My Grandmother’s Clothes Pins

My grandmother died in 1992, just as I was purchasing a beat up, two-family house, one town over from where she had lived. Growing up I was close to my grandparents, especially my paternal grandparents. For most of my youth they lived a mile down the road. My grandfather was always ready to help with whatever we grandkids were doing. In the summertime we painted houses, cleaned gutters, mowed lawns…all kinds of odd jobs, and my grandfather was right there, ready to jump in. He predeceased my grandmother by at least ten years.

When I was purchasing that first house, it was in rough shape and I needed everything. As my father and uncle worked their way through grandma’s household items, they made a pile for me. Plates, flatware, coat hangers and old electric laundry dryer…all kinds of stuff, including, clothes pins. They came in a Ball canning jar and a cloth bag. That bag was tattered and torn and re-sewn many times.

Grandmothers Clothes Pins

With the exception of a few plastic ones, all the clothes pins were the wooden type, with the center steel spring. I didn’t realize how good they were (and unparalleled at holding clothes on the line) until I purchased my first pack of new, grocery-store-bought clothes pins to have some extras. All of a sudden grandma’s pins seemed solid, thick and strong. The springs could hold a damp towel on the line in a stiff breeze. The “new” clothes pins, not so much.

I’d always had an affinity for old stuff, even as a kid. I loved holding my maternal grandfather’s carpentry tools. Though I wouldn’t reach for his wooden plane or hand saws too often for actual work, I loved that I had some of them nearby, overseeing what I was doing. It was almost like they spoke to me, telling me the right way to deal with that compound angle or mortise or hinge. And the same was true of those clothes pins. The difference was that though those clothes pins were antiques, they are just as good, or better, than the new version. And they spoke to me too. “Hey, just put an extra pin on that sheet, would you?!”

Even the smallest object could tell a story.

Rouge Pictured in its Prime

Rouge Pictured in its Prime by Ford Bryan is a large, hard cover, 285-page book is probably the most well researched document of the Rouge Plant. This seminal book was out of stock for a short while, now back on the shelf…and it should be on your shelf too!

Conceived as a massive group of buildings where raw matter entered on one end and finished products came out the other, the Rouge was, in its day, cutting edge industrial design and implementation.

Bryan, who in 1935, worked briefly at the Rouge steel mill and was later employed by Ford Motor Company from 1941 to 1974 in several different capacities, has a unique inside perspective of the facility.

With hundreds of black and white photographs of everything from the glass plant, to the coke oven and the commissaries to the hospital, Bryan spent countless hours at the Benson Ford Research Center combing through thousands of images.

No doubt you need to add this book to your library of Ford history. From the N-News, $29.95 plus $4 shipping & handling.

The Tipping Point

Tipping Point

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcom Gladwell asks, How do many little things add up to change the course of a business (the makers of Hush Puppies shoes) or a health epidemic (syphilis in Baltimore during the 1990s), crime in NYC, or literacy among the underprivileged (Sesame Street)? Gladwell says if we think of a major change in the direction of some given subject in terms of the way the flu spreads, we find the building blocks for how to rethink waves of cultural change. What makes Gladwell so entertaining to read is his revisionist tendency to take something we think we know and reframe it. In April of 1775 there was news … Continue reading

Images from the Arsenal of Democracy

Arsenal of Democracy

Before Pearl Harbor, the USA was still in denial that WWII was going to truly affect us. We have the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as massive buffers. But the government was already working toward the idea of rearming the USA in preparation. In 2013 the author Charles Hyde wrote a wonderful book, The Arsenal of Democracy, about the American auto industry moving from car and truck production to tanks, planes, and other necessities of war. (I am considering carrying that book at a future time.) But while he was researching that book, he came across a treasure trove of images from the late 1930s and especially the 1940s of the automotive industry changing direction to help with the war effort. … Continue reading

A Museum of Early American Tools

Museum of Early American Tools

Eric Sloane’s pen and ink style is unforgettable and his knowledge of early American know-how (that includes, all tools, wood, milling, road construction, the list goes on) is hard to believe. Growing up with a number of his books on the shelf, I reached for them often and in these times particularly, there is something so comforting in reading how all the different types of axes were used, or how to date a building by the types of nails, screws or fasteners used. Sloane’s style (both in illustration and in word) is lyrical and attentive to detail, but also straightforward with just a touch of flourish. A Museum of Early American Tools at $11.95 plus $2.75 S&H (b&w, 128 pages) … Continue reading

