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Photo Essays

Objects of Affection: The Last Batch

From kitchen gadgets to the coziest coats, we’ve loved to see what Tyee readers love most. Last in a series.

Dorothy Woodend 2 Aug 2021 |

Dorothy Woodend is culture editor of The Tyee. Reach her here.

Here is the final instalment of Objects of Affection, a selection of written and illustrated submissions from Tyee readers about their most beloved, well-used belongings. If you’re feeling a little sad, that’s OK: there’s always comforting stuff around to perk up the spirits. Make yourself a cup of joe in an ancient coffee pot, tighten your cool hippie belt and sally forth into the brave new world of doing more with less, and loving the things that bring simple joy, be it a perfect knife or an upright piano.

(And if you haven’t yet read instalments one and two, start there first.)

A central percolator

582px version of RussellDavidBirdCoffeePot.jpg
Illustration by Dorothy Woodend.

In the 1980s, my father-in-law gifted me a six-cup Revere Ware copper-bottomed coffee pot that he had received as a wedding gift in 1939. It has been in daily use ever since, and hand-grinding the beans and percolating the coffee early every morning are moments of quiet contemplation and thankfulness. — Dave Bird, Fernie, B.C.

Row, row, row your boat


My rowing machine, which I bought a decade ago used off Craigslist for half price. I detect no drop in performance. I’ve written plenty about it, but here’s a recent post, “Clawing back: 4,951 meters in 20 minutes. 49 to go,” which also shows pictures of it and me on it.

And there’s my pressure cooker, which I also bought used off Craigslist. Actually, I have a second, that I got free when a neighbour was throwing it away. Here are reviews of the famous no-packaging vegan stews that I make with it. — Josh

True blue jacket

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I bought the calfskin jacket when I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto (1960 to 1963), when Spadina Avenue south of Bloor was the primarily Jewish garment district. There, one could get lovely clothes on sale at prices even a poor student could afford. The lining is torn in places and the faded leather is scratched from me picking up my various cats while wearing it, but it is still butter-soft and my favourite mid-season jacket in which I always feel stylish. — Eva

A belt that has not buckled

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When I purchased this belt almost 40 years ago from the draft-dodger/hippie shop Yellow Ford Truck (Baldwin Street, Toronto), I was concerned about the price. It cost just as much as a belt from Eaton’s! I was shown the quality, artisanship and beautiful weave and assured that this belt would outlast any belt purchased at Eaton’s.

So true. This belt is still functional all these years later after many lesser belts have come and gone. I have never found another one like it. As with most things, hindsight has proved the hippies right. We really have no excuse for the consumer waste we generate. — Ron Austin

A pacifying piglet

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When I was a kid, I loved this book, Small Pig, by Arnold Lobel. For some reason, the cadence of the writing soothed me when I was upset as a child. In cleaning up my house recently, in preparation for a move, I found it again. I have put it on my shelf, and I’ve been able to just pick it up and calm myself in tough times this past year. I don’t know why it works so well, but I love it! — Jai Djwa

The piano that just won’t stay away

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My childhood piano, a 1908 Story & Clark upright grand, is perhaps the artifact that I’ve had the longest.

My mom bought it for me for $25 in 1970 or so, having observed me hanging around pianos whenever we’d be someplace that had one. Although raised in Michigan, the first thing I sounded out on my grandmother’s piano was the theme song from The Littlest Hobo, a CBC TV program we could watch in Michigan. The seller insisted it be “professionally” moved, so that cost another $75. What an extravagance in 1970 dollars for a farm family!

I played around with it until I left home in 1975. Me and some buddies in a “garage band” would sit around it and practice, although a Farfisa electronic keyboard was more amenable for the occasional gig in a local tavern. A few years after I left home, my younger sister called and asked if her daughter could use it, as she was keen on taking lessons. I told her my only condition be that it be professionally moved — what was good enough for the original seller was good enough for me!

