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Pulling the Cord on the Buy-Dispose Treadmill

During my days living in the dusty southwest, cruising the alleyways for treasure was a favorite pastime and, believe it or not, a fairly common one in my circle.

So, when getting around on my red Schwinn Collegiate, I took the less scenic route to see if there was something I just couldn't live without. Needless to say, I was doin' a lot of livin' out there in Tucson, Arizona.

To my delight, peering through a yard to a covered porch, I spotted a gorgeous, double oven O'Keefe and Merit 1950's cast iron stove, weighing in at about 300 pounds. I shamelessly knocked on the neighbor's door to inquire about the availability of said beast. A few hundred dollars, a strong dolly and a u-haul later, and I was in built in griddle bliss. I named her Pearl. This was the Cadillac of stoves. Working on her was like working on an old car. Over the years I would tune up my stove, adjust the pilots and toss various parts in the dishwasher. We both hummed along happily.

When I moved across country 5 years ago, I couldn't part with Pearl. Together we settled into a new east coast routine where there were too many critters roaming the alley to keep up with my pastime. Then the inevitable happened: a thermostat went bad and I couldn't patch Pearl up myself. This story, in the most round-about way, brings me to the point of the blog (which isn't reminiscing). I suspect you all know what happened then. I made dozens of calls to repair folks, and they all ended the same way: "Miss, it would be cheaper to replace the stove." Horror.

I couldn't bear to let her go. How is it possible that such a beautiful, highly valued piece of history was considered disposable? In fact, why is anything -- and in this era everything- disposable? Will there be such a thing as an antique for the next generation? Will it be worth alley-way scavenger hunts? If we continue on this buy and dispose treadmill, we're privileging trash over treasure and in the meantime, we're putting our repairperson right out of business (not to mention our planet). I say put your foot down and buy used -- and be patient.

It took weeks (three to be precise) to find a single repairperson willing to work on old Pearl. He fixed her up with a smile, agreed that she was a beauty but declared, in the end, that electric is far superior to gas. Pearl and I disagree, and we have plenty of years ahead of us to prove him wrong.

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Lisa Wise is New Dream's former Executive Director

Tags: Antiques, Repair, Thrift

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