Star Magazine

February 21, 2013

My new-old range is built to last

My new Westinghouse Super-Speed Corox electric range has all the latest technology: lighted work surface, high-speed burner, built-in outlets for my electric immersion blender or hand mixer, regular oven, warming oven with removable stainless steel inserts, built-in clock and timer. And one more thing: It was built in 1951.

It had me at the glowing dials.

My new double-wide range has all the latest technology: lighted work surface, Super Corox high-speed burner, built-in outlets for my electric immersion blender or hand mixer, regular oven, warming oven with removable stainless steel inserts, built-in clock and timer.

All those features are useful but it was the dials, which glow in different colors depending on the heat setting, that really tripped my trigger.

Once I was covering a kitchen and bath trade show in New York, and I saw a faucet whose water stream changed from blue to red as the water got hotter. Now I have an appliance that incorporates that futuristic technology.

It was built in 1951.

My beautiful Westinghouse Super-Speed Corox electric range is squeaky clean and works perfectly. It came out of the basement rec room of a Westinghouse sales rep. Apparently not much cooking went on down there.

That pristine machine, a hulking 300 pounds of American-made steel, cost me $300, including delivery from Sedalia.

A friend spotted it for me on Craigslist, and it would be impossible for me to exaggerate how much I love it.

When I was a kid in California, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress was always my favorite “ride” at Disneyland, and my stove would have been right at home in that tribute to the marvels of electricity.

Lucy Ricardo loved my stove — she had the same model in the kitchen of her and Ricky’s New York apartment in “I Love Lucy” because the show was sponsored by Westinghouse.

Of course, skeptics may wonder why I would pay $300 for a 62-year-old range when I could pay $4,000 or more for a brand-new one that does the same things, but without the lighted work surface, built-in outlets and glowing dials.

As Ricky Ricardo would say, I can ’splain everything. First, I’m a non-card-carrying nonconformist, so if everybody else is getting stainless steel gas ranges, I’m really not that interested, thanks.

Second, and more importantly, I’m into precycling.

Three guesses what that means.

Hint: It’s not lying on your back doing pedaling motions with your feet as a warm-up before cycling, which is what I thought when I first heard the term.

Precycling is reducing the amount of stuff you consume, period.

Imagine a trash cop stationed outside the door of your home and your office who questions everything you bring in with you: “Do you really need that?” “How long is that going to last?” “How much energy and trash went into getting that from where it came from to here?”

Proponents of precycling emphasize the first two tenets of waste management theory — reduce and reuse — while kind of throwing local free-range eggs at the third tenet — recycle.

Of course, recycling is the most popular tenet because it means you can keep buying loads of crap wrapped in plastic and then feel virtuous about sending tons of packing materials and worn-out crap off to be melted down and turned into more crap that you don’t need but buy anyway because it is so cheap.

My range is a great example of precycling. I could satisfy the front-door trash cop on all counts.

First: Yep, I really need that. I cook food from scratch over actual heat every single day. (I keep waiting for the day the microwave goes from coveted to reviled, like margarine or asbestos. “Didn’t they realize it was


?” future hipsters will say, laughing derisively.)

Second: I bet it lasts a really long time. It has lasted 62 years already, and I doubt any range made today will be around six decades from now.

I have supporting evidence for that supposition, too, from a Maytag repairman. When a part inside our dryer came loose, we asked if it was worth repairing. His answer was: Yes, if the dryer was made before 2005, when Whirlpool bought Maytag. No, if it was made after that.

Luckily, we bought ours in 1996, and I wouldn’t trade it for the most expensive dryer made today.

If I were in charge of the Energy Star rating system, I would hire people from Harvard or Yale who can do math to factor in how many years before an appliance goes to the landfill because its energy-efficient parts have worn out and it would cost more to fix than to buy a new one. That would become part of the equation.

It’s time to start holding manufacturers accountable for shortening the lifespan of practically every product category so they can keep selling people a new washer or couch or cellphone every eight or five or two years. Of course, consumers are ultimately to blame for being willing to pay good money for poorly made junk.

Here’s a simple arithmetic problem even I can solve: Which is more expensive, a sofa that costs $3,000 and lasts 50 years, or one that costs $1,000 and has to be replaced 10 times over 50 years?

Third: My new-old stove came with no packing materials other than a reusable blanket and used up only half a tank of the seller’s gas to get it to me from Sedalia. You can’t say that about a new Viking.

Now I just wish my refrigerator would break so I could replace it with Lucy and Ricky’s frost-free Westinghouse MW-7 to go with the stove.

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