An old-fashioned weather gauge – and cute to boot

Boy-and-girl weather forecasters

Here’s your question for this evening: what was this little weather-forecasting (or weather-announcing) tchotchke, once so common in everybody’s homes, called?

Okay, first of all I want to say how thrilled I am at all the helpful information you folks sent my way in response to my query in last Friday’s post about the old cold-storage lockers in Madoc. Why, I went in a span of 24 hours from having only the vaguest of childhood memories and some guesses about the onetime use of that old building, to knowing who started the business, who ran it after that, what kinds of operations were carried out there, and what kinds of delicacies – from whole and half cows and pigs, to game from the hunting camp, to huckleberries – were stored there. And a reliable report that one can still – or at least could, as of very recent summers – buy large blocks of ice at the building. People, you are the best when it comes to solving local-history mysteries! (If you’d like to read all the helpful answers that came in as comments, click here.)

So now here’s your reward: another little mystery.

This one definitely has the whiff of history about it, in that it’s about an object that used to be ever so common in ordinary households but that is rarely spotted now. Is it local? Well, I think these items were pretty widespread all over North America and probably beyond; but because the example that I found for my photo was taken in a kitchen right here in Queensborough, I think it’s local enough for Meanwhile, at the Manse.

As those of you of a certain age will doubtless know, the purpose of this miniature chalet, once found on kitchen and dining-room and living-room shelves everywhere, was to tell you something about the weather. First there is the little wee thermometer that gives you your indoor temperature, of course. But much more interesting (if you ask me) is the little woman in the dirndl, who was way out in front on the fine evening when I took the photo – and the little man, equally rustically dressed (I assume they’re supposed to be Swiss or some such), who is nowhere to be found in the photo but who is hiding in the house.

“When does he come out?” I asked my hosts. “When it rains, of course!” they told me.

“Seriously?” was all I could sputter by way of response.

“Works every time,” they told me.

Okay, people: how does it work? As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one word for this, and that word is: magic.

But also: what were these cute little weather thingies called? And are they a quaint form of barometer? Are they a Swiss-style forecasting tool?

Most of all: how does that little man know when to come out?

6 thoughts on “An old-fashioned weather gauge – and cute to boot

  1. It’s charming. I’ve seen them before but I have no idea what they are called. It is interesting but not something I would want! IF it was at our house it would probably be named the “official combination dust collector/cat toy” and at least one of the figures would be under the couch with its head chewed off!

    • Fortunately for us, Sieste the cat is too elderly to be much interested in chewing the heads off tiny Swiss-attired weather prognosticators. But boy are we ever good at collecting dust collectors – and now I am thinking that one of these doohickeys needs to be added to that collection.

      • That’s the trouble with collections, you never think about the accumulation of dust when you find that perfect piece at the thrift store or a garage sale.

        We have three energetic, young, and VERY BAD cats; unfortunately not one of them can be persuaded to help with the dusting.

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