Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An Ode To My Favorite Gadget

It's that time again! Judith Heartsong's Artsey Essay is wrapping up for this month and I am sneaking in under the deadline with but one full day left to compete.  Here is this months challenge:

An Ode to Your Favorite Gadget

Weave a story about your favorite gadget.... something from the kitchen, the car, the garage, the living room, tool shed or your favorite styling tool. Who knows? It could be anything. Surprise us! Be creative and show us in words or pictures just why your stupendous gadget is the very best. Make sure you spell-check, use colorful and descriptive language, and tell your tale in an engaging way!

You have until the very last minute of the last hour of the last day of this month to spin a yarn to share about your favorite gadget. 

It's not too late for any of you out there to enter, here's the link:  Artsey Essay Contest, and here's my latest effort:

Favorite gadgets, you ask?  I’ve had more than a few over the years and I really had to think long and hard as to which one I’d pick and call my favorite. 

My current camera would have to be given consideration.  It has a dark, black, and mysterious finish to it.  The body is curvaceous and snuggles neatly into my hands as I caress it and coax out its secrets.  I can push buttons and turn knobs for an endless- seeming array of options and settings.  I can make this gadget seem brand new with the simple purchase of a myriad assortment of accessories.  That’s right, put this baby in your hands and feel its sleek design and enticing curves.  Try not to fall for it, go ahead, I dare you!

What really is a gadget, though?  The North America English Edition of the Encarta Dictionary defines gadget as:

1.        Ingenious device

A small device that performs or aids a simple task

2.       trivial device

A small device that appears useful but is often unnecessary or superfluous


Now, my camera is an ingenious device, however, taking a good picture is no simple task, and if one is going to take a picture, a camera is certainly necessary and not superfluous.  I think something along the lines of the 3 foot long thingy with the claw grabber that opens when you push the button on the end of it may qualify as a gadget.  One uses it to reach behind or underneath something to retrieve an object.  It is very useful but, if you move the object that you are reaching behind or underneath, it becomes unnecessary or superfluous.  I really enjoyed getting one of these years ago, but needed to use it only rarely.

Now, when I think of gadgets, one name comes to mind.  That name would be Popeil, as in Ron Popeil who, according to Wikipedia, is the master salesman who won the Nobel Prize in 1993 for Consumer Engineering.  He was described by the awards committee as the “incessant inventor and perpetual pitchman of late night television.”  The only problem with that statement is that there is no such thing as a Nobel Prize for Consumer Engineering.  The IG people named their fun prize awards the IG Nobel Prizes and that is what Ron Popeil actually won.  I thought it was a hoot that someone had written that on Wikipedia and thought I’d let you know it just wasn’t so.  Ron Popeil was, however, honored for all posterity with a display in the Smithsonian Museum.  

I never knew his name until I was an adult, but Ron Popeil had me at a very early age.  I’ll never forget the Pocket Fisherman my Mother gave me as a present one time.  At first, I thought it was cute but unpractical.  I still owned it when I started riding motorcycles with my friend Ken in St. Petersburg, Fl. in 1978.  We loved riding around Tampa Bay and exploring off-the-beaten-road beaches and coves.  We’d stop and admirethe water and wish we had a fishing pole with which to try our luck.  I had never used it before, but remembered this gadget was stored in the closet in a box.  One time, before one of our rides, I took it out and threw it on the bike.

The Pocket Fisherman was only about nine or ten inches long and was a complete spin casting system in one handy unit.  It featured a hinged rod that folded up, a smooth reel with anti-reverse and adjustable drag and a mini-tackle box in the handle.  The best part of all was that Ken had no idea I had it with me.   We found one of the best spots on the water yet and, as Ken and I were admiring the view, I was just waiting for him to say, “Boy, I wish we had a rod and reel with us.”    I didn’t have to wait long.

You should have seen the look on Ken’s face when I pulled out my Pocket Fisherman.  He had seen these advertised on television but could not believe I had one with me that day.  I fished a lure out of the handle and tied it on the line.  I got a strike on my first cast and actually landed a fish on my second one.  We were hooked and carried that gadget with us until we finally wore it slap out.  I’m here to tell you folks, it really worked as advertised!  Reminiscing about the Pocket Fisherman brings me closer to what would have to be my all time favorite gadget.