A Reverence For Wood

Reverence for Wood

Eric Sloane was an artist, draftsman, sign painter, author, but most of all, a historian of early American know-how. His pen and ink images that illustrate all of his books are captivating and highly informative. Sloane was born in 1905 and after studying art and lettering, he set out across the US as a painter working road signs and barn sides. Eventually he settled back east and began a career as an author, illustrator meteorologist and mentor to many. As a kid growing up in Connecticut, A Reverence For Wood (arguably his most noted book) was always sitting near the reading chair, ready to be cracked open. In fact, when I asked my father for his copy to flip through, … Continue reading

The Vagabonds


A truly entertaining, well researched account of the early twentieth century friendship between Ford and Edison and the open road. Two men who created something new where little more than an idea existed previously, take to the road for two week camping trips long before the open road was ready for them. Guinn chronicles their story starting in the nineteen-teens when both are well established characters in the public eye. Both were always on the lookout for the next new thing, and both knew how to manipulate a story to their advantage. Into this mix add John Burroughs (the naturalist followed in the footsteps of Walt Whitman) and Harvey Firestone (tire magnate) and you quickly discover a fascinating story. Their … Continue reading

The Old & the New & Staying Flexible

The Old & the New & Staying Flexible It seems advances in technology and its applications in day-to-day life are being reworked and upgraded with increasing speed and without warning. This becomes acutely evident when I traveled outside of New England – a fairly rare occurrence. Learning to use a computer, a cell phone – piece of cake. Now it seems you need an app for nearly everything; getting boarding passes for the airline, getting a ride from point A to point B, or paying for a parking spot. Tasks I assume simple and straightforward now require a smart phone and either cell a signal or high-speed internet service. A radio in a rental car shouldn’t be too hard to … Continue reading

The Complete Book of Classic Ford Tractors

Classic ford tractors

It has literally been years since we have seen a new Ford tractor book be published. The far majority of them have been out of print. Motorbooks International (owned by Quarto) has held the rights to the books that Robert Pripps and Andrew Morland did together in the 1990s. The N-News has written many a letter over the years asking for some of the Pripps Ford tractor books to be reprinted, or to let the rights fall back to the authors so something could be done. Well, something finally has happened. Bob Pripps alerted me in late 2020 that something was in the works. Quarto has combined three of the earlier Pripps/Moreland books, The Big Book of Ford Tractors, The … Continue reading

Beyond the Model T

Beyond the Model T

Beyond the Model T: The Other Ventures of Henry Ford by Ford R. Bryan. The author was a member of the Ford family, worked at Ford Motors for over 33 years and then after retirement, volunteered at The Henry Ford Museum doing research and digging deep. He wrote a number of books based on his finding in the immense Henry Ford Museum archives. In this 200+ page b&w paperback with over 200 photos, Bryan tells the stories of some of the side interests of Henry Ford. What is particularly appealing is each chapter is a stand-alone story and is easily readable in one sitting. Broken into twenty-one chapters ranging from the Fordson tractor to railroads, telegraphy to lumber, aircraft and … Continue reading

Social Distancing Versus Distant Socializing

Social Distancing Versus Distant Socializing It was a very strange start to 2020. On the second day of the new year, my Uncle Gerard, the man that started this magazine and who showed me my first camera and helped create a passion in me for art and photography, passed away. Shortly after that, the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in China. A few weeks passed and it was here. Suddenly, our lives are all about handwashing and social distancing to try and slow the spread of the disease. At first blush, this wasn’t a big challenge for me. I have a home office that is full of computers, books, manuals, and all of the things that are sold through … Continue reading

Reader Send-Ins: A Seabee, an 8N & a Passion

Seabee 1 John Cuny

By John Cuny. Published in the N-News spring issue, April-May-June 2020, Volume 35 Number 2 I grew up in southern California when it was bean fields, before it all became Disney Land. As a 14-year-old, I worked as a gas boy for the local seaplane company that made daily flights to Catalina Island. I was around airplanes and tugs all the time. I’m sure some of them were Fords, but I was too young to know. This experience was the impetus to become a pilot. I was a single-minded kid and was flying by age 17. I did some time in the service, and in my late 20’s I moved to Texas and took a job as a pilot with … Continue reading

Antique Communication

Communication is a curious endeavor. It is one of the things that (supposedly) makes us humans superior to all other creatures. (That statement is worth a book all on its own – human civilization is short and we have big problems getting along, so “superior” might be the wrong descriptor.) But over the last few hundred years, our methods for communication have evolved so dramatically it is mind bending. Continue reading

Ford 660 & A Rear Fork

I bought my 1956 660 from a farm auction in the spring of 2015. The tractor is unrestored. I like the dings and faded paint – it gives it character. I rebuilt a tandem axle trailer and built a set of forks for the 3-point hitch. For now this 660’s major job is to get firewood, but we still enjoy riding it in the parade. Continue reading