fix it yourself: a family book from 1929

family book from 1920

I am proud to come from a long line of doers. My grandfather was a tool and die maker, my father is a roofer and my baby sister is following in his footsteps. She came down to Chicago on the Hiawatha Service train on Friday and helped me get some work done around the apartment. She excitedly produced this book upon arrival and it took my breath away.

family book from 1920

The book is called Fix It Yourself: Home Repairs Made Easy and it was published by Popular Science in 1929. If you’re interested in a copy of your own, it went for one cent in 2007 here. While it may not be worth much on the market, this book now holds a great deal of importance to me.

family book from 1920

In it were discharge papers for my Scotch-Irish great-great-uncle (I think) dated 1940 and 1941, describing him as a machinist in South Carolina and Washington, DC respectively. I figured out who this mystery James was– we have many, many James’ in our family– by consulting my grandfather’s bio sketch, written before he passed in 1982, two months before my birth.

At least I thought I had figured it out. The mystery thickens here. The only record I have of a James D. in our family is the James D. mentioned above but his last name is Duncan, my grandfather’s mother’s brother. So who is this James D. Godsil of the discharge papers, from my grandfather’s father’s side of the family? And how old would he have been in 1940? So confusing and I have a call in to my Papo to straighten it out for me.

In any case, the papers show that he received a raise in this time period, from $7.20 to $7.52, which I assume was his weekly wage from the note below.

family book from 1920

It reads:

The rent man is coming and I don’t have the thirty-five dollars that’s due. Jesus Christ is coming if we don’t pay him the rent, we’re out on the street, he owns this dump flat and we all got to pay him or all four families get dumped on the street. He owns all the junky banisters and steps etc. crummy sinks and toilets and all these fucking flats.

I’m happy to know that the f-word is in my lineage.

Bridie, my twenty-two year old sister mentioned above, is using the book for schooling. She is a roofer, general handywoman and maintenance worker and says that the information in the book is just as useful today as it was in 1929.

family book from 1920

I love this photo of the man in the hat.

family book from 1920

And this, describing the skeleton keys of yore as common door keys.

One cent to an auction house, priceless to my family. I’m sad that Bridie took it back with her but happy that it continues to provide how-tos two generations later. Now if my dad could just call me back and tell me who the mystery man with the f-word is.

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2 responses to “fix it yourself: a family book from 1929

  1. i LOVE old, loveworn books. i would totally squee over such a prize.

    (but i think it says “junky” flats and not “fucking.” the handwriting just got a little shift).

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