The Story of the 62 Year Old Refrigerator

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gefridge2The only thing cooler than picking up a excellent condition, perfectly working General Electric refrigerator from 1954, is when the owner, a 94 year old WWII veteran, comes downstairs to tell you it’s story.
 

A few days ago I was browsing the Craigslist appliance section here in Portland, Or (we are back from Hawaii visiting friends and family for the summer) when I saw this beautiful refrigerator for sale for $35. I immediately contacted the seller asking if it was still in working condition. After they plugged it in, and finding out that it was getting cold, they contacted me with the good news and I arranged to pick it up this morning.

gefridge1Upon arriving at the sellers house, we were escorted down into the daylight basement where the refrigerator was located. When I purchase something on Craigslist, the first thing I try to find out is it’s story. So I asked the seller if the refrigerator had been in the family and if he knew how old it was. The seller then peered up a stairway and asked someone when they purchased it. Just then, a grey haired man, with a slight hunch and a big sweet smile came down from the last step and into the room. His name was Oliver and he was 94 years old. I purchased this fridge in 1954 just after I built the house he said.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s a rare thing to come across a refrigerator that is 62 years old in such excellent condition. It’s also rare that you get to talk to a 94 year old. But to get to speak with the original owner of such an old appliance, this is the first time that I’ve experienced such a thing out of thousands of appliance purchases.

He and his father would come down to Portland and work on building the house for two weeks at a time and then go back home and work for a few weeks. They kept this up until the house was roofed in and enclosed enough to keep the elements out. Once Oliver’s wife was satisfied with the progress on the house, they moved in.  Oliver then headed down to a local store called Fred Meyer (now owned by Kroger) where he purchased the brand new General Electric refrigerator for $100 he recalled. He even met Fred Meyer himself once!

gefridge3He told me that there was a local recycling program (similar to cash for clunkers) that would buy the refrigerator but he didn’t want a good working fridge destroyed. So he had his son post it for sale for the amount they were going to give him. After I handed him the money, I realized he was getting almost half his money back and effectively paid $1 per year for use of the refrigerator for the past 62 years. He looked very pleased with how his investment turned out.

Our time with Oliver was fascinating from beginning to end. He told my ten and nine year old boys and I all sorts of stories about World War II, as well as what life was like in Portland back in the 1950’s.

As we loaded the refrigerator onto the hand truck and began pulling it into the backyard, Oliver sprang into action. He held the door open and then got in front of us and held the fence open. He followed us up the hill on the side of the house and saw us all the way to our trailer, helping any way he could. We had come for a refrigerator. What we came away with was an encounter with a great man named Oliver. The fridge will just end up being a neat way to remember him by. This was one of the most memorable Craigslist experiences I’ve ever had. Why buy used goods? Because you get to meet men like Oliver.

26 COMMENTS

  1. I found a very similar fridge in the barn of the house I just purchased. It is also in working condition. However I have no idea what I would do with it. Wouldn’t it cost an arm and a leg to run? Or would it be better used as a storage container?

    • They definitely use a lot more electricity. I will use it over the summer and then unplug it and store it for the rest of the year. They are great back up fridges to have around as well as party/beverage fridges when you big friends and family over. Oliver actually used it for many years to store pears in and kept it unplugged much of the time.

  2. What a great experience. And how fitting for you to be the buyer of such a great find. We can be sure Oliver was just as happy, to know someone like you will appreciate it.

  3. That is awesome story Ryan ! I bet the older gentleman was sad to see it go.Just got me a new dryer recently . The old one i had was 43 years old .Had it in the family since i was 12 years old.Over the years i’ve replaced the heater elements and belts and hate to see it go.It was an old whirlpool dryer.

    • Thanks Robby. He seemed happy that it was going to someone that appreciated as much I did. That’s awesome that you got 43 years out of that dryer! I love hearing stories like that! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Appliances have “built in obsolescence” due to corporate greed. No fridge / washer / dryer would ever last that long now. Ten years if lucky… KEEP THAT GEM!!!

  5. I used to do a lot of selling on eBay. Some people thought it was strange, but one of my favorite parts of the whole re-selling experience was talking to older folks like you just mentioned. I had the same experience when I was younger and had my own lawn cutting/landscaping business. Too many people don’t realize how much valuable and interesting information our seniors have to share.

    • Scrap prices have fallen a lot recently and now it’s much more difficult to get people to pick it up, as it’s simply not worth it. You might have to dispose of it yourself.

    • Electronic scrap is pretty general, but here is an easy answer. Disassemble, save boards with chips and gold plated pins or fingers. The only ewaste that is problematic for me are CRT tv’s and monitors. Go to ebay, under gold bullion there is a sub called “scrap and recycled gold”. Look there to see what sells, and sell there.

  6. I came across a very similar fridge while helping a 90+ y/o neighbor with a flooded basement. She said it had been moved to the basement after a newer fridge was purchased. After that it had been used by her late husband for his beer and for parties. When I opened the door I realized it was still working. The freezer portion was frosted over and the few items in the main section were nice and cold. Amazing durability.

  7. Oh Cool! I was a wondering about your site as well. I haven’t seen anything new posted in a while. Do yo still think the environment is right for someone to start your type of business?

    • Hey Pete, sorry for not posting in a while. Life has been busy, but I just put up another post today. It’s still a great time to get into the appliance repair and resale business. There is going to be a shortage of repair techs for probably decades to come!

  8. Ryan… You are a BEAST, through and through. A buying and selling, fixing and restoring machine of a man. Keep on keeping on… You gotta feed all them growing boys, after all.

  9. I’m so jealous of you. I love talking to people from that generation. So much can be learned from them. It’s a damn shame there’s so few left. We need those people to remind us about our history.

    “Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It.”

    Thank you for your inspiration also. I’m researching doing what you do. I need a side hustle, and hope to someday turn it into a full time gig.

    All the best
    Andy B.

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