Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fix that Amazing 19th Century Technology!

This is a little late, but it's certainly interesting to note even if it might too late to participate. As part of "National Campus Sustainability Month," Chemeketa Community College will host a "Repair Fair and Share" event tomorrow, Wednesday the 21st, from 5pm to 7pm.

April 20, 1901
From the event description:
Chemeketa will host local repair gurus during the Repair Fair and Share. Bring in your bike, small appliance, instrument or fabric item to learn how to troubleshoot basic repairs.
(click to enlarge)
It should not escape notice that a lot of this neat mechanical stuff that can be repaired DIY is essentially 19th century technology!

September 24, 1904
In fact, for a while at the last turn of the century, there was a great overlap in bike repair, umbrella repair, and sewing machine repair.

The other categories, too, will have roots in 19th century manufacturing and practice as well:
  • small appliances
  • instruments
  • knives and scissors
  • tool care
Disaster Relief Trials from 2012
You might have seen the report in BikePortland on this year's Disaster Relief Trials a couple of days ago.

Bikes and this level of technology - portable, repairable, human-powered - is a potential key to local resiliency in disaster.

Band and instruments in front of Sroat & Wilson
(dba The Salem Cyclery)
circa 1899, detail, State Library Photo Collection
And it's all basically 19th century. Much of our late 20th and 21st century tech isn't going to be useful, dependent as it is on an intact electrical and communications grid and other infrastructure.

Event organizers say
“If you have never fixed a broken toy, repaired a broken lamp, mended a torn seam, patched a flat or replaced an instrument string, repairing something for the first time can be daunting,” Chemeketa Community College Sustainability Coordinator Stephania Fregosi said, “Fixing or making something yourself gives you a can-do mindset, promotes self-esteem, reduces waste and saves money.”

“This isn’t just an event; repair is a way of life. Folks will learn that repairs can be an easy and affordable alternative to tossing things in the garbage,” Jessica Ramey, a waste reduction coordinator for Marion County, said in a press release.
But more than this it's a celebration of basic technology that is old, remains very useful, and potentially more useful yet in the face of catastrophe. Steampunk has a practical side.

More details:
At the event, a fixer volunteer will guide you through how to repair your item. The idea is for people to learn trouble shooting and have the ability to possibly make their own repairs in the future. Guests are expected to stay with their item and be an active participant in learning about the repair process....

The event is limited to items that can be carried in. Large appliances and cars will not be accepted. Due to safety reasons, microwaves ovens, hazardous materials and weapons also are prohibited.
Check out the website to sign up for a slot (at this late date, it might be wait-list only) and for other info.

For more on Fred Wiggins, Watt Shipp, and Sroat & Wilson, see notes on wheeling and old time biking. The band photo is misidentified in the OSL database; it is actually on Commercial Street, and the Cyclery sits on what is now the parking lot between Bike Peddler and Spaghetti Warehouse.

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