Guest Blogger Saul Friedman on AARP
Consumer Fraud and Elders

Some Fun With Old Age

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The new, non-election campaign Sunday Issues post begins this weekend. You can find out more about it here. So if you have blog stories from this week to submit, please email links to me by end of day Friday.]

category_bug_journal2.gif It’s been a long, hard slog of an election campaign with some of us holding our breath until we nearly turned blue waiting for the outcome. Now it’s back to real life and all the national catastrophes we face. Too bad an election doesn’t magically wipe the slate clean so a new president doesn’t need play catch-up. All our psyches would benefit.

Since that isn’t going to happen, how about a little fun today to lighten our loads.

When I moved into this apartment two years ago, I was confronted for the first time with a glass-topped cook stove. If you must live without a gas stove (and I must), it has its charms, but the instructions advised that cast iron pots and pans should not be used, so I reluctantly stowed mine in the back of the cupboard.

However, frittatas in particular are less than acceptable made in metal and non-stick, so I recently pulled out my favorite cast iron frying pan. The stove didn’t blow up, it wasn’t scarred and I decided that what the manufacturer really means is that you shouldn’t bang them around on the glass top.

I’m now happily back to cooking with cast iron when it is called for and it struck me the other day that I’ve owned my smallest frying pan, about nine inches in diameter, since before I was married. I remember buying it in San Francisco in 1960, which makes it 48 years old.

Having now put in some time pondering its age, I’m pretty sure there is nothing else I’ve owned for as long. So, here’s the question:

What is the oldest item you own that has been in continuous use since you got it? Tell us what it is and why you have kept it for so long.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Old Woman tells a love story in Falling Apart Together – Part 1.]


It's an object, also a work of art. It is an oil painting, done by my mother, of their apartment in Maryland (while Dad was overseas in the war)--very basic, with bookcases full, made of crates, painting rags, an ironing board, etc. It is special to me, not only because it was done by her, but because she was pregnant with me at the time, which makes it 65 years old, as is the frame. The frame is to be replaced by one which my son is making, of mesquite, so it will represent three generations. I think the sentimental reasons for keeping it are obvious!

My grandmother's kitchen scales, all cast iron and brass. My mother always kept an old large copper penny under the weighing pan as she said this balanced them. I lost the penny long ago but use the scales lamost daily when cooking/baking. They must be a hundred years old and I'm the third generation to use them. Sadly I don't think my daughter will take over as she poopoos the approximate nature of the weighing. Maybe she'll keep them as an ornament?

I had a little GE clock radio that I got for my 18th birthday that served me faithfully for over 41 years. (I wrote about its demise on my blog:

I can't think of anything else I owned that long.

It's a stiletto. Four inches long, with a handle of turned ivory. There's absolutely nothing to beat it when it comes to unpicking stitches, specially when I need to remove tickly garment labels. It lived in my Grandma's workbasket when I was a child and she'd had it since she was an apprentice dressmaker in the 1890s. I'm not sure where she got it, but I also have a pincushion that lived in the same workbasket and I know that belonged to one of her great-aunts, so maybe the stiletto did also.

A "double sided razor blade plastic hair cutting device". It was purchased at a drugstore when my husband and I were first dating, and since we had little money, I agreed to cut his hair. It cost less than $5.00 and I have used it to cut his hair for over 30 years. We keep it both for sentimental reasons, habit, and frugality.

The oldest item I use regularly is a large yellow Pyrex mixing bowl that I received back in the early 70's. It was a gift from my Mother, a garage-sale find just like the one she had been using for many years, as long as I could remember and that I used growing up and learning to bake. It wasn't new when I got it, so I don't know how old it really is, but I shudder every time I pull it out of the dishwasher. I remind my husband that it does not belong in there, but it falls on deaf ears. (This is the same man who put my 9-inch cast iron frying pan in the dishwasher, which is the main reason I no longer use that pan, not to mention my glass-topped range and is another reason it was given to my son, who does have a gas range.) Anyway, that yellow bowl is the largest of a full set of different colored and sized bowls, none of which has survived. I see them at collectible sales - not inexpensive these days.

