Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 21 November 2008

In those days equipment did the selling

Machinery is only one aspect of technology but I wonder if a coffee roaster I saw in the late forties in my home town, Bradford, was the first device to awaken my interest in things that did things. Mind you, it wasn’t the roaster’s raison d’etre that attracted attention. Its ostentatious manufacture, its flamboyant operation, the way it was displayed and its delectable byproducts meant it was unignorable.

The inset gives some hints but this machine is smaller and more utilitarian. The Bradford roaster had a cast-iron chassis with the name (alas now forgotten) standing out in relief. The chassis had something in common with clothes wringers dating back to the previous century, and was painted in brilliant red and green.

Even at rest it looked impressive. When working, flames licking round the huge central drum that held the beans made it look like an industrial accident. My wife says something similar still functioned in the seventies in Kingston-upon-Thames but, not surprisingly, the HSE had suppressed the flames.

With an asset like this marketing instincts (long before the principles of marketing were articulated) had it positioned in the shop’s front window. Wow! But of course there was another powerful positive, and the olfactory products of roasting were allowed to escape into the street. This at a time when probably nine out of ten Bradfordians drank tea.

To tell the truth I didn’t really understand what it did since my apostasy from tea was a year or two away. But it worked in the way a firework display works. And I can see and smell it now.

6 comments:

Relucent Reader said...

Great looking machine.
The mention of coffee roasting brought memories and scents of the coffee grinders (they were bulbous like a food mill) on the end of the check-out counter at the local A&P supermarket, when I was a kid in tow.
Thank you.

marja-leena said...

My in-laws had a hand-powered coffee grinder for years. My husband often told stories about how it was his job as a boy to grind the coffee beans for his parents, fresh every morning. We've had one of those little electric ones ever since we received it as a wedding gift. I wonder if there are any modern day roasters for home-owners?

Plutarch said...

Thinking back to the image of those coffee roasters "with the flames licking round the central drum",it was the smell which one remembers most vividly, as you say, a powerful marketing tool. Astonishing therefore that a coffee shop and bar called Ilisha in Tubridge Wells has installed a coffee roaster, but has piped away the smell of roasting coffee both from the interior of the shop and the front where most pedestrians pass. Why hide your assets as the bishop said to the actress.

Lucy said...

Post student days, I worked in the Monmouth Street Coffee House in Covent Garden, back of Neal's Yard, roasting and selling coffee. The whole apparatus for delivering, storing, roasting and packing, involving vacuums, chutes, adjacent revolving drums and of course the roaster, packed into a tiny cellar space, was a wonder to behold, and even more fun to work. For that year I smelled permanently of coffee and had ground coffee for dandruff, but it was great. The roaring flames were one of the best bits.

Oddly, despite the taste I acquired for excellent coffee at the time, I'm a very unparticular coffee drinker now...

Plutarch said...

I used to buy coffee in the Monmouth Street Coffee House. I wonder ...

Lucy said...

Now there's a thought... ;~)