About ten years ago, my wife arranged for a jeweler to restore the mantel clock that belonged to my paternal grandparents, but not until we moved to our present home did we have an appropriate place to set it up and let it run. Now it sits in our dining room, atop a radio console from the 1930s which belonged to her parents. A couple of weeks ago, I wound it up and set it running. I believe, except for a brief test in the jeweler’s shop, this is the first time that clock has been in regular use for more than fifty years.

After searching the Internet for several days, I found another jeweler who explained how to set the clock. In a phone conversation last week, my 85-year-old father explained how to adjust the pendulum and regulate its speed. So now the century-old clock is faithfully doing its work once again, marking the minutes and chiming the hours of our days.

The experience illustrates our American cultural amnesia, with respect to repairing and cleaning the things of everyday life.

I ran into it a few years ago when my black fedora (the one I keep for funerals and other formal occasions) was crushed on the top shelf of our hall closet. I turned to the Yellow Pages in search of someone who cleans and blocks hats. Surely in a city the size of Indianapolis (more than a million people), we would have several haberdashers. No, not one. Perhaps dry cleaners who clean and block hats? No one listed that service in their advertisement, so I called a few of the leading establishments to ask. “Better get a new hat,” they advised.

That reminded me of another service that used to be quite common: the window blind laundry. A lady who served as a substitute teacher at my elementary school owned such a place, and I remember the colorful neon light advertising its existence on a side street of my hometown. Try to find one today. Do window blinds still accumulate grease and grime? Of course. But our solution is to throw them away and buy new ones. (No doubt that’s why we make them so flimsy and fragile nowadays.)

Our society shrugs off the need to clean and maintain everyday conveniences–things like pendulum clocks, fedora hats, and Venetian blinds–so eventually they disappear. Well, call me a legacy man, because I believe that if something still works, it’s worth maintaining and using.