Sunday, September 11, 2016

Nichols Damp-Proof Salt Shaker


There are some ideas that are simple and elegant and solve a common problem, but which never catch on.  Maybe it’s poor management, maybe it’s the economy, but the better mousetrap just doesn’t draw people to its doors.  The Nichols Damp-Proof Salt Shaker solved the problem of salt getting moist and clumping, and was a major part of my growing up.


The shaker was designed so that moisture could not get inside without any lids or covers.  The design was clever:  a cylinder of metal with holes at the top attached to something like a screw on lid (left above). There was a glass shell (right).*  You turned the glass upside down and poured in salt (not too much, or you couldn’t close it).  Then you screwed the bottom onto the glass and turned it so that the metal was down.

And there you were.  The bottom was flush with the table, and moisture couldn’t get inside. 

To use it, you picked it up and shook it up and down. Salt would go to the top of the cover and then fall through the holes onto your food.  Then you’d put it down and it would be sealed again.  Each shaker came with a rolled up bit of paper with instructions.

A nice bonus was that you could control how much salt came out.  Each shake would add the same amount, so it was easy to control.  Plus you couldn’t accidentally pour out too much salt if your hand was jostled.

Alas, the Nichols company had hard sledding bringing out the product during the Depression.  They finally went out of business, probably around 1940 or so.  My grandfather, however, ran a small general store on Eastern Long Island, an area where humidity was high.  When they failed, he bought the entire stock from his wholesaler. and continued to sell them.

They were in the store in the 60s, when I was in high school, with several boxes in the back in storage.  They were the only salt shakers on our table and I was surprised to find people used other ones.

By the 1970s, though, our supply was gone.  The patents lapsed and a memorable part of my childhood was gone forever.

*This shows my favorite design. I liked the egg shape.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Dish

The DishDirected by
Rob Sitch
Written by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy, Rob Sitch
Starring Sam Neill, Patrick Warburton, Tom Long, Eliza Szonart, Tayler Kane
IMDB Entry

Great events are usually the subject of epic movies.  That’s all fine, but sometimes we have to remember that ordinary people are sometimes caught up in them.  And that’s the premise of The Dish.

It’s 1969 and the radiotelescope in Parkes, Australia has a big job:  to be the backup antenna for TV signals from the first moon landing.  Parkes is a pretty laid back place, where Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill) presides over a motley crew of scientists and whose biggest problem is to keep the local sheep away.  But a change in schedule makes Parkes the primary receiver, with the responsibility of broadcasting the signal to the world.

There are some snags and problems along the way, but the movie concentrates on the quirky characters of the town, and how they react to being thrust on the world stage.  It’s more a character study than an drama, and is consistently amusing.

Sam Neill was fine in the lead.  This was one of his Australian films; he had a streak of good movies made down under including A Cry in the Dark, The Piano, and Sirens.

Director Rob Sitch made his name with his earlier film The Castle – also a quirky comedy – but moved on to TV, where he produced various talk and sports shows.  It kept him busy, but he only directed one feature after this.