Kelvinator bought for the price of a cow in World War II
Star Staff Writer DELIGHT -
Sam Proctor probably never imagined that
the Kelvinator refrigerator he bought in World War II would
outlive him. Sam died Feb. 24. He was 93. The Kelvinator is
About 12 years ago, Carl Hastings, owner
of Delight's Barber Shop near Casar, bought the Kelvinator
from Proctor for $20. "I had an old refrigerator keeping
drinks cold at the barber shop," Hastings said. "One
day Sam was in the shop and I said that I needed a new refrigerator.
The old one had stopped working. "Sam said he had one
on his back porch and if it would still run I could have it
for $20," Hastings said. "Sam went home and plugged
it in and it worked, so I bought it."
Hastings also got a piece of history for
that $20. No one seems to know exactly what year the Kelvinator
was made, but all the signs point to either 1938 or 1940.
John Jowers of www.antiqueappliances.com
said it would be difficult to say exactly how much the Kelvinator
is worth without seeing it and knowing what year it was made.
"If it was made in the 1930s and is in good shape and
is still running, it is probably worth about $500 to $700,"
Jowers said. "Completely restored, it would be worth
up to $3,200."
According to Truman Proctor, one of Sam's
nine children, the refrigerator was purchased from Jim White
in Casar in wartime for the price of a cow. White would travel
up north in World War II and get appliances and bring them
back to Cleveland County to sell, Hastings said. "I remember
hearing my parents talk about getting the refrigerator and
either selling a cow or trading a cow for it," Truman
Proctor said. "I do not know the year they bought it
except that it was during World War II. I am 56 years old,
and they had it a long time before I was born in 1945."
The Kelvinator is a conversation piece at
the one-chair barber shop in Delight, where a haircut is still
$4. Hastings said customers will ask for a drink and he'll
tell them to "get one out of the Kelvinator." "They
don't know what I'm talking about when I say Kelvinator,"
he said. In the 1940s and 1950s,when the brand was popular,
Kelvinator became a synonym for refrigerator. "A lot
of people don't know how to open it," Hastings said.
"and then they have trouble shutting it, too, because
you have to push it shut. The door does not automatically
shut like refrigerators today. They don't make 'em like that
anymore. You can't even hear it run.
"I never expected it to last this long.
I just needed something to keep drinks cold." The only
maintenance Hastings does on the Kelvinator is to defrost
it every three or four months. Over time the open freezer
area collects ice that must be melted and removed. Today's
refrigerators do not require that kind of attention. Truman
Proctor said he remembers helping to defrost the old Kelvinator.
"It had to be defrosted every three months," Truman
Proctor said. "It was also a chance to clean the whole
refrigerator since you had to empty it and unplug it to defrost
it. Now that we don't have to do that to refrigerators today
I wonder how often they get cleaned."
Truman Proctor said the Kelvinator was never
worked on. His father replaced it about 20 years ago for a
new, larger refrigerator. The Kelvinator brand no longer exists.
According to Jowers, the company got its start in 1881 in
Grand Rapids, Mich., and was originally called "The Leonard
Refrigerator Company." "In 1914, a man by the name
of Nathaniel Wales got the backing from Buick and developed
the first electric refrigerator," Jowers said. "The
name of the company was later changed to Kelvinator after
Lord Kelvin, who formulated the absolute zero temperature.
The first refrigerators they made were called
the Kelvinator Cabinet." Jowers said that in 1937 Nash
Motors bought the company. Then, in 1952, the refrigerator
maker became a part of American Motors when that company bought
Nash. In 1968, the company became part of the makers of White-Westinghouse
and Frigidaire appliances. The old Kelvinator is not the only
link between Hastings and Sam Proctor. Hastings grew up with
Sam Proctor's children. These days, he also runs a 100-acre
farm and raises beef cattle. "I knew Sam all my life,"
Hastings said. "I went to school with his kids. He used
to help me work some."
You can e-mail reporter Luann Laubscher
at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at (704)
484-7000, ext. 120.