Memory Lane: The Workbench

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When I was a boy, I never met a man who didn’t have a workbench either in his basement or his garage.

I can see it now, my father’s work area. The big bench strewn with tools, and more tools stored in old dressers on the flanks. Jars full of screws and nuts and nails of all different sizes. Uncle Bernie’s work area was nice and neat, like the one in the picture above, but my father’s was more mystical: more intriguing.

In those days, men were expected to know how to fix things, and even how to build some of the things they needed, rather than buy them. Was this because they were all biggits? But what a world of wonder for us kids! I wouldn’t have dared switch on the power saw. But the vise! Hammers! Screwdrivers! And all those cool doo-dads he used to bring home from the Ford plant. I wound up making a lot of my own toys–a whole Civil War flotilla, back in 1961, ideal for naval engagements on various mud puddles in the neighborhood.

I don’t know if every household still has such a magical alcove as a workbench area, these days. I was never very good with tools, but they were so much a part of everyday life, you just couldn’t help learning how to use them. All you had to do was watch your father, and you’d pick it up.

Need I add that my sister had free access to all this fun, just like her brothers?

All I can say now is, I should’ve spent even more time watching my father and my uncles, my grandparents, my mother and my aunts. I would have learned a lot more!

5 comments on “Memory Lane: The Workbench

  1. Lee, my dad had his ramshackle version of a workbench down in our basement. You mentioned a vise. I don’t know what it was about Dad’s vises but loved to open them as wide as I could and then, sigh, just bring back to closed position. His worktable was a bunch of old boards astride two sawhorses. He placed a piece of 2 x 4 near the back edge of the furthest board and set it on its 2″ side. Using a contraption that he cranked he drilled holes in the other 2″ side and arranged all his screwdrivers. He built other wood construction over top of the worktable to dangle hammers. I think he kept his handsaws (Dad had no electric stuff) hanging from large nails along a side of the worktable. When he died, my brother took most of the tools. I just loved hanging around with Dad when he was fixing something or making something or whatever. I just liked watching him work.

    1. Yes, Marge, that was a pleasant, peaceful interlude. I love the sound of a saw at work–a hand saw, that is. That power saw always scared me.

    2. I just remembered so silly that my sister did once when Dad was using his handsaw. When he got the saw going, Helen and I would start dancing but we’d stop whenever he stopped sawing. He got a kick out of our bit of silliness.

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