It is strange how we become used to things. I remember at one time being impressed by a person who I knew who had a microwave oven. I think that this was sometime during the early 1970's. At that time, microwave ovens were not all that common and my friends' appliance was viewed with a certain amount of awe. I also remember purchasing my first microwave. We used to have a Montgomery Wards Catalogue store in our town. I remember admiring a demo Microwave oven that was on display. The oven was constructed of stainless steel. It was (in my eyes) a thing of beauty and something that I thought that I oh so needed.

"Why don't' you take it home with you and try it out" suggested Mr. Johnson, the store franchise holder.

"I don't know. I replied. I think my wife might not want me to spend our money on it." (I don't remember what the price was, but I do know that it cost much more than microwaves cost now).

"Take it home and try it out. If you like it, you can pay for it with your Wards Credit card. If your wife doesn't like it, just take it back to me, and it won't cost you a cent."

Hey, I couldn't pass ups a deal like that; could I?

The microwave oven must have weighed well over 50 pounds. It was huge and Mr. Johnson helped me carry it out to my car.
My wife and I experimented with it. We made popcorn, we defrosted food, we softened butter, and heated up frozen burritos.  We became hooked.
I never returned the oven to the store, and from that moment on, always had a microwave oven in our home.

Two years ago, my wife and I purchased a top of the line Amana microwave.  I bought an Amana because I thought it was a great American name...I assumed that it was put together by the "plain people" of the Amana colony.  It was a big Microwave, with full features.  It was not cheap either and I recall paying a fairly high price for it. I paid a premium price, but I did so with the thought that I was buying quality. I was buying an American made appliance put together by the hard working Amish.

That is what I thought.

Last week, the microwave stopped working.
I carried the oven down to Stan's refrigeration, our local Amana/Maytag dealer. It was easy to handle, and although fairly large, did not weigh near as much as my first Montgomery Wards machine.

We have purchased most all of our appliances from Stan. He is from Czechoslovakia and sold my newly wed wife and I a used freezer in 1967.  The freezer followed us in our moves around Oregon.  I moved to Portland in 1976, then to Corvallis in 1977 and then to McMinnville in 1979. The freezer returned with us when we ended back in St. Helens in the early 1980s.

Stan never forgets an appliance, and the first thing that he asked us after we returned to the community was. "Do you still have that freezer?"   

We did, that freezer lived with us for well over thirty eight years. The freezer was a loving part of our family, and we were saddened when it finally died of natural causes... It was old, and finally its compressor failed.  It wasn't worth our while to repair, and it was with some sadness that we replaced it with a newer, more modern machine.

Not only did we purchase freezers from Stan, but, over the years, we purchased a dishwasher, two stoves, a garbage disposal and a refrigerator.   Stan not only remembers what we purchased from him, but he can also remember when and under what circumstances each thing was purchased.   

"Yeah, you had that big Malamute and black and white cat, when you got that stove. My son had to reverse the front door on that refrigerator. What happened to your daughters bird?"

Stan never forgets.  The man has almost perfect, perhaps eidetic recall.
Stan looked at our broken microwave and said: "You didn't buy this from me did you?" 

Busted! I was embarrassed. He was an Amana dealer and he knew that we didn't buy that Amana microwave from him.
"Uh... it was a gift from my wife's mother," I lied.  In truth, I bought it from Sears, but I was not about to admit that to Stan.

"You got yourself a piece of junk. Made in China."  smirked Stan.

"Huh? I thought they made all Amana products in Pennsylvania." I replied.

"Not anymore" said Stan.  "They sold the company."

I was not aware that the Amana colony sold their company to Whirlpool which in turn was purchased by Maytag who now out sources all of its projects to China.

"No, no no!" thought I with a sense of betrayal.

It was then that Stan explained to me the "facts of life."

The Magnetron had failed. A new Magnatron for our particular Amana model costs something in the neighborhood of $175.

Stan's recommendation was that I purchase a new Microwave. Evidently I could purchase a better machine for a considerably lower price than it would cost me to buy a replacement part.

I looked at Stan and said: "We are a throwaway society aren't we?"

Stan sadly nodded: "We are. It is cheaper to throw your oven away than it is to fix it."

In my minds eye I could see bearded men dressed in black suits, small brass rimmed glasses, and black wide brimmed hats, holding up mugs of beer, laughing and toasting their success in getting a good price for their corporation.  

"Ve got a good price for the company.  Didn't ve Hans..." 

"Ja, Ja... We did screw those English."

We ended up having Stan order us a good machine that was built by a Japanese firm in Indonesia... for $129.

The new microwave has a few more features and a bit more power than our old one. It is just as large, and it might even last longer. Then again it might not.

Somehow, I can't believe that something assembled in an Indonesian electronic sweat shop could be any better than one built with Chinese slave labor, but it might be.

I do long for the days when we had fine crafted materials produced by the plain people of the Amana Colony... I guess that this is a piece of the past that probably will never return, and it makes me sad.


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