 First I have to comment on another one of Popeil’s inventions my family owned.  It was the Chop-O-Matic.  Yes,theChop-O-Matic was a little jar with a screw-on lid.  The lid had a hole in the center with a set of blades attached to a shaft going through the lid.  Outside the jar, above the lid, a small round ball-like handle was attached.  Underneath the lid, between the lid and the blade, was a spring system.  You would fill the jar with nuts or an onion or anything else you wanted to chop, screw the lid on, and start pumping the handled up and down thus chopping up whatever might be in the jar.  It was cute, quick to use, but it was superfluous and unnecessary when you considered the time you took to load it, chop, empty, and wash.  I could dice a whole onion with a sharp knife in the amount of time I would spend just cleaning up and washing this little contraption.   Fortunately I did not go out and purchase it, my mother had one and I could use it anytime I wanted to.

I came by my love of gadgets honestly; I inherited this trait from my father.  Dad couldn’t pass up a gadget he took a fancy to, and believe me; he fancied a lot of them in his day.  Every other year my mother would have to completely clean out and reorganize the drawers in the kitchen because of all the gadgets my father would drag home.  There were peelers, scrapers, and corers.  You could find slicers and dicers and knifes.  He had pickers, clippers and chippers.  I’d see pitters, and presses, and all kinds of things that made messes.  I sure do miss him and all of his gadgets!

My all-time favorite gadget was owned by my father and I was not allowed to touch it.  The problem was that when he purchased it I was still but a boy and into everything at the time.  This gadget had sharp blades and I was liable to cut one of my fingers off if I wasn’t careful, so I was just plain old forbidden to use it.  Of course, forbidding me to use it added greatly to the mystique!  You see, this product could slice it and dice it and cut a tomato paper thin with all the seeds still intact.  This product could cut a whole potato into French fries in one second flat, and it is so easy to clean.  But wait, there’s more!  Yes, my favorite gadget of all time is the Veg-O-Matic, invented by Samuel Popeil, and sold and marketed by his famous son, Ron Popeil. 

All of America remembers those incessant TV commercials of the sixties and seventies describing the magic of the Veg-O-Matic and how this gadget would make your life easier.  We would wake up to see Ron Popeil on TV with his Veg-O-Matic and, if you stayed up to watch late night TV, then you were continually bombarded with this sales pitch.  Popeil was the first to buy an extra minute of time for his pitches and his two minute commercials are the forerunner of the modern infomercials.

Dad purchased one of the early models and demonstrated it at home one night when he decided to make hamburgers and French fries.  This contraption had a plastic base that consisted of four legs supporting a center that was high enough off the counter to leave room for the finished product beneath it.  The midsection was square with a round hole in the center.  Different slicing and dicing blades that were round in shape could be fitted into the round center to cutthe desired shape.  I really should saythat the blade holders were round, the blades themselves crossed or crisscrossed the round holder allowing thick slices or thin slices, with the crisscrossed blades producing French fries or diced produce.  The top of the gadget was raised above the circular cutting hole and the supports for the top were fed through holes in the base that kept it perfectly lined up with the cutting area.  Dad would put the potato between the top and the center of the base, aligned directly over the cutting area, and push down on the top, which pushed the produce directly through the circular cutting hole in the midsection.  I was amazed to watch a whole potato be pushed through and come out as French fries.  The tomato slices were so thin as to be impossible.  His diced onions were, like the potatoes, instant and efficient.  I was enthralled by this gadget and was promptly forbidden not to touch it.  Ever!  There are pictures of the Veg-O-Matic on the Internet, but I didn’t have permission to use any of them, so I did not insert one here.

Dad was a pilot in the Air Force and flew a lot.  That meant that he was away quite often during those years and I rarely got to see the gadget in action.  The mystique never died, though, and on those occasions when we was home and pulled it out, I’d hover around and Dad would have a captivated audience as he made short work of all those vegetables.  Because they were afraid I’d hurt myself if I tried to use it, Mom and Dad hid it pretty darn well when he was not using it.

