Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blast From the Past

The year is 1968.  Lyndon Johnson is president, Super Bowl II is won by Green Bay, and Mad Men is still a few years away from catching up.  60 minutes debuts, it's a good year for Camaros and Mustangs, and OSHA is still 2 years from being created by Richard Nixon.

This last bit is actually relevant.  No OSHA, so men were still free to work in totally unsafe environments, breathing in smoke and chemicals that would make us modern guys run for the hills.  Thankfully, these guys took that attitude home with them too.  In garages all across America, guys in white T-shirts with crew cuts were opening their cans of PBR and saying "hand me that welder" to their buddies.

I know this because I recently inherited a complete and perfect set of the Popular Mechanics Do-It-Yourself Encyclopedia.  Forty two years ago guys like me would study the glorious black and white photos in these volumes, and then go out to their shop to make a table saw from old washing machine parts.

Hey, the encyclopedia doesn't lie.  Seems like guys have been trying to solve the same problems for at least the past 4 decades.  It's funny to compare the articles in the encyclopedia to the ones we see today in all of our woodworking and home improvement magazines.  Of course, there are also solutions to problems that really don't need to be solved but are just an excuse for a period-correct mishmash of welding, parts scrounging, and unsafe engineering.  For example, take a look at this entry filed innocently under "bicycle".

You know, bikes are great but what they really need is to be way higher up, and have a steering mechanism like a boat.  Then you could go out on a nice snowy day and ride around on the icy street wearing a beret and be totally safe!  Really, there's no way this is going to hurt.

Stay tuned for much, much more from the way-back machine.  We're just getting started.

Have any requests for the encyclopedia of unsafe knowledge?  Leave them in the comments!  Table saw modifications, drill press attachments, home-made belt sanders powered by a toaster?  They're probably in there.

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