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From ice chest to upright freezer

I was born in 1943, during that interval of time between ice chests and the ability to plug a full-sized freezer into an electrical outlet. In these “in-between” years, refrigerators came with freezers large enough to hold two ice cube trays or a couple Kool-Aid popsicles — but not both.

In 1930, only 3% of rural homes had electricity. In 1936, at President Franklin Roosevelt’s insistence, Congress provided the resources necessary to bring electricity to millions of people, providing millions more with employment during the darkest days of the Great Depression.

One year later, Presque Isle Electric set its first pole — in the village of Posen — bringing eclectic power to 82 families. By 1959, 90% of the rural homes in this country had electricity.

It’s a comfort knowing what we can accomplish when we work together.

In 1947, Amana manufactured the first upright freezer for the home, but I didn’t know anyone who owned one.

I can remember going with my mother to the Sharp Freeze, a meat market located on Chisholm Street, where Myers Fashions is now. Not only did the Sharp Freeze sell meat, they also rented freezer lockers.

During those in-between years, if your need to freeze things went beyond cubes and popsicles, you had to rent a locker at The Sharp Freeze. It was our community’s freezer compartment.

All of which brings me to my conversation with Bob Young, of Young Appliance. Bob is the third generation of Youngs in the appliance business, and there are two more generations this side of him coming on.

Benjamin Rush Young opened Huron Hardware on Chisholm Street in Alpena in 1900. In those days, hardware stores sold appliances — like “wash coppers” — boilers used to whiten clothes. B.R. sold a model with his name on the lid.

A generation later, Bob’s father, Jay, transformed the hardware into a dedicated appliance store — less the wash coppers — giving Bob and his brother and sisters a leg up, so far as popsicles were concerned.

During Bob’s early years in the appliance business, he faced a situation. Customers — appreciative grandchildren — wanted to buy their grandmother an automatic washing machine.

It was a thoughtful gesture, but this grandmother wanted none of it. After 40 years, she had her system down pat. Sturdy concrete tubs and a reliable old washing machine with a wringer that could handle multiple hand-fed rinses in any weather. If not a happy laundress, she was an effective one.

But Bob knew where happiness lay — he loaded a new automatic washer into the back of the shop truck and headed to grandmother’s house. There, he hooked it up and invited her to give it a try.

She did.

Then Bob returned — toting an old wringer-washer.

Here’s an update.

Another grandmother — this time with her 14-year-old granddaughter — was examining a new refrigerator/freezer. Bob explained that model’s features and benefits, price, and payment options, but the lady wasn’t sure — perhaps she could find a better unit at a better price elsewhere.

In this case, Bob didn’t have to load a demonstration. He asked the lady’s granddaughter to do that — on her cell phone.

Bob provided the granddaughter with the model number, and she did the rest — her cellphone’s screen soon displayed the selected unit. All its features were listed, its performance reviewed and compared with other makes and models.

The price was also listed — the same one Bob had given her.

Another happy grandmother.

A granddaughter’s cell phone showed that day’s best deal and provided a glimpse into the promise of tomorrow.

A promise whose potential depends on our working together like we did when we ran the lines that brought power to the manufacturers of the appliances Bob and his forefathers sold to grandmothers we connected to the power needed to operate them.

The same power used to charge that granddaughter’s cell phone, so she could help her grandmother make a decision.

Power that has allowed an Alpena family business to last into the fifth generation.

The power and potential that is all of us — working together.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs weekly on Saturdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.

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