In 1937, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the U.S. president, gas cost 20 cents per gallon, and Hilda Geyer purchased a Frigidaire refrigerator, an appliance that would be held by her family for the next 75 years.
And on Tuesday afternoon in north Baldwin Borough, Richard Linnert, the late Geyer's nephew, was officially recognized as owning "Pennsylvania's Oldest Refrigerator."
Linnert, a Duquesne Light customer, recycled the 1937 Frigidaire in July through Duquesne Light's Watt Choices program and received a $35 rebate check as his reward for removing the outdated, energy-draining device from the electric grid.
But little did Linnert, who has owned the fridge's home in the 700 block of Becks Run Road since 1998, know just how much the old appliance would end up being worth for him.
Representatives of Duquesne Light, in partnership with JACO Environmental and Sears, presented Linnert on Tuesday with a $1,000 Sears gift card for recycling the oldest refrigerator in the state and another $250 Sears gift card for recycling the oldest unit in Duquesne Light's service territory.
"I got my check for $35—I was happy," Linnert said. "I got rid of this (fridge), and I got my $35. Then, Brian (Knavish, senior communications specialist for Duquesne Light) calls me on the phone, tells me I won 'oldest in the state,' 'oldest in Duquesne Light area'—$1,250 for Sears. Hey, cool.
"So I got my little list ready—a TV, a small phone and 10 gallons of white paint so I can paint the basement."
Linnert has no plans to replace his newer, upstairs fridge. He turned off the old Frigidaire model—built by General Motors—from the basement of his home a few years ago. But it worked fine up until then and sat in his basement until he called Duquesne Light.
"I was cleaning things out of the basement, and this was just a chance to get rid of it," Linnert said of the company's recycling program. "I thought I would get the $35, and that would be it. I had no idea it would be the oldest in the state. This is exciting. I never win anything."
Linnert, 68, grew up in the 600 block of Becks Run in Pittsburgh's St. Clair neighborhood and remembers fondly visiting his nearby Aunt Hilda's home as a child in the 1950s.
"When I was a kid, my mother would bring us down here to the house. My aunt would say, 'Go get yourself a pop.' So, we'd go down, get a pop out and go outside. We didn't think anything about it. It's just a 'frigerator, or refrigerator—unless you're from Pittsburgh. (Then,) it's a 'frigerator."
When Linnert bought the home in 1998, the old fridge came with it. Not fully aware how much more energy older refrigerators use than modern units, Linnert continued to use the appliance "to keep beer cold" up until a few years ago.
The goal of JACO Environmental's "Pennsylvania's Oldest Refrigerator" contest was to seek out as many outdated, energy-draining devices as possible and remove them from the grid. Some 18,360 units were recycled between April and August, according to a news release from Knavish, including 2,200 in Duquesne Light's service territory.
Linnert's 1937 fridge was the oldest in the state by one year, beating out a 1938 General Electric model in Lebanon County (Met-Ed service area) and another 1938 General Electric model in Lancaster County (PPL Electric Utilities area).
Linnert was reading ServiceLine—Duquesne Light's customer newsletter—when he saw an article about the company's refrigerator and freezer recycling program.
He placed a call, the refrigerator was removed, and the rest is history.
While the contest that Linnert won has come to a close, Duquesne Light customers can still recycle outdated refrigerators and freezers at any time through the Watt Choices program.
These old appliances are often inefficient and can add up to $150 per year to a typical electric bill, according to the news release. JACO Environmental will haul away old refrigerators or freezers for free, and Duquesne Light will pay the appliance's former owners $35 each simply for recycling the units. To schedule a pickup, call 1-877-270-3521 or visit WattChoices.com.
To qualify, refrigerators and freezers must be in working condition and must be a minimum of 10 cubic feet in size. JACO Environmental will recycle 95 percent of the appliances' components in an environmentally safe way, and customers will receive payment within six weeks of pickup.
In addition to the appliance recycling program, Watt Choices helps customers conserve energy and protect the environment while lowering their electricity costs through rebates on the installation of energy-efficient equipment, online home energy audits, discounts on compact fluorescent light bulbs and more. Click here for more information and to get a free energy conservation kit.
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