Video: Meet the men and women still using vacuum cleaners, tumble dryers and tents that are 30, 40, 50 and even 60 years old
From vacuum cleaners to washing machines and fridges, it seems there’s no shortage of old, trusted kitchen appliances still going strong across Suffolk after decades of faithful service.
Many of them have been in the family for so long they are regarded with huge affection and some seem to have even taken on personalities of their own as the years have come and gone.
They come complete with stories that often stretch back generations. They remind us of happy times, memorable occasions and can represent a little bit of constancy in an ever-changing world.
Take, for instance, Michael Watson’s 1948 Frigidaire refrigerator, still in daily use after an incredible 66 years.
“You couldn’t get any English fridges after the war and my father managed to get this one from America,” says Michael, a farmer, who lives near Woodbridge. “It’s a very large fridge and perhaps not very economical to run but it has been in daily use since 1948.
“It does make quite a noise but it keeps going and has only ever had one repair, about 10 years ago. It does everything I need it to do so why should I change it? I don’t believe in changing things for the sake of it.”
Michael also has a Creda Debonair spin dryer from the 1960s, which is used weekly and has never had to be repaired and a 1960s Electrolux Automatic 100 vacuum cleaner, which has had a new flex but otherwise is just as purchased and is now kept for cleaning the car.
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“They must be better built than more modern things,” says Michael. “Nothing lasts today. It’s a throwaway society.”
Over in Chevington, near Bury St Edmunds, Ann Sadler is still using a Hoover upright vacuum cleaner her mother bought second-hand in 1961.
“I wouldn’t part with it for anything,” says Ann. “It’s still possible to get spare parts and it has better suction than any modern vacuum cleaner.”
For Beryl Beaumont, who lives in Ipswich, her electric Flatley clothes airer/dryer also has important family associations.
“It was bought as a Christmas present from my mother-in-law back in 1968, when my son was born,” she says.
The dryer is still going strong after 46 years and is in regular use.
Meanwhile Clara Nessling, who lives in Kelsale, has grown so fond of her Goblin cylinder cleaner over the past three decades that the vacuum seems to have become a much-loved member of the family.
“Give me old any day,” she says. “My faithful friend is still going strong after 30 years.
“An accident occurred - through no fault of his own - when we had to leave him for a week with a house sitter in his younger days and he managed to shed his two back wheels, which made him hard to move. He could not be repaired and so he had to be deported to the garage, where he’s spent the rest of his life cleaning many a car.
“As for the so-called new one that took his place, it’s long gone and two more besides, each one lasting fewer and fewer years and nowhere near as much loved. Oh, for old faithful friends.”
Sandra Roberts’ Hotpoint tumble dryer is only slightly younger.
“We bought it in 1988, shortly after we moved to Ipswich,” she says. “I’d never had a tumble dryer before and I remember being so thrilled with it. Originally it was paired with a matching Hotpoint washing machine, but while we are on our third or fourth washer since then, the tumble dryer has soldiered sturdily on. Down the years it has coped with the heavy duty washing that comes with a family of five including the muddy sports kits, swimming towels and play clothes of three children who are now grown up and away from home. Just last weekend I tumbled a load of bath towels – still going strong after almost 27 years!”
Jayne Lindill’s 1980 Philips T300 vacuum cleaner has proved equally reliable, as has a Philips food whisk from the same year.
“The trusty vacuum cleaner is still going strong, although the middle section of the hosepipe has gone missing so vacuuming has to be done a bit bent over - or by children of course,” she says. “The electric beater is also a Philips, circa 1980, possibly earlier, a marvellous bit of kitchen equipment. So handy, easy to clean, not as noisy as more modern kit. You can’t beat it!
“Also, I’ve noticed that older electrical stuff has longer cables making vacuuming etc much easier and quicker.”
And it’s not just electrical goods from yesteryear that seem to last longer and for which we can feel huge affection.
Natalie Sadler’s husband still cherishes a tent he bought as an eight-year-old, 32 years ago.
“I am not sure which is the biggest driver behind my husband’s thrifty lifestyle - saving money or protecting the environment,” says Natalie.
“He loathes the disposable society we have become and fails to be lured into the trap of replacing something with a shiny new version unless he absolutely has to.
“He currently drives a 15-year-old Audi estate with a reclaimed engine from Poland that was installed the first time it was rescued from the dead.
“When I moved in he was still using the Argos kettle his nan had bought him to take to university 20 years previously and his phone was almost as big as my handbag, but he had a great SIM only deal on it!
“But I was most shocked when we went to our first festival together and he took along his trusty three-man ridge tent, which is actually older than I am. He bought the Lichfield tent with the proceeds of his fruit picking money, aged just eight and he assured me it had never let him down.
“Sadly, a slightly inebriated festival-goer had tripped over a guy rope the year before, landed on the tent and ripped it. But he had sent it to his mum who used the tent bag to patch it up (you can see the patch over the left hand side of the porch). I have since convinced him to buy a slightly more spacious pup tent but he still tucks his old Lichfield into the boot for emergencies.”
And what of my own old machines that inspired me to ask if older machines were better built?
My 18-year-old Hotpoint First Edition 800 washing machine works harder than it has ever done and my Electrolux Microlite 1100 vacuum cleaner of the same age has never let me down. But when it comes to longevity the prize in my house goes to my 1972 Singer sewing machine, bought second-hand in 1982. It comes complete in its own retro sewing table and it still works like a dream.
In fact, when it needed a replacement part a couple of years ago the repair man told me to hang on to it as it would outlast anything built more recently. And it seems that sewing machines are not the only things no longer built to last.
The quality and lifespan of all our household appliances are not what they used to be - even the industry admits it.
On its website, the Whitegoods Trade Association (WTA), which represents the independent domestic appliance repair industry, says falling quality is related to the public’s demand for ever cheaper goods.
“Over the past decade or two appliance prices have, in real terms, dropped quite markedly,” it says. “This erosion of prices has had several effects on the appliances themselves and a massive effect on the industry in general. The average lifespan of appliances has dropped in relation to the prices.
“Now, over 80% of all washing machines, as an example, cost under £500. Over 40% cost under £300. Obviously these cheaper products do not have the same build quality, performance or longevity and therefore the average lifespan has dropped from over ten years to under seven years. It is not unusual for cheaper appliances to only last a few years now.”
The WTA argues that back in 1983 a good washing machine would have cost £400 - meaning a comparable product would, at today’s prices, cost about £920, which is far more than most people are prepared to pay. It blames competition between sellers and advertising for encouraging people to think that a new washing machine should cost no more than it did 20 years ago.
The advent of continually updated ‘must-have’ electrial devices, such as smartphones and computer operating systems, each with slightly newer, ‘better’ features, may also have has encouraged many of us to become conditioned to the idea of replacing and upgrading our appliances every few years - or even more often.
So, says the WTA, we all have a choice when buying new: pay more for better quality or go cheap and and expect more breakdowns and a shorter lifespan.
Of course, there is another option for many: stick with the best and cheaptest option - a faithful friend from decades past.
? Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=7e0YplQUvWk to see a video of Ann Sadler using her Hoover upright vacuum cleaner.