"They don't make them like they used to" is a popular comment with just about anyone over the age of thirty, but is absolutely abused by antique collectors, thrift pickers, and vintage gurus. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to be one of the first shoppers at an estate sale. Although the sale opened to the public on Saturday, I was contacted by the company hosting the sale for a private viewing on Friday. So, early on that Friday morning, I pulled up at the little duplex unit near the very back of a retirement community. The first thing I noticed was how many plants surrounded the porch - it was like a small, tidy jungle with beautiful pottery that must have been cleaned on a regular basis. The little home was immaculate. It needed to be updated by today's standards, but it was certainly well kept. And, yes, the sofa had the plastic cover still on it.
|Vintage Record Collection|
What I noticed as I was browsing through the home and trying to find an undiscovered bargain, was this - every little thing in every little room was functional, clean, and cared for. There were no electrical chargers laying about, no scuffed up end tables, no lamps with broken shades, nothing that wasn't pretty much in perfect condition. I found a camera from 1954 that still had it's original instructions and cardboard box. I found pens and pencils from the last seven decades that still wrote perfectly, although they might have a piece of tape holding on the eraser or the ink might have been replaced. I even found a pair of Reebok sneakers from the early 80's in good enough condition to return them to any store today for a refund.
And, then I said it (out loud, but mainly to myself) "They don't make them like they used to".
An older man, looked to be in his mid-80's, who I hadn't noticed and must have walked in behind me, tapped me on the shoulder. Startled a little, I recovered quickly and then, repeated myself a little louder to him.
He said, with a hint of a northern accent, "Yes they do, we just don't take care of them like we used to".
Looking around, I realized he was right. There wasn't anything in the craftsmanship of these items that is really all that much better than what we might buy in better stores today. Sure... a point and click camera might not hold up as well as the 1954 Kodak I found, but a nice Nikon from a camera store probably would. A cheap pen from the dollar store might not last, but better ones would. A pair of loafers from a discount factory shoe warehouse vs. a nice pair of sneakers from any of the top brands... we can go on and on, but the key difference is in how we take care of it. The camera was important enough to save the box and instructions. The pens and pencils were important enough to keep, care, and maker repairs on. And yes, the sofa was important enough to its owner to keep the plastic on it.
I thanked the older man, who turned out to live next door to the home, for his insight and told him he was absolutely right. Maybe I learned a lesson. The next sofa I buy, I'll keep the plastic on, or at least take better care of it.