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Friday, December 18, 2015

A Royal Enfield carries you back to a past "future"

Gleaming porcelain, push buttons and a phony grille
were all an appliance needed to look modern in 1955.
A Royal Enfield motorcycle is "a time machine that would move not just through space but through the decades."

I wrote that in 2008.

I meant that I wanted a motorcycle that would remind me of what it was like to be a boy who wanted a motorcycle — which, in my case, would mean turning the clock back to about 1955.

Although 49 years younger than me, my Royal Enfield Bullet does the trick.

Until recently, it wasn't the only thing in my life that made me feel young. When we moved into our house in Fort Lauderdale I prevailed upon my wife to put up with the original clothes dryer, left by the previous owner. It had been brand new when the house was built in 1955 but was already 40 years old when Bonnie "inherited" it.

Somehow I managed to prevent her from replacing the rumbling antique — after all, it still worked — until just the other day. It was now 60 years old!

I'm not usually nostalgic about laundry appliances. But the styling on this one reminded me vividly of what "modern" was supposed to look like when I was a kid.

General Electric was proud of this 1955 "automatic" dryer.
It had push buttons! Nothing was more "modern" in 1955 than "Push Button Convenience." The buttons for Start, High, Medium and Low heat are no more effective than a single multi-position switch would have been. But they seemed, somehow, better.

Another feature, standard on all appliances back then, was a phony "grille" designed to look as though it provided ventilation. I attribute this to the impact of air conditioning, which was just becoming widely available for U.S. homes and autos.

Nearly every kind of appliance had the suffix "aire" tacked onto its name in those days, to signal it was up to date and desirable — like air conditioning, even if it had nothing to do with refrigerated air.

Not a laundry appliance: this is a motor vehicle.
My friend, author Douglas Kalajian, recently pointed out an example of this: a 1964 Studebaker Daytona Wagonaire, for sale on Hemmings.com in Virginia.

This oddball Studebaker station wagon was exceptional because it provided a sliding roof over the load compartment, a feature that almost no one needed and few wanted. But its styling was distinctly "modern."

The Wagonaire's grille, at least, was functional.
In fact, the resemblance to Bonnie's old clothes dryer is obvious. They could be siblings.

By the way, you can have the old dryer for free, if you'll pick it up. That would be no problem if you had a Wagonaire.

It looked clean, practical and modern — in 1964.

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