Time passed and the Veg-O-Matic was used less and less.  Part of it was the out of sight, out of mind syndrome and part of it was a reluctance to have to clean up all the individual parts once Dad was finished with it.  I truly thought it had fallen out of the family inventory until either shortly before or shortly after my mother’s death many, many years later.  I was living on our boat at the time and did not have room for any more gadgets and let it out of my grasp. 

I did find a few Veg-O-Matics on sale at Ebay for a very reasonable price, so who knows, I may get to play with one yet.  Paulette is well aware of my proclivity for gadgets, though, and I doubt I would be allowed to consummate any deal on one.  That’s a shame.  Another gadget I would love to get my hands on is the Popeil Showtime Rotisserie.  I’ve been asking for one of those since they first came out and to this day Paulette says absolutely not!  But a man can dream, can’t he?  But wait, there’s more… (wink)!  Y’all have a great week!


mutualaide said...

Oh Sam!  I haven't read any of the other entries yet, but man-oh!  this one is GREAT!  I was caught up from your first sentence right through to the last.  Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

Now, I'm off to find that Veg-O-Matic ... somewhere in the basement ....

rap4143 said...

My camera would have to top my list but second and very close are Swiffers products :( I know ....not something most would list :).

Great write up :).


rdautumnsage said...

Wonderful entry Sam! I remember the Pocket Fisherman well! I think 4 out of us 6 kids had one at the time. When you have a car full of kids and a huge castnet besides, you don't want to have to worry about the normal poles. It was a neat little contraption that kept us from getting hooked easily as we were prone to do  with a regular pole. Thanks for reminding me of another fine memory....(Hugs) Indigo

fasttrack58 said...

Oh this was a great entry!!!
and I remember those commercials and products...
Linda :)

lsfp1960 said...

very good..since I'm older than dirt~I remember those gadgets you mentioned.  I'm sort of a gadget freak too but living in a mobile home with limited storage space you have to be careful.  I watch QVC every Sunday morning, the "In the Kitchen With Bob" show...he has great kitchen gadgets every week.  Linda in Washington state  

slbourgoyne said...

Brings back memories!  As you remember, I'm sure, my mother was not at all handy with gadgets, but fascinated by them.  After she died I found a veg-o-matic in the old pantry.  It was a used one, probably one of her garage sale finds.  I know she never used it.  She still had all her fingers when she died.  

By the way, that other gadget you mentioned is now called a grab-nabber, and no grandparent caring for a toddler should be without one.  Also handy to have in the car with a toddler.  Saves getting in and out of the seatbelt and digging around on the floor of the car.  

Miss all our parents and these entries remind me of things I had forgotten.  (I'll see if we still have the veg-o-matic and save it for you if I do.)

Love you, Cousin Lynn

astaryth said...

Great entry... and perfect for the contest. The sad thing is that I am old enough to remember all the gadgets you talked about <LOL> I've contemplated this challenge for the last week, and I can't come up with a favorite gadget. I seem to love all my gadgets the same ;p    

ksquester said...

Fabulous entry Sam.  I was very entertained and thought you were speaking of me, when you were instead, speaking of your camera. (te he)  As far as the Showtime Rotiesserie, well I have one. They are right, you SET it and FORGET it! Currently it is in the garage somewhere as Doc set it out of his mind and forgot where he put it.  I think Williams-Sonoma sell those Veg-O-Matics with a fancy french name and a very high price tag.  Good LUCK..........Anne

madcobug said...

I remember all those gadgets you mentioned. My preference right now is my camera LOL. You did great on getting your entry together. Helen

sdoscher458 said...

Great entry you took me back, I remember those commercials so well.  My Mom and Dad are still alive...Dad's 92 - they still have their Vegomatic chopper! Love, Sandi

judithheartsong said...

MY son loved to watch infomercials when he was young, and he dreamed of the day that he would have a credit line to purchase all those shiny things on tv. Great post that so many can relate to! I think the word gadget means so many things to so many people. judi

nightmaremom said...

great entry Sam... you took me back for a bit...

fowfies said...

LOLLL I loved this entry. Reminds me of so many of those gadgets that have come and gone. I remember all of them that you listed and it brought back a few others too. You are right about that chop o matic...mine was sold in one my yard much trouble to use it and then clean it this day I just chop with a knife.

tpiez4me said...

