From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Old Adding Machine Stirs Memories

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane... History and Old Stuff...



Isaac and I traveled a few miles of the Kentucky 400-Mile Sale on Saturday. We bought a few things, including this old Burroughs adding machine. Isaac paid a dollar for it.

The wall plug is missing, so we don't know yet if the machine works. No matter. Isaac likes its old-time appearance. He calls it a "primitive."

Isaac is intrigued by the mechanics. He likes to push down lots of buttons and watch them pop back up when he presses the "E" (at lower right.)

"Better not do that," I warned. "The buttons might jam." I know this from my own experience of playing with a similar adding machine.

I was about 7 years old at the time. It was winter, and my mother was doing the bookkeeping and income tax. She decided to rent an adding machine for a few days, knowing that she'd sleep better if she was sure the numbers were correct.

Mama set up the adding machine on her library table. When I finally got a chance to look at it closely, I decided to see how it worked. You already know what happened next. I pushed keys and more keys until the machine was jammed. I decided to exit quietly and maintain a low profile.

Later, from my bedroom, I heard my parents talking. They had discovered the jammed adding machine, and they were discussing who had done it. They agreed that it had to be me.

Very soon, my dad came to question me about it. He thanked me for my honesty when I confessed. He told me that adding machines were expensive and reminded me that the machine didn't even belong to us. Then he spanked me.

I felt a great burden of guilt, shame and humiliation for what I had done. The story ends happily, though. My dad took the adding machine apart and fixed it, my mother got the income taxes done, and the adding machine was returned in good working order.

I don't think my parents would have ever mentioned that adding machine incident again if I hadn't melted Mama's funny little plastic adding machine the next year.

She had bought it to help figure the income tax. To enter a number, you set a sliding tab to a value between 0 and 9 for each digit. Then you pushed a button for the operation (add or subtract) and cranked the handle to enter the number and print it on a tape. (If I remember right!)

One day my brother and I were alone in the house when we got home from school. I set the adding machine down on the heating stove in the living room when I got done playing with it.

By the time my mother came home and found it, the stove had turned itself on and off a few times. The bottom of the adding machine had a new shape, and the little tabs didn't slide anymore.

I don't remember getting spanked that time. I do remember the fire glinting in my mother's eyes and the smoke boiling out of her ears as she warned me to never, ever, touch another of her adding machines and stay away from the typewriter, too!

How did she know that, I wonder?!

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2 comments:

Larry said...

I liked your anecdote, Genevieve!

Genevieve said...

I guess I've always been attracted to technology!

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.