Simple Things: The Best of Old and New

I like simple things and sometimes pine for simpler times. That said, the realist in me knows that even times past weren’t all that simple, but there will always be a part of me that likes to imagine they were. We could all use a little more simple these days.

Rapid wire

The “Rapid Wire” cashier system.

When I was a kid, I loved to sit with my grandfather as he told me of how he worked in a store back in the late 1920s and early 30s.There were no credit card machines, or even a cash register. There was a teller with a scratch pad & pencil, and a pulley system with a can on it. The teller would do the math, take the payment, put it in the can and then pull the cord to send the money to the cashier. The cashier would make change, write the receipt, and send it back to the teller. It all conjured up images in my seven year old head of the Rube Goldberg-style contraptions I used to see when I watched The Little Rascals. I loved those shows as a kid. And I loved to hear about and dream about the “old days.”

But over time I’ve learned that what I really love is a mix of old and new. I like to consider myself a forward-looking guy, and what I’ve come to appreciate over the years are hybrid solutions that blend the best of the eras. Taking something from the past and adding some modern touches doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need a complete overhaul or new invention. Anyone who remembers the huge battery packs you used to have to carry around with your “car phone” in the mid-1980s will echo the sentiment that sometimes you just need to start from scratch. But the subtle blend of old and new, that works, is what makes “classics.” And those are the simple things I love.

So, occasionally, I’m going to share some of my favorite things that, to me, blend old and new to form simple things. Sure, I love my Macbook Pro with retina display. And my iPhone. But sometimes a really nice old-school notebook with a nice new pen is a much better combination to gather my thoughts. So be on the lookout for upcoming posts that start with “Simple Things: ___________.”

In the mean time, what are some simple things you love that blend the best of old and new? Leave a comment below or tweet it to me @DanielHayes.

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13 thoughts on “Simple Things: The Best of Old and New

  1. I love “remembering when” — you are so right — the blending of old and new. I have a 2006 Mustang and love it but would give anything to drive the 1965 Lime Green Mustang that my dad had. I spent many happy times in that car squished in the back seat with my sister and brother. As we live through the family laughs as kids, we don’t realize how much we will treasure those memories when they no longer happen. While we are at it — I would love to sit down with my grandparents and interview them about their lives growing up.

    I love the visual of you sitting in the store watching your grandfather and planning “what you would be when you grow up.”

  2. I love woodworking with modern hand tools with a pinch of power tools in there (what many call hybrid woodworking). My office desk was made mostly by hand (a few cuts were made by power tools), but the hand tools were built with modern precision and new types of steel that make it easier to woodwork than even 80 years ago. To do the majority of the build with nothing but me powering the tool was so peaceful, simple, and rewarding. The irony was that even though I was trying to build the desk using old techniques from a different time, the desk had no drawers because it was for a paperless office.

    • Way to go, Leh!!! We might have to do a show and have you on about making hobbies “simple.” I’ve seen some pictures of your work…AMAZING! Do you hvae a link to share?

  3. Several years ago I purchased an old fashioned looking large lantern. These days I like nothing better than to turn out all the house lights & carry a lantern to bed, using its dim light to guide the way.

    • That’s cool, Marco! When I was a kid we used oil lamps occasionally at our cabin. The light from them is so much more serene than from electric light. Plus, that type of light doesn’t have the suppressive qualities as “blue light” from electric devices. Electric light at nighttime suppresses the production of melatonin and messes with our natural sleep and wake cycles. Sorry…that’s the paleo/primal geek in me coming out…

  4. Hey Dan: I liked this post a lot and can relate, I’m a big geek but I’m drawn to the aesthetic of the past and often fall into idealizing the past.

    My wife loved Little Rascals growing up and has since shown my boys (7 &5) and they’re fans now too.

    I grew up on the East Coast, but now that I live in LA, I’m intrigued by the 20th century history here as it was developed relatively late compared to the rest of the country. This is an article that features famous LA streets that were just dirt roads not so long ago:

    I carry a WWI gas mask bag (aka the Indiana Jones bag!) to hold my iPad and sketchbook. Love it:

    • Hi Deron! Great to see you here!

      Sorry it has taken so long to reply. Something broke in our comment notification system and I haven’t been getting notifications when people post. Since we’re on this “hiatus” I’d guess you call it, I haven’t been logging in to the dashboard as much.

      I checked out you links…wow! Those pictures are amazing! I fawn over old black & white panoramics. That was the first present Vanessa ever got me was an old panoramic. And it’s so funny you mention the Little Rascals…when I explain the pulley cashier system I always say that I used to see stuff like that on the Little Rascals! They always had cool contraptions. Even to get into the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club.

      I also checked out your satchel. Very cool! Reminds me of my own old canvas map case from my military days. I carried that everywhere. It needs a new strap though as mine is completely frayed. Your bag will match my Indiana Jones hat in my avatar. Remind me to tell you that story next time we meet!

  5. Hi – I so love your website : )
    My father grew up 20 miles south of the Canadian border and we still own the 10 acres between 4 families. The running water is the creek and we use propane tanks for the frig. and stove. We used to go there every other summer with our 3 kids. They’re grown now but I think we all cherish the memories of nightly card or dice games and sitting around the campfire. It’s still my happy place!

    • That sounds awesome Sandra! It sounds like an amazing place to go recharge your batteries and relax. I’m afraid I wouldn’t want to leave!

  6. I bought a new electric leaf blower but found myself this past weekend instinctively with a straw broom in my hands cleaning off the driveway. Not sure how it got in my hands, but that just seemed like the tool for the job. Love that “swish, swish” sound much more than the deafening hum of the electric. But I’m also not giving up my Roomba to comb my carpet (what the heck did people use to clean thick carpet before vacuums?)! Like you say, there’s room for both old and new.

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