Two items come to mind! One is a mixing bowl of the Autumn Leaf pattern put out by the old Jewel Tea Company. When I was around six years old, the Jewel Tea man and his truck came to our house once a month and my grandmother bought several pieces of this "china". Another oldie is a large wooden salad bowl given as a wedding gift to me and my first husband when we married in 1962.

Do books count? I have a few books given to me as a child but I can hardly say that I "use" them regularly.

The oldest thing I've owned that I do use regularly, very regularly, is an ugly old metal trunk that I purchased in Rouen France to cart home all the books that I bought when I spent my 20th year there. So that makes it 40 years old. I have continued to use it to cart my belongings to the various places I've lived, and to store tools in when I am not moving. Currently it sits in the middle of my living room, covered in blankets and a silk rug, serving both as storage space and my coffee table. It's scuffed and dented and an ugly shade of green, but it's indestructible! And more or less flat ;-)

I still love my Magnalite Dutch Oven Roaster we received as a wedding gift 41 years ago and it's one of the things all five of my kids have asked for when I no longer use it. I have two paintings that are over 120 years old that were handed down through my mother's family line. One is of an old English farm and the other is of nine puppies tumbling all over each other.

Many items popped into my head but then I remembered you said "What is the oldest item you own that has been in continuous use since you got it?" Lots of my treasures are in storage so they wouldn't count. This sent me on a hunt through my home to find the item.

I have a lovely, antique wooden box that my grandmother gave me in the 60's. The pictures inside were very old family photographs. I have kept those pictures in the box and continued to fill it with pictures and other treasures. I'll put a picture of the box on my blog today.

I still love my Magnalite Dutch Oven Roaster we received as a wedding gift 41 years ago and it's one of the things all five of my kids have asked for when I no longer use it. I have two paintings that are over 120 years old that were handed down through my mother's family line. One is of an old English farm and the other is of nine puppies tumbling all over each other.

I have so many old things that it is hard to come up with only one. Perhaps it is the Victorian bed and dresser in my guest room, or the coal hod on my hearth, or the very old spatula in my kitchen.

We have two items nearly tied for the honor. When I was seventeen or eighteen my grandmother took me to Marshall Fields (damn Macy's) where I found a huge wood embroidery/quilting hoop. I have embroidered several large table cloths and quilts tops on it. It is about 48 years and the only time it was idle was the three years I spent in the Navy. The other is an eight serving set of dinnerware I bought while I was stationed in Washington, D.C., 40 years ago. I soon found that I had no where to store it and no real use for it and gave it to my mother who has used it since. We still use it. In a sense it has come full circle: from me to Mom to us.

Sorry, I have to make a correction. I never could do simple math in my head. The hoop is actually 42. I gave myself credit for being ten years older than I am. I did get the dinnerware right.

At first I was going to say a blender that I purchased 41 years ago and then I remembered two things that were much older.

My piano was give to me by my husband as his wedding gift to me and is 60 years old. I also have a set of carving knives purchased from a Jewell Tea salesman that same year and still use them.

That question started me thinking, and I believe it is my 1940's era small gas heater, with those ceramic grids inside a deep recess, in a metal frame. I love to watch the flames inside, and it does a good job of warming my cozy morning space, with laptop, newspaper, and tv (on CSpan). It lived in my house before I did, and reminds me of the ones we had in my childhood home, a farmhouse built by and for the family that had owned it. You don't want me to start on the old, used, items there.

The oldest kitchen item I possess is my mother's colander. One of the handles recently broke off and my husband tried to throw it away, but I do not have the heart to do so yet. I remember my mom using it when I was a little girl. The colander has to be at least 35 years old. Here's to the tried and true.

I suppose mine would also be a cast iron fry pan which I got for camping and because my mother always had one. That would make it 44 years old as I bought it when we got married as a necessity. A year or two later I bought a cast iron dutch oven, love them both for some of the best cooking and also thought I couldn't use them on the new smooth-top range but after reading your post, I'll give them a try. I thought it was because their bottoms wouldn't heat evenly or something. I love to start a stew or spaghetti sauce on top and transfer it to the oven for all day slow cooking.

