Vacuum Bottle Adventures

My trusty Stanley bottle, ready for more outings.

Last week I wrote about a successful deer hunt a couple days before Thanksgiving Day. I didn’t include a footnote to the outing.

When my friend, John Jacobson, and I were getting ready to hit the road for home, I was organizing my gear, putting things away and otherwise making sure everything was accounted for.

Then, I realized what was missing. My trusty Stanley thermos bottle wasn’t where I’d last seen it, when it was rolling around on the floor behind the front seat of John’s truck. I mentally reviewed where and when we’d stopped in the course of the day’s hunt, and when I’d poured a fresh cup of hot tea from my bottle.      

I could only guess that on one of those stops the bottle rolled out without my noticing it. I mentioned to John that it was missing and he got a look of dismay on his face, so I added, “But we’re not going to go back out and look for it.” It would truly have been one of those needle in a haystack searches. John had a visible look of relief on his face when I said that.

Some terms that we use, such as thermos or Kleenex, are examples of an eponym, where a brand name for something has become the commonly used name, regardless of who makes it. Thermos, for example, has become the generic word for vacuum bottles. A German company, Thermos GmbH (an abbreviation of a German term for a corporate entity) originally registered a trademark for vacuum bottles, though it became the common name for all vacuum bottles. In 1963, a U.S. Federal court ruled that a lower case “thermos” was a generic term for vacuum bottles, though Thermos (with the capital T) is still a registered name for Thermos products, which are now owned by a Japanese company.

I couldn’t remember how long I’ve had that Stanley bottle but it has been a long time. It replaced a long line of glass-lined vacuum bottles that I had replaced or bought replacement liners to replace a broken glass liner. Glass linings are fragile, and a tumble in the back of a pickup often results in a cup of cold coffee or tea and an unhealthy helping of broken glass.

The all-steel Stanley vacuum flask was invented by William Stanley in 1913 when he discovered a welding process could be used to insulate a vacuum bottle with steel instead of glass. He started mass production of the Stanley bottle in 1915. He didn’t live long enough to see the success of his invention as he died in 1916, at age 57. Over the years, there have been a number of corporations that have owned the brand, including Aladdin, which acquired the rights in 1965. In 2002, a Seattle company, Pacific Market International acquired it, and moved production to China.

I was relieved when John called a week ago to tell me he found my Stanley bottle where it had rolled under a seat, and brought it over, and it’s now awaiting another outing.

That brought to mind a story that, near the end of his life, the late flyfishing legend, Bernard “Lefty” Kreh told a former colleague, who recorded the conversation and posted it on Facebook. 

Years ago, Lefty bought a Stanley bottle, then had it dipped in a rubber coating so it wouldn’t make so much noise rattling around in a boat. He loved that thermos.

Lefty told of taking his young son, about age 5 or 6, fishing, and in the course of the day, the boy accidentally dropped the thermos overboard, much to Lefty’s dismay.

At the end of an otherwise fun day of fishing, Lefty and his son were on their way home, with a sleepy boy cuddled up against him and Lefty mused, “Someday, son, you’re going to be a grown man, and I’ll be an old man, and then, maybe, you’ll take me fishing, just like I took you fishing.

The boy pondered that a moment, then responded, “Will I get to cuss you out, too?”

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