school) and she laughed at me. I will never forget listening to albums, using the rotary phone at my grand-parents, wondering why I had to sift the flour, holding my tape recorder up to the stereo to record the songs I liked while missing the first part of the song or getting the DJ in the recording and watching my grandpa get the projector ready to show us his WWII fighter pilot footage. There are so many things from the past that make my heart ache….I will never enjoy the cell phone, because people think you need to answer it 24/7 and I will always miss the simplicity of my childhood. Technology is great until you realize what you give up for it. Privacy being my main issue.

14 jiminmanjr { 09.02.10 at 4:29 pm }

One of the things I miss is my cassette player. I would spend hours making mix tapes for myself or to give to some girl. I even used my very limited editing skills to try and fade one song into another and make a “mix.”
Ahh… the good ole days!

15 Saitaina { 09.02.10 at 9:38 am }

I was born only in 1981 and remember using all of those except a metal ice cube tray somewhere along the line. In fact, I still have an older version sifter much like the one in the picture.

I miss roatary telephones, they made such a fun sound when you turned the dial.

16 carlotta thompson { 09.01.10 at 2:35 pm }

How wonderful to see things from the past. I remember playing with my grandmothers flour -sifter, metal measuring spoons, and cup. That was back in the 50′s. Im a grandmother now and eventhough I don’t sift, my grandkids love to play with my plastic baking untinsels, and bowls.
It funny when you think about it, but each piece from the past has a story to tell if we take the tie to reflect and share. I love the comments. Please don’t stop.

17 undercover921 { 09.01.10 at 11:18 am }

Great story there… I remember the ice tray from the 70s … :)

18 dandalion { 08.31.10 at 1:24 pm }

My 12 year old found a flour sifter at the local grocery store and had no clue what it was. I had to show and explain to him what it was for.

You could also add to the list Rolodex, I mentioned that to some of my young coworkers and got blank stares.

19 snowlover { 08.31.10 at 11:11 am }

Thank you for this wonderful article. I loved it, and enjoyed reading every line. Yes, I remember all except the changing of storm windows. Being born in 1961, I remember a lot of things, and feel as if I was born at the right time in life. I come from a simplier time, (well water, homemade meals at the table etc.). I still own a metal ice tray. Actually they really do make the best ice. The metal gives it a better taste. I also still use a sifter, especially when I’m sifting flour for my banana pudding (homemade of course). Thanks for the memories. Although I love my facebook, cell phone, and such; I do miss the good ole days!

20 JimNashville { 08.30.10 at 11:31 am }

sometimes I think back on sitting in my Grandmother’s kitchen and wish I had some of the “gadgets” she used ..
my Granny was a wonderful cook and to me the most wonderful woman in the world.. so thanks for bringing back fond memories … rest in peace Granny
love
Jim

21 bcduval { 08.30.10 at 11:17 am }

I never stopped sifting flour, you usually want to sift along with the baking powder / baking soda / cream of tartar . . .

22 Cat Shipman { 08.30.10 at 9:22 am }

I have this exact flour sifter! It was my grandmother’s and it still works! She decorated her kitchen in apple designs and I have done the same with mine. I have some of the gadgets pictured on the home page as well, such as the 1950′s style telephone… it works too! And I fondly remember family gatherings around the old slide projector looking at vacation and holiday slides. Wonderful memroies!

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