Like many of yours, my oldest items came to me from my parents. Just last weekend, I purposely used the bright yellow Franciscanware bowl from the set we used as kids just because I felt like being reminded of Dad eating grapefruit from it.

I think the oldest thing I own and still "use" is a key given to me by a guy I met while visiting NYC in 1969. It still hangs on my keychain. For many years, it was accompanied by the plastic tag identifying the hotel it came from. I think it was probably 1980 before I realized he may have given it to me as an invitation, not a souvenier!

The oldest thing I bought for myself and still use regularly is my electric drill. It's probably about 30 years old...and I still have the original chuck key.

It's a Blessing...cornet that is. My mom bought it for me in 1952. I played it thru high school, at Interlochen, a couple of community bands and orchestras and now, at home. It leaks. It's dented from a high school incident in which I hit another cornet player over the head with it after he hit me. I mean it's badly dented. It has an otherwise beautiful tone and when this 68 year old lady plays it, folks take a second look.

I have furniture that has been in the family since before I was born. I still use things I received as wedding gifts in 1961, my favorite being a glass bud vase. We still toss sleeping bags from my childhood on the floor when there are more guests than beds in the house.

Two things that are 50 years old.

One is a straw handbag that I carried on my honeymoon. It had a wooden handle and when it broke my husband repaired it by putting a leather handle on it.

I could never part with that bag and now I keep greeting cards in it.

The other 50 year old item is a large pot that I use on the rare occasion that I make chicken soup.

Just used it the other day.
The soup was delicious and the house smelled so good!

The oldest useful thing which I am still using is a two-pronged cooking fork with a hickory handle. Unfortunately, I am replacing it finally, because the handle is very loose, and I don't know how to repair it. I bought it before I was married in 1970, in the basement of Woolworth's in downtown St. Louis.

The Joy of Cooking that I received in was the copy that told you how to skin a squirrel. It's cover is missing and only the few simple recipes are splattered with cook was I.

I have a Betsy McCall Dress Designer lightbox, which I received for Christmas sometime in the 50s—I still use it to trace pattern pieces on, though the dress designs and doll that came with it are long gone.

And I use, fairly regularly, my great-grandmother's crochet hooks. There are lots of tiny steel ones (most of which I don't use *regularly*, but I have used them.), a few celluloid ones, and some newer aluminum hooks. I'm not positive how old they are, but I'm guessing the celluloid and steel ones are fifty or so years old.

I also still have the two teddy bears I got for Christmas in 1952—I don't *use* them, but they live on a shelf in my sewing space (along with a homemade gingham dog and calico cat from one of my grandmothers; same vintage, more or less) where I can keep an eye on them.

I also have a set of John Martin's Big Red Books, which were my mother's back in the 20s—they are children's books, but the stories are much more sophisticated than current children's literature, and I read in them on a fairly regular basis.

I, too, cannot get a gas stove and when two burners ceased to work, I made peace with getting a glass-topped stove. However learning that it was inadvisable to use cast iron pans stopped me in my tracks. Luckily, I was able to find replacement burners and keep my stove. It’s good to know that if and when I need to buy a new stove, I’ll still be able to use my favorite pans (carefully).
I have so many old things from my grandmother and mother. The one thing that I use quite often though is the Betty Crocker Cook Book received as a wedding shower gift 43 years ago.

I too have a cast iron pan. I've had it about 25 years and use it to make corn bread. Corn bread always taste better when baked in a cast iron pan.

The first thing that comes to mind is a woven straw laundry basket, which I bought second-hand in 1971, and have used continuosly ever since. In those days I dragged it out to the car and into a laundromat once a week. Now it just gets dragged from the closet to the laundry room. It lost one handle years ago but still has a lot of life in it. That seems pretty amazing for an item that you would think of as fragile or disposable.