Nice....Ode to Popeil is more like it!
We had the old Chop-O-Matic too....loved it.
I love my kitchen gadgets and any pocket widget there is for convenience.
Nice "Ode".
I should make a list for future entry subjects and put this one on it.
Have a great weekend!

gdireneoe said...

Oh!  I had my very own Ron Popeil!  No really!  He was one of my first friends when my parents moved to Georgia.  He still lives here, too.  Still looks just like he did in fifth grade too...hehehe. ;)  C.

memes121 said...

Oh I love the claw grabby thingy! (Those are real words you know) Tammy

judzia24 said...

Oh your wonderful entry brought back so many memories.. My dad had a Pocket Fisherman.. my mom the Chop-O-Matic. I would have to say the favorite of mine by Ron Popeil was the dehydrator.. I loved making dried Banana's with out all the sugar and additives and I never found anything on the market that could compare. .. and even took a shot at jerky.. not to bad.. LOL. It long since has died.. and I still had not gotten a new one.. Hmmm maybe I will have to look back into it :-). Thanks for the wonderful trip down memory lane with your great entry.


jjdolfin9 said...

Very interesting entry.  I learned a few things and remembered a few things as well.  The pocket fisherman was a smash hit here in small-town TN with the young boys.  And Vegematic was something I had (don't know what happened to it).  LOL
Have a great day.
Hugs, Joyce

astoriasand said...

Yes a man can dream Sam DREAM ON!! LOL!! Your comments say it all.Brilliant posting,I so much enjoyed reading. Good luck.Take Care God Bless Kath astoriasand

frankandmary said...

I had a boss who bought a very expensive nose hair clipper, made him bleed twice & then stopped working.  I like your gadgets much better.  This was a great entry. ~Mary

labdancer51 said...

I loved this entry Sam and it reminded me of the Veg-O-Matic, a completely unnecessary object as a sharp knife was cheaper and quicker but a clever invention nonetheless. I love the description of your camera, I`ll never look at mine in the same way!  :o)

Love Sandra xxxx

ally123130585918 said...

Sam I really enjoyed this entry ~ loved the description of your Mobile phone :o) It is amazing the amount of gadgets we buy then discard ~ after much thought my favourite Gadget is my TV remote control I have hours of entertainment switching channels :o) ~ I hope you win with this entry ~ Ally x

jeanno43 said...

Congratulations on your award from Guido. Well deserved.

ryanagi said...

Ah yes...Ron Popeil. We have a soft spot for him here in this house.   :-)

jeadie05 said...

Ishall never look at my camera the same way again ,how sexy you made it sound ,lol ,and the veg a matic ,we all had one mouldering away in the cuboard with the other useless stuff we were going to throw awy one day ? ,and Isliced everything including my fingers ,Ihave seen them recenmtly on a market stall ,great entry good luck Jan xx

luddie343 said...

Interesting!  Nice to remember how those Ron Popeil gadgets made a difference, and I think the pocket fisherman was the first to take off big.  Wiki or no, I'm glad the Smithsonian did him honors.  A continual inventor, ideas just flooded his waking AND sleeping mind lol.  Enjoyed this very much, thanks!  CATHY    

stupidsheetguy said...

You really brought back some fond memories with this essay, Sam. I can remember using my own Pocket Fisherman, and being very happy with the results. There was a lot of cheesy salesmanship involved back in those days, but some of those products really fit the bill!

Thanks for a great stroll down memory lane!

lurkynat said...

Interesting essay Sam!
thanks! I love the memories about your father first.
Kids' memories bring back a good vision of the good times with parents!
I think your camera story is very endearing..especially since you are so good at it!
Ala I have no spectacular gadget at this time, but I will keep it in my head.

childebrand1968 said...

Aww Sam, I love talking long walks down memory lane with you :)

Sorry I haven't gotten to this sooner... seems my time is very limited these days.  

I remember all those old infomercials and the pocket fisherman!  It was what I used the very first time I went fishing.  I had completely forgotten that experience until I read this, so thank you for digging that old file out of my memory :)

I hope you are well and gearing up for the summer months at work, though I imagine Spring will bring many boaters to your docks, too.

I'm on to read what else I've missed!


PS  Happy Easter to you and Paulette :)