A recent long weekend found Nate and me thrifting. All weekend. Saturday we went north to Wisconsin's Fox Valley to check out St. Vinnie's in Fond du Lac; Bethesda Thrift Shop, St. Vinnie's, Goodwill, and Neenah Vintage Mall in Neenah; and Bethesda Thrift Shop and Fox Valley Thrift Shoppe in Appleton.
Sunday we went west to Wisconsin's largest antique mall in Columbus, which took all day. Throughout our journey, I was scouring for Merry Mushrooms, but all I found was a napkin holder in Neenah. I already have two, so I left it for someone else to discover. Monday we ended up heading north to St. Vinnie's, Bethesda Thrift Shop, and Goodwill in Sheboygan; St. Vinnie's in Kiel; and St. Vinnie's in Plymouth. We found a couple nice things, but no fungi.
At Goodwill, our third stop of the day, Nate was off looking at movies and I wandered through the crowded home goods aisles, pawing carefully through piles of goods on each shelf. Nearing the last bank of shelving, a swath of golden yellow perched rather precariously atop wire baking racks and muffin tins caught my eye. I thought, "That looks like Merry Mushrooms gold, but what are the chances it is?"
The plain back was facing out and, as I walked past, I gave it the old side-eye as the jaunty parade of Merry Mushrooms revealed itself. I said out loud, "oh my god," grabbed it and, before scurrying to show off my treasure to Nate, wildly looked around for more.
Once home, I settled in to clean, take photos, and examine my $6.99 prize. Available from 1978 to 1980, this yellow slow cooker came complete with 31" long power cord and "two-position chrome-plated baking rack." The clear glass lid has a 1 3/8" square knob and a textured rounded square imprint around the knob that fluctuates between 3/4" wide on the sides and 1" at the corners.
The rectangular porcelain coated aluminum pot (mistakenly identified as steel in the book) has rounded corners and edges and two black Phenolic (Bakelite) handles attached with one Phillips head screw on each short side. Phenolic plastic is a resin made of phenol and aldehyde and is easily manufactured therefore very affordable. Along with its great insulating abilities, it's the perfect material for slow cooker handles.
Identified as "Yellow," this is one of the few pieces that have the color named in the catalog. Seeing it in person, however, it is verily golden yellow (think 1970s "Harvest Gold"), rather than sunny or lemon yellow.
Also noted is that the decal it has a crayon-like quality to it, rather than the clean and solid colors of other decals. The copyright, "Sears, Roebuck and Co. 1976," flows under the greenery on the right- the year is most likely the year the decal design was finally copyrighted. More on markings and years found in A Closer Look: Napkin Holder Bottom Markings and the Update. The rectangular slow cooker wasn't available until 1978, but appears to have the same style of mushroom decal as the light fixtures, the earliest which was offered in 1977.
Sadly, the griddle is not an original Sears, but rather a West Bend slow cooker griddle. Looking online at original late 1970s to early 1980s Sears electric slow cooker griddles shows that the two companies' griddles are identical in size, material, feet, wattage, and temperature knob and label. The only differences are that the West Bend one is such a dark brown it can be mistaken for black until it's compared to the black handles, and that both the temperature label and griddle bottom read either "West Bend" or "Sears."
Having worked at a museum with a large West Bend Company collection, I can say that it's entirely plausible that the West Bend Company's small appliance division manufactured the griddle for Sears. And since Sears rarely manufactured its own items and the West Bend Company manufactured primarily aluminum cookware, it is exciting for this Wisconsinite to think that the West Bend Company made the entire product, including affixing the Merry Mushrooms decal.
Check out the Update: Yellow Rectangular Slow Cooker.
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