You’re Collecting What?

It was a little difficult for my beloved to get her head around the fact that I wanted to collect old magazines. Not just any old magazines mind you, but periodicals of a certain genre, and age.

I imagine that some folks, who might be affected by the collecting gene, collect old comic books, or sports memorabilia, possibly because they hadn’t the money to indulge in their passion as a kid. I’m afraid my interest has much less appeal than comic books, or ”funny books” as we called them when I was in grade school. I loved comic books, but never collected them, to my sorrow.

And, I’ve always enjoyed magazines such as “Popular Mechanics”, “Popular Science” and a now defunct favorite: “Mechanix Illustrated”.

Typical covers, 1930's to 1950's

You may be familiar with the first two titles, for they are still published; however, not in the same format as many years ago. The issues I have accumulated are from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. My sons enjoy thumbing through the old magazines, and checking out the large advertising sections, to see what was the latest and greatest gadgets of the times.

Mechanix Illustrated was my favorite for several reasons; first, their illustrations were the best, and, they had their curmudgeonly, funny, automobile evaluator, Tom McCahill. Tom was of considerable size, and when pictured next to a small car, the vehicle would seem downright petite in comparison.

He had a rather uncensored way of writing, and aside from an occasional “damn” or “hell”, his stuff was informative, and helpful—for the potential 12 year old car buyer. He loved metaphors, and they were sprinkled liberally through his articles.

Uncle Tom tests a 1953 import

For instance, if Tom wasn’t too impressed with a car’s acceleration, he might include something like: “This boat accelerated like a circus fat lady, dragging an anchor.” On the other hand, if he liked the performance, he may have said: “This little sparkler has more “scat” than a truckload of gazelles.” In my youth, long before I understood the connection between “gazelle” and “scat’, I thought “Uncle Tom” was hilarious. As funny as a truckload of wooden legs.

Do-it-yourself radio tuner plans 1936

Aside from the ads and the interviews, the magazines always had a few projects for their readers; everything from a bandsaw made mostly of plywood, (“You Can Build This Bandsaw For $10.00”) to plans for model airplanes and boats.

Photography was a hot subject too, and in most issues, a section was devoted to photo techniques, or developing and enlarging your photos in your home darkroom. Didn’t every home have one? My brother and I did; set up in part of our closet. Incidentally, our clothes took up very little room.

Several Christmas seasons ago, while still hunkered down in Texas, I received a rather heavy carton from one of my sons. It was about the size of box that a kitchen toaster would be packed in. A convenient size, since there was a label on the outside stating: “Do Not Open Until Christmas” and another label stating: “Keep Refrigerated Until Opened”. I cleared a spot in the fridge. Guess I needn’t tell you that the box contained about 10 pounds of slightly stale magazines. A perfect gift to my way of thinking.

My wife has yet to come to terms with my collection. “When are you going to get rid of these stinky magazines?” I’ve heard that more than once. (Incidentally, they do have a rather musty smell, as if they’d been kept in someone’s barn, or basement too long.)

My reply is: “Honey, they’ll bring in a lot of money at my estate sale.”

Any takers?

This week’s gadget is an old-timer, that may have been used in a real estate office in the early 1900’s.

Your Gadget

Identify it, and win a 1950’s copy of one of my magazine collection.

Joann Treml was the winner of the vintage magazine! The gadget is a pencil sharpener.

But here’s a new gadget, this time, I want a specific use for the item.

Another vintage magazine for the correct guess.

Roguespeare gave the correct answer for identifying the second gadget as a “surveyor’s compass”, he was rated AAA, but since he didn’t give the approximate age, I’m lowering his rating to AA+. Sorry

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14 Responses to You’re Collecting What?

  1. Joann Treml says:

    A pencil sharpener!

  2. roguespeare says:

    A surveying compass

    • Mike Foley says:

      Rogue: No more wandering in the wilderness for you, your answer is correct. I will administer you prize when I see you next. One whack, or two?

  3. Ken Gillpatrick says:

    The first gadget is a pencil sharpener

    And the second gadget is a suveriors compass.

    • Mike Foley says:

      Mr. Gilpatrick: Glad to see you on the blog again. You're correct on your guesses—but a little late. How about a guess on this past week's gadget? Remember, new stories weekly, and I'll be updating the blog frequently while I'm in Europe.

  4. B. Barron says:

    Mr. Foley, I'm wondering if I might be in touch with you to try to find a specific issue of Mechanix Illustrated in which my friend's father was awarded the Golden Hammer for his "cellar conversion". I'd love to eventually locate that issue of the magazine and give it to him for Christmas but I don't have a date, even though we do have the actual Golden Hammer award. Perhaps you could be of some help? Thanks so much. B. Barron

    • Mike Foley says:

      Mr. Barron, If you could find the date it would certainly help, and I would be more than happy to forward the article, or magazine to you.


  5. Kathy says:

    My father won the Mechanix Illustrated Golden Hammer award somewhere between 1959-1965 for a backyard trolley that he build us. We have the hammer but the print on the hammer is faded so we can’t read the actual date and do t have any idea where his certificate ended up. Were there certain n issues the awards were published or were they in every issue?

    • Mike Foley says:

      Hi Kathy,

      Sorry for the delay in responding, but as I noted in my last posting, I have been unable to access the blog until now. As far as the Golden Hammer award is concerned, it was given each month during the mid 1950’s to 1960’s. That was quite an achievement for your dad.

  6. Wendy says:

    My Dad won a Golden Hammer Award for a tent trailer that he designed and built.
    The hammer has long since disappeared.
    I had hopes to find a copy of the article but alas, I can not.
    Is there a listing of the awards any where? I’d love to read the article again and have a copy of it.
    It would more than likely have been 1958 to 1962
    I also thought that they gave a Golden Hammer award for the best one of the year? Am I remembering that wrong?

    • Mike Foley says:

      Hi Wendy,

      sorry for the delay in responding. If you would give me your dad’s name, I’ll look and see if I can find the issue, if I do, I’ll send it to you. Mike Foley

      • Wendy says:

        Oh Mike………….that would be so kind of you.
        Thomas (Tom) Shaffmaster.
        I THINK I’ve narrowed the time frame down correctly. At the most, it would be one year earlier and/or later than what I posted.
        I’m almost in tears at the thought of seeing this article and pictures of my Dad and his tent trailer.

  7. Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Finding the
    time and actual effort to create a superb article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and don’t manage to get nearly
    anything done.

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