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From refrigerator to kegerator

Last summer, I was invited to spend a weekend with my boyfriend, Jason, and his family in their 1965 Marlette trailer in the Thousand Islands. As a girl from a small family, whose handful of surviving aunts, uncles, and cousins live in the Midwestern town where they were raised, Jason’s hyper local and tightly knit family dynamic is still something of a foreign concept.

The Fisher family trailer is an unspoiled product of a lost time, a mid-century time capsule of tasteful kitsch worthy of a coffee table design book or a MoMA retrospective. It’s the first time my iPhone 5 feels inferior in the company of wood paneling.The obsolescent collection of General Electric classics like a Spacemaker coffee maker and a Tiffany blue refrigerator stand in the same sparkling condition as the first day the trailer was parked in Swan Bay.

We quickly learn that the trailer will be removed in September and replaced with a twenty-first-century summer hideout for Jason’s mom and her three sisters.

“Oh my god,” I say. “Whatever you do, keep the fridge.”

A few weeks later, Jason gets a text from his parents asking if we are still interested in taking ownership of that fridge. I see the piece as one-of-a-kind decor for our rec room, but Jason has other plans. An engineer by day and accomplished home brewer by hobby, he begins daydreaming about the possibilities of repurposing the piece as a two-tapped kegerator.

Now, out of all of our home improvement fantasies, the kegerator project zoomed past the mudroom, the dining room, and the home office on our list of priorities. The UPS truck makes near-daily stops with tubes, faucets, valves, clamps, and accouter- ments that I don’t have the faintest idea what to do with. Since the fridge can fit up to three slim kegs, we’ve been narrowing down a series of high-alcohol-percentage brews for our house label, Centennial Brewery.

Words can’t begin to describe the support of the Fisher sisters—and their husbands’ willingness to lend a hand whenever needed. Jason’s uncle, a restaurateur in Chicago, graciously sent us artisan taps for the moment it all becomes real and the holes are drilled. I’m not handy myself, so I hit the estate sales circuit in pursuit of a set of vintage Genesee-branded pint glasses to store comfortably in the icebox.

Since the fridge came standard with the trailer but possesses very nonstandard dimensions, family legend says Grammy and Pa Fisher took immense pride in keeping their trailer looking and feeling brand new with ritualistic defrosting and an oft-replenished supply of Jubilee Kitchen Wax. These recollections of uneven cleaning-to-summering ratio remind us of our own project.To some, it may appear a self-indulgent DIY, but it’s just as much a repurposing of family legacy as preserving a photo album.

Stephanie Layne Williams is a Rochester-based media gadfly and the owner of a bespoke copywriting studio called words with steph. 

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