Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Going Down Rabbit Holes

You know how sometimes you get almost obsessed with trying to figure something out, or investigate something, or learn something new and you just keep digging and digging on the Internet this just leads you in all kinds of fascinating directions which in turn eats up a ton of time?  I've call that "going down a rabbit hole."  This happens semi-frequently -- mostly trying to find out things that my friend Dave and I have stumbled upon, like old railway lines and historic buildings and the like. Usually Dave or I will find something about an old abandoned mine and start doing some research and the next thing you know we've gone down a rabbit hole for a few hours and found out all kinds of cool stuff -- well cool to us anyway.

Moving to a new city has made me curious about it's origins and history.  Desert Hot Springs, also known as DHS, is North of Palm Springs on the other side of the Coachella Valley. It's a distinct city that doesn't blend in with the rest of the valley and the string of cities on the South side of the valley of which Palm Springs is the main one. I like it out here. So in my spare time I've done some reading and looking things up, particularly the numerous hot-spring spas and their history.  DHS is the "Spa City" they say, and the town has many of them -- quite a few abandoned and derelct ones that I want to learn about and explore.   I've not found much about theym yet I'm afraid. However Eric and I were at Barnes and Noble's this past weekend and I came across a book put out by the Desert Hot Springs Historical Society about the history of the town so I bought it.
I've been reading it and I've already got a nice list of places to visit on a bike wander one day soon -- some abandoned Dude Ranches and other places that I find cool. And in reading about the history of one of them -- the B-Bar-H Ranch -- I come to find out that the original developer of this old 1930s Dude Ranch (which was just a few miles from my house) was, according to the DHS Historical Society Book, also the owner of a sewing machine company that  -- quoting here -- "was second only to Singer."  Now we've all heard of Singer Sewing Machines right? OK. The other major sewing machine company of that era was the "White Sewing Machine Company."

What does all this have to do with anything you ask?   Well this past Christmas while I was home, my Mother asked me if I'd like her antique sewing machine. No, I don't sew -- I can barely sew on a button on a shirt with a needle and thread. But this is an old treadle machine that dates from the turn of the century, and is really cool looking with family history. It was her grandmothers and my mother learned to sew on it when she was a girl in the 1940s in Clifton, Idaho. It's a classic black machine, made by the "White Sewing Machine Company" (the #2 company) and it has gorgeous intricate gold pin striping, a cast-iron treadle and flywheel all in an oak cabinet -- and it still works!  It's a great conversation piece, and a wonderful gorgeous example of early American industrial design (unlike machines today) and I had a nice spot in my antique filled living room for it. I was happy to take it out of her storage room.
In fact my whole house here is turning into a trip back in time with some interesting turn of the centruy antiques -- much different than the ski lodge the Seattle place was it seems.  In addition to some cool pieces I've collected over the years -- advertising signs and the like, I bought an old oak roll-top desk that's now my bar, and found an old chamber pot that is now a dried flower arrangement, I got a bunch of old books on display in an antique lawyer book case, and with my huge antique office desk I needed a classic desk lamp and old ash-tray stand among other things for that room, but I digress.

Back to the sewing machine though. So when I'm reading about the history of my new town over lunch sitting in the warm sun that is the main reason for moving here, and I read that the guy who owned this classic old Dude Ranch a few miles from my house was the magnate of the #2 sewing machine company, I thought to myself "what a cool connection!" My old "White" machine has ironically sort of come home. This guy owned the company that made this machine some 100 years ago also started a vacation ranch that influenced the early development of the town I now live in. Its kind of a "come full circle" moment in a way.  But in the next paragraph it says he was the owner of the "Free Sewing Machine Company", not White.  Well so much for my unique little story eh?   So I start digging around online.  Don't google "Free Sewing Machine", all sorts of scams come up and links to things other than the "Free Sewing Machine Company" -- I learned that lesson. Adding "antique" and "Company" to the search bar brings up a bunch of links and I learned more about old sewing machines than I needed to, but whatever I looked up it still seemed that "White" was indeed the second largest manufacturer, not Free.  So much for the historical accuracy in the DHS Historical Society book.

Minutia I know, but it spoiled what I thought was going to be an interesting tidbit to use in stories when I people ask about this antique in my living room. Too bad.  It was a cool story.  I just hope the other little rabbit holes I've been going down researching my town are a little more accurate. We'll see.

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