HUNTING HISTORY … WHAT THE WHAT?
Ever since I was a tiny tot … which was more 35th birthdays ago than I care to reveal … a strange implement has resided in one or more of the kitchen drawers of every house in which we have lived. It was in the kitchen of the second floor flat we called home when we lived in the city for 14 years. And when we moved to West Walnut Manor in the suburbs, it moved along with us. And in all that time, no one has ever used it.
The first time you look at it, you’d probably think it was some sort of instrument of torture that managed to escape from one of the Borgia’s dungeons. My mother didn’t know what it was, what purpose it served or even how it got in the kitchen drawers. For a long time I thought it was an apple corer until I tried to core an apple with it. It never dawned on me that there might be an inscription on the implement … until last month when I began my annual clean the kitchen drawers project. (OK, I didn’t plan to clean the drawers — I spilled a glass of tea in the drawer and I had to take everything out and wash them.)
That’s when I saw the inscription … JUISTRACTOR and I saw it came from PITTSBURGH, PA.
At that point I realized what the implement was, and how it was used. You would insert the open end in an orange or lemon and screw it through the fruit. Then holding the open end over a glass or cup, you would squeeze all the juice out. Whether it worked or not is another matter, because I did give it a try.
How it got into the kitchen drawer hasn’t been resolved either. Perhaps she received it at a wedding shower. Or maybe her mother added it to the kitchen drawer when she was helping her setup her first home.
But something tells me that either my father or my mother’s father was the source of the Juistractor. Back in the late 30s, there were no supermarkets or shopping centers in the city. Instead you had the corner grocery store or butcher shop. But every Saturday both my father and my grandfather would jump on the streetcar and ride downtown to do the weekly meat and produce shopping at the big meat markets and farmers’ produce stalls. Also the department stores were all downtown, too.
But most important, there were the five and dime stores … S.S. Kresge, F.W. Woolworth, Ben Franklin, McCrory’s, Neisner Bros. all lined a two block stretch of 6th Street. And every Saturday each store featured some Ron Popeil-like pitchman demonstrating the very latest “your kitchen can’t do without it” invention or implement. Both my father and my grandfather were suckers for these pitchman who managed to do magical things with their special implement which you would never be able to duplicate at home. So I’m quite sure one or the other of them bought the Juistractor on a Saturday afternoon many years ago.
Boy, those were the days! I know, because when I was old enough my father took me along with him when he went shopping.