Friday, November 26, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Some people never move. I am one of those people. I have spent nearly 40 years in the same building doing the same work. I find it very pleasant and rewarding.

One of the problems with never moving is that you tend to keep stuff that you might have thrown away during relocation. I have never had to make that difficult decision; should I keep it or should I throw it away? Quite the opposite happens. When my wife and I decide to discard something from the home, my answer is "I will take it to the shop, in case I can find a use for it later."

My obsession with keeping stuff started at a very young age. In 1960 my parents built a home on the top of a hill. The house was on a dead end road, and just behind the backyard fence was the city landfill. That might sound like a problem to some people, after all, the smell was noticeable. But to me, it was like living next to a general store where everything was free.

During those years it was not the policy to cover everything up with dirt. So, at the end of the day, the workers went home, and I went to work. I found amazing things and drug them home, much to my parents "delight." There were lots of black and white TV's being thrown away, most of which worked perfectly. I built a Heathkit tube tester and fixed them, giving them to all my friends.

I found furniture, which I took apart and repaired, starting a career, before I even knew what a career was. One of the best parts of this broken furniture was the wood screws. I kept thousands of wood screws, sorting them according to size. I had no interest in Phillips, but selected all the slot head screws I could find. I still use these screws today, as the currently available screws are terrible, if you can even find a slot head to purchase. I consider myself an expert on the wood screw, and have devoted considerable research to the topic.

Getting back to the topic, I first opened my workshop in an abandoned church, kind of like Alice's Restaurant. I hired some other independent workers and made an effort to create a co-op restoration business. Within 6 months I realized most of these workers did not work well together, and someone broke in and stole all my hand tools. I took what I could salvage and retreated to my garage, working alone.

Around 1974 I was walking my son to school and I noticed that the TV Repair store was vacant. In short order I was talking to the owner of the property, an elderly lady who lived down the street. She agreed to rent me the store, if I would escort her to her weekly hair styling appointment and help her purchase her groceries. That sounded like a fair trade, since the rent was low, and the store had nice windows facing the school. It was three blocks to work.

Over the next 36 years I purchased the location and expanded into the entire property, removing all the interior walls, and adding a two story building in the back yard. I started with 250 square feet and ended up with 5,000 square feet. Needless to say, most of the shop is full of stuff, since I never learned to throw anything remotely useful away.

After all, why put it in the landfill when it still has something to offer?

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