This is a story about grandpas–those tinkering, puttering, handy fellows who did unheralded and often excellent work down in their basement shop while managing to keep things impossibly organized.
It’s a story from a bygone era full of snappy jingles, instant coffee and brands and vendors which permeated a time when people smoked inside. stowed their ashes in avocado green ashtrays and framed picture windows with orange curtains.
I helped a friend clean out his late grandfather’s shop recently.
There was a dumpster in the driveway. It stood beckoning, its open end like a mouth waiting for us to just chuck everything inside and walk away.
But we all agreed it would be wrong to junk so many things which were not only still useful, but were a physical memory of a life spent creating and organizing with such a careful attention to detail.
The milk crates we carried up from his workshop were brimming with cans and jars, themselves full of hardware and organized down to the last finish nail. This was an autobiography written from storm window fasteners and curtain rod hardware.
Metal cans with marked lids are a must in every organized basement shop:
The decorative finish is a bonus and would brighten any workspace-
Clearly coffee was an important component of grandfather’s life, as it should be:
Though he seemed willing to try different brands…
And he experimented with diverse methods of brewing as well-
Perhaps the good folks at Mansion Inn were on to something with their new and fancy keyless can–
This coffee staple contained not staples but galvies-
There were jars–relics, really–which evoked fond memories of stores long-since closed.
Still, even at 39 cents, I’m not buying-
The brands grew less familiar as we dug towards the bottom of the milk crates-
I once got margarine on my dungarees while riding my stingray.
And this is what happens to your margarine when it freezes, kids:
Peanut butter was very well-represented in grandpa’s basement shop-
Choosy mothers may have chosen Jif, but not our man:
That label on the Skippy jar says Angelo’s and some of us still call the little supermarket in Manomet, MA by that name, though it’s gone now 30 years.
Churned for easier spreading also makes for a great conversation starter about the ‘birds and bees’-
You had us at churnt. The contents within are inconsequential.
Some labels kept it simple and needed no further elaboration-
I can only imagine the glory of those long-forgotten condiment wars, between the Mastermixt, the chilling and the beating til fluffy:
Has anyone written French’s for recipes lately? Can we download a PDF?
This particular jar reminds us that it is delicious as we throw up in our mouth a little-
As the jars became smaller, so their contents turned more esoteric:
SHOE COLORING, by Lady Esquire.
All that glitters retains its full flavor when the cap is replaced-
Obligatory baby food jars-
Looks like stewed peaches for Brad-
The magic happened…
on shelf #3-
Paper goods, in such excellent condition, reveal a knack for careful curating as well as a dry basement-
And this–a faux-grained paper to class-up your pedestrian containers:
When was the last time you made a “small” wastebasket from a potato chip can?
And you just don’t hear the word trinket enough anymore-
Doesn’t it always seem to be the smallest things which remind you most of someone you miss?
I never knew this man but it feels like I did.
We raise our hot-dog-relish-jar to a life spent in quiet craft and exemplary organization in a basement workshop from another era-
One which we can still learn from.