They don't make them anymore, what used to be

Sandy Vasko

    This whole topic started with a conversation with my husband. He was trying to balance a foam box of food on his lap while watching TV. He said we ought to buy some folding television dinner trays.
    I had to inform him they don't make them anymore. After I thought about it, there are so many things that “they don't make” or “they don't do” anymore. These are a few.
    One of the first things I found that “they don't do anymore” involves what landscapers now call a pest - the wild grape vine.
    We find it growing on fences and even buildings everywhere in the area. In 1862 it was highly sought after.
    We read, “Native Wines - Our thanks are due Mr. H. Gardner for a bottle of native wine, manufactured last fall. It is of beautiful color, and most excellent flavor. The grapes of which it is composed were gathered in the immediate vicinity of the village, and we learn are abundant in this part of the state. Mr. G. made forty gallons two years ago, and eighty gallons last fall.”
    Closely associated with this is the lowly rhubarb plant. Many of us have a few plants growing for pie or sauce purposes.
    n the same article we read, “A very choice wine is now made from the rhubarb plant, and we learn that N. N. Osburn, Esq., is preparing to manufacture it on an extensive scale, having set out 3,100 Rhubarb plants, covering over two acres of land.”  
    “R. W. Waterman, Esq., (future governor of California) also has a hand in the business, having set out on his farm a large number of plants.
    All who have tasted the wine unite in pronouncing it a very superior article and we hope those engaged in its culture may find it a profitable business.”
    Another thing we don't do any more is buy barrels. Why would anyone buy barrels?
    The same reason you purchase totes, plastic storage bags or even cupboards. Barrels were used to store everything from clothing to pickles, flour to dishware, whiskey to nails.
    We read in 1871, “Business is in full blast at Courval's Cooper (barrel making) Shop on Water Street. Eight or ten hands are hammering away from morn till night, and the business, we learn, was never in a more prosperous condition at this season of the year. Order 12 and save!”
    There are many of us who have spent hours trying on shoes or complaining that our shoes didn't fit properly. Think of having shoes custom made to your feet.
    It is out of the question now, but in 1871 we read, “John Kewen, advertises in this issue that he has opened a boot and shoe making and repairing establishment on Water St. - just north of the office of Dr. Le Caron. John is a capital workman, and was foreman of Mr. Gregory's shop for several years. Reader, pause and thing of your sole.”
    That same building held another business that can't be found anymore.
    “Those of our readers who want rag carpets wove, would do well to call on Mrs. Freeman, whose shop and loom is located just in the rear of Courval's cooper shop. Her work is pronounced No. 1, and her price, 15 cents per yard - is quite moderate. Send in your orders; first come, first served.”
    In 1872 an ad in the Wilmington Independent caught my eye. “The new hair store has been removed from Main Street to No. 58 Water Street, second door south of the Stewart House. Ladies are invited to call.”
    Although we can still purchase wigs, these hair stores sold to every woman. The hair styles of the day required huge piles of hair, so these were additions that were made to order for your hair color.
    While working on the new hat and accessory exhibit at the Will County Historical Museum in Lockport, I had the idea to have a fashion show featuring hats.
    I looked for hat shops in vain. All I could find was baseball hats.
    Not so in 1872, “Mrs. McCool's stock of millinery goods is really gorgeous. The various styles are all well represented and will suit everybody. The jaunty “Dolly Varden” and “Daisy” hats are very beautiful and showy, while the “Princess” and “Gypsy Eugenie” are tricky, yet delicate and elegant. The neatest things out considering durability and price, are the Sailor hats, which are being introduced everywhere.”
    One of the businesses most advertised are mattress stores. Mattresses were quite different in the day. Many were homemade and stuffed with a great variety of soft materials.
    We read this ad in 1872, “W. H. Jenkins & Co., feather bed and mattress renovators, have arrived in this city and established themselves at 68 Water Street, where they are prepared to thoroughly cleanse and renovate old and worn feathers, hair, moss, etc., at short notice. Call and see their machinery and work, and examine prices.”
    This time of the year I look forward to seeing crab apples bloomin. My childhood home was surrounded by them.
    Although the fruit was edible, only the birds enjoyed it. In 1872 we would have made money on them. We read, “Al Randall wants 2,000 bushels of crab apples, at 43 Water Street.”
    I could go on for weeks on this topic, but at this point I would like to invite all my gentle readers to visit the Will County Historical Society & Research Center at 803 S. State St. in Lockport.
    The new exhibit featuring men, women and children's hats and accessories is an excellent example of what is not done anymore.
    You will see men's beaver top hats, women's long gloves and beaded bags, and a beaded purse made by a Pottawatomie artist and given to a 12-year-old child before leaving for his Kansas reservation.
    The museum is open from noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.