Friday, 18 May 2018

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 102 ......... the repair man, the washing machine and planned obsolescence

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Modern washing machine, late 1950s
Now I wonder how often Joe and Mary Ann replaced their washing machine.  Of course I doubt I will ever know, but I bet they would have had no time for the idea of “planned or built in obsolescence”.

I first came across the term in the early 1970s and was fascinated by the idea that much of what we bought from televisions to motorcars and hair dryers were not meant to last.

Either the parts would wear out relatively quickly or the design of the product would be altered making the existing one look old fashioned and dated.

It is an old idea, and helped General Motors in the late 1920s sell more cars than the Ford Company.

They called it dynamic obsolescence but it still amounted to the same thing, and was based on the simple application of new designs to their cars each year.

In much the same way Sidney Stratton, in the film, The Man in the White Suit, thought he had hit on a winner when he invented a fibre which repelled dirt and never wore out.  Alas nether the unions or the textile manufacturers embraced the idea, realizing that its production would eventually lead to no demand for new fibres and the demise of the textile industry.**

Mr Bennett repairs the washing machine, 2018
All of which brings back to our house and the washing machine.  We bought it eight years ago and it has performed well, but yesterday it broke, and having discussed expensive repair options with the manufacturer

I fell back on Peter Bennett who over the years had mended and serviced our other washing machines.***

He arrived a few hours after I contacted him and for a fraction of the price quoted by the manufacturer, had the machine repaired and working again.

And that I suppose is how Joe and Mary Ann approached their appliances, many of which were sturdy and made to last.

But others like the television were not always reliable.  The TV repair man was a regular visitor to our house in the 1950s and I suspect also was well known to Joe and Mary Ann.

And the presence of the repair shop on the High Street was commonplace during the period I grew up but I suspect there are fewer of them today.

A Park H Wireless, 1951
And thinking about it, apart from the washing machine I can probably count no more than a dozen visits from assorted applicance people in the 40 or so years we have lived in Scott’s old house.

Nor I suspect are we alone in this.  When Dad died in the mid 1990s, items which we had bought in the early 1960s were still happily working away, doing what they had been designed to do.

Sadly I never got to see the interior of Joe and Mary Ann’s house after they both died, but I bet there will have been appliances which dated back into the 1950s and perhaps even further any one of which would be fascinated to hold and use.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; appliances of science, from the collection of Graham Gill and Mr Bennett’s receipt for a job well done.

*The story of a house,

**The Man in the White Suit, 1951

***Peter Bennett,

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