Of course I own much older stuff - toys, books, even clothing from my childhood, not to mention furniture and family stuff that are older than me - but most of it is really not used regularly, or else came into my possession more recently.

I, too, have cast iron ... some from both of my grandmothers, most of which is still in use. My elder son has and is using the dutch oven with a lid, my daughter has the larger frying pans, and I have everything from a small to a very large frying pan a spider and several other pieces. I also have my maternal grandmother's turkey roasting pan, which is still very much in use. Also have many verrrry old cooking utensils still being used. We were very frugal Scots in those West Virignia hills, we never threw anything away!

I have a Tiffany era lamp that's come down through several generations in my family--it's in my living room and sheds warm light every evening.

Other than that--the speakers for my music system are at least 35 years old--I bought them as part of a used system in the early-70's--and I have a metal box fan that I bought at about the same time.

We have a Kirckman burl walnut grand piano made in 1856 that is played daily. When we first saw it at the piano restorer's we couldn't afford it. A friend bought it, and we bought it from him in 1992.

I have a blanket that was given to me in 1962 that I still use while reading in my office. It's threadbare and ugly, but I'd never part with it willingly!

Omitting any antiques we bought as newlyweds, the "high-chair" my Grandfather used as a toddler in the early 1860's. Far too small & fragile with its cane seat, even for my children when they were toddlers, it has happly resided in my quilt room for the past 48 years providing a seat for various teddy bears.

A coffee mug that my late wife gave to me 28 years ago this Christmas, six months before we got married. It has a drawing of a donkey and says "Democrat 1980". It has its share of chips and scratches, but I still drink from it. Coffee and tea, though, not Kool-Aid.

It is much more difficult to find something new around our house than it is to find old. The oldest things that we use regularly (if not daily) include: for light duty (tapping nails into walls) I use a small hammer that I was given in 1944, which has one side of the claw missing (I broke it on the driveway within a few months of receiving the hammer); the clipboard that I bought my first week of college (1955--we didn't carry notebooks in engineering school); and Hunky Husbands set of weights that he purchased during our first year of marriage in 1958 and has used every few days, since.

I have lost everything several times in my life, but one thing I still have is my granny's box. It's a Victorian portable writing case, but its ink bottles and such were long gone by the time I got it. My mother kept jewelry in it, and I use it for letters.

I am convinced it has a secret compartment, though I have never found it. It rattles when shaken, even when it's empty.

I, too, have an old iron pan that is used exclusively for cornbread (and I make the second-best cornbread around). It belonged to my mother-in-law, and her aunt before her. It has reached the proper degree of seasoning, and I almost took my daughter's head off the time she used it for spaghetti sauce!

I have my great-grandparents' dining room table and chairs. They used it for Sunday dinners for many years, but then it was sold and passed out of the family. My mother happened to find it and bought it to bring it back - she remembered as a small child crawling under it to dust the legs. More fine Sunday and holiday dinners at her house. I moved it from Pennsylvania to California when Mom died and it still hosts good dinners and lots of excellent conversation.

My oldest in continuos use is a Jewel Tea Casserole Dish in the Autumn Leaves pattern. I have been married 57 years this Saturday, November 22, and I have used this dish at least once a month if not more often for all those years. This week I made yummy Macaroni and Cheese in it. I also use it for other dishes like Banana Pudding which I don't make very frequently now.

This casserole dish dates back to my childhood when the Jewel Tea truck would come around during the depression years and my mother would buy various items and get points with which she could obtain "gifts" one of which was this casserole dish. It is about 75 years old.
Anything I cook in this dish is charmed and turns out great. :)

My furniture is what my parents bought. Some of that is over 60 years old. I have the picture that was the first thing my mother bought when she and my father set up housekeeping; it's 75 years old. Even older is a big metal trunk my mother got from her mother which I use as a safe because living in an apartment I prefer to keep things out of sight and locked up. And on the kitchen wall is a pair of ceramic fruit plaques that used to hang in my other grandmother's house. I have a lot of other old stuff but not in daily use.

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