Harvey Sachs working on the house. Photos: Courtesy of Stephen Sachs.
This is the story of a table saw. A steel-framed Sears Craftsman table saw manufactured when things were built to last. My father bought the saw more than fifty years ago, when he was forty-three, to cut lumber at the new home he had just bought in Westlake Village for his young family. The table saw now sits in the parking lot of the Fountain Theatre, worn-out and rusting, like a broken-down Oldsmobile.
My dad was a newsman in 1967. He was a logical thinker, deliberate. He wore a suit jacket and tie when he went to the CBS newsroom in Los Angeles each morning. Smoked a pipe like network icon Walter Cronkite. Dad was a serious man with a dark furrowed brow who approached his duty as a journalist with somber dedication. On weekends, he was a different man.
Like most dads of that era, he liked tools. Hammers, screwdrivers, socket wrenches. On weekends, Dad eagerly drove our white station wagon to Sears in Woodland Hills to buy a glistening new set of socket wrenches or a new power drill. He dedicated an entire section of the garage to his tools and hardware, mounting hundreds of Craftsman gadgets and gizmos on the wall like shiny religious weaponry. As a boy, I would stand in the dim garage alone and stare at the burnished tools. They held some kind of spell of magic to me because they drew so much of my father's care and attention. Each packet of screws, each mechanical device, each bundle of power cord was lovingly mounted in a logistical order that I recognized as my father's sense of propriety. It was on one of his weekend pilgrimages to Sears that he bought the table saw.
My dad and that table saw labored hard in the hot Conejo Valley sun on weekends, building fences and benches for our home and the outdoor patio overhang that circled our backyard. Dad huffed and puffed as he manhandled that table saw, his shirt off and bare chested, tiny chips of sawdust speckling the black hair on his chest and arms like woody flakes of snow. Who was this man? A clutch of roofing nails clenched in his teeth where, during the work week, a Dunhill pipe used to be.
By the time I opened the Fountain Theatre, my dad had Parkinson's disease. He could barely move or speak. He had stopped working for CBS News long before. He could no longer hold a pencil or lift a hammer. His shrine of carpentry tools in the garage stood silent, dusty and untouched for years like an abandoned tomb. Except for that table saw.
Somehow, in 1993, I lugged that heavy steel table saw from Westlake Village to the Fountain Theatre and presented it to my Technical Director. "This is my father's saw," I told him. It would now build our stage scenery.
For the next twenty-five years, my father's saw stood proud at the Fountain, cutting miles of lumber into thousands of pieces to build dozens of sets for so many of our plays. As Dad's health declined his table saw powered on. Dad passed away in 1995. From that day forward, the scenery for every play I wrote and directed at the Fountain Theatre has been cut on my father's table saw.
The once hearty motor is now blown. Replacement parts have been discontinued years ago. It is done. The saw now stands forsaken in the Fountain parking lot waiting to be hauled to the dump.
I swing my car into the lot as I arrive for work each morning. I park, hoist myself out of my Honda, walk to the front door. As I do, I cross the parking lot and shoot a glance at the table saw. And see my father. Bare-chested, happy and alive, pushing a two-by-four into the ever-spinning blade.
Stephen Sachs is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.
Stephen Sachs and his dad's saw.