When that niece graduated and moved on, my sister called and said, “Come get this thing, or I’ll have a thrift store pick it up.” I bought a one-way ticket from Oregon to Michigan, where I bought a cheap vehicle with a trailer hitch and a small flat-deck trailer. Me, my two brothers and my brother-in-law each grabbed a corner and hefted that piano onto its back on the trailer. I strapped it to the trailer and hauled it to a marina, and they shrink-wrapped the entire thing, like they do to over-winter boats. I kept glancing in the rear-view mirror, thinking a Bugatti was tailgating me.

By prior arrangement, I dragged it directly to an Oregon City piano shop, while the 1970 Jeep Cherokee slowly dissolved all around me, arriving without muffler nor alternator. (I bought a cheap charger and plugged it in at every campground, so it would start in the morning.)

I spent $1,800 at the piano shop, replacing all the bass strings and felts and other needed bits, as they advised. (I declined another $1,800 for a new outside finish, thinking, “I can do that someday!” Some 30 years later, it still has the original crinkled shellac finish.)

When I moved to Canada, I hired four people to get the piano into the semi-trailer I had purchased for the move, putting it against the front wall, the safest place. I packed the rest of the 53-foot trailer myself.

Now it is stacked with thrift-store music books, and stares at me accusingly as I pass by, too busy with summer farm work to do anything as frivolous as enjoying some music.

The bench has been pressed into use elsewhere, so when I get the chance, I sit on a 20-litre bucket with a camera lens case on top, playing the guitar chords to popular songs from days past. I’ve never had a formal lesson but can pretty much work my way through anything by ear. I enjoy trying to play along with Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap songs.

Although it’s not yet solstice, I have the long nights of winter to look forward to, when me and my nearly life-long friend can spend some quality time together! — Jan Steinman

Key to keeping keys

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Here is a cartoon of my plastic key fob, purchased in 1980. Up to that point, I lost my keys so often that I was either endangering my own security or enriching those charities that once upon a time offered to return my keys if I donated and used their fob with their secret code.

I have obviously not had to replace my keys since then, although the butterfly is getting a bit chipped. The keys are easy to feel on this distinctive shape at the bottom of my bag, where they invariably wind up. Plus, the colour is so zonkey that someone is bound to notice if I drop them at the supermarket cash or leave them hanging in my P.O. box while I get to chatting with someone.

This fob even did its job when I lived in Vancouver. The key collection used to get up more than a dozen keys. COVID and retirement lightened the load. — Lee Ann Johnson, Gibsons, B.C.

The perfect basket

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Mixed drawing media on black paper by Andrea Pratt.

The object of my affection is a Ghanaian basket that a friend gave to me at least a dozen years ago. It’s the perfect size and shape for a shopping basket and has been everywhere with me in my everyday life. It’s starting to come apart, and I will one day need a replacement. I know she got it at a farmer’s market in Abbotsford, but I have never been able to find another of just the right dimensions. I’m still looking! — Andrea Pratt

A must-tote coat

582px version of MaryBuieFleece.jpg

At first, I thought I would send you a pic of my 37-year-old Cuisinart but realize that my fleece jacket is beyond price. I have no idea how old it is, but it has been down the Nahanni, to Europe several times, serves as a hot water bottle in bed and is worn a great deal, including this moment in rainy Toronto. — Mary Buie

Unimprovable utensils

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The Sabatier chef’s knife was bought almost 50 years ago for what was a breathtaking price to me. I told myself it was a lifetime purchase, and so it was. Carbon steel blade, comfortable handle with no sharp corners, lovely weight. It’s a trusted friend. 

The bamboo paddle was bought in Chinatown for a dollar, also 50 years ago. It’s tough as all get-out, doesn’t damage pots, and is pretty enough to be a serving utensil too. You can’t improve on this. — Rita Johnson  [Tyee]

Read more: Photo Essays

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