Grandma Gatewood was a SAKist!

Discussion in 'Multi-tools & Multi-purpose Knives' started by jackknife, Jun 17, 2020.

  1. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    Soooo, I've read about her and heard about her for years. No, really decades.

    The grandmother, who at age 67 set out with a denim gunny sack she made herself and walking in Kids sneakers, did the Appalachian Trail. She was a legend when I was ding the ultra light backpacking up and down the A.T. in the 1960's and up to the mid 1980's. Every backpacker knows about her. But I was at the library yesterday, (Doing a lot of reading in Covid era) and while growing the biographies, I saw it. The tittle "Grandma Gatewoods Walk."

    No sooner I started to read, and there in middle of page 2 was the gear she carried that was all of 12 pounds. By todays standard, she was woefully under equipped to the point of dangerous. Some Vienna sausage, raisins, peanuts, bullion cubes, powdered milk, water bottle, candy mints, Some bandaids, a shower curtain to keep rain off, and a warm coat. There was a flahslight (no mention of type) and a Swiss Army Knife. Unfortunately no mention model or size. Darn it!

    So, in addition to Charles Lindberg, Chuck Yeager, Peter Hathaway Capstick, we can add the name of a grandmother from an Ohio farm community to the list. And this was 1955 when she made the first of her through hikes.
     
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  2. Papilio

    Papilio

    55
    Sep 6, 2019
    I am always glad to hear about people relying on a SAK. I have heard legends that even today some unbelievers exist who think of a SAK more or less as a toy.
    That is a nice story. Hope you find more interesting stuff in your library.
     
  3. redsparrow

    redsparrow Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 3, 2014
    Thanks for sharing Carl. Isn't it interesting how grandmas always seem to have candy mints? :) And it's good to hear that Peter H. Capstick was a SAK fan. Now I know we're in good company. :thumbsup::thumbsup:
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
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  4. jmh33

    jmh33 Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 16, 2003
    Great book to read.. I think she did the AT 3 times solo.. That is one free spirit!!
    John
     
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  5. Hairy Clipper

    Hairy Clipper Basic Member Basic Member

    414
    Feb 28, 2009
    Until today I had never heard of Grandma Gatewood. However, thanks to this thread I have completed a search for the book about her on my local library system's website and initiated an Inter Library Loan request. An old hunting buddy that has been gone going on ten years went to Africa on safari in 1980 after graduating law school. He, too, took a Swiss Army Knife on his expedition and he always had one with him when we went deer hunting in the arrowhead region of Minnesota. I had never seen a SAK before meeting him forty some years ago and I blame him for converting me from an unbeliever to being mustered into the world wide army of the faithful. Now, two days short of my birthday I find myself in anxious anticipation for the arrival of GRANDMA GATEWOOD'S WALK so I may vicariously live the adventures of of an old woman hiking the Appalachian Trail about the time I was born.
     
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  6. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    I don't know if I would call her trip adventure or misadventure. In all due respect, she did make the trip not once, but three times. But...she made it a lot harder on herself by being woefully under equipped for the conditions of the trial, particularly wet weather and foot gear. Even in 1955, the first trip, there was some good gear on the market, way way better than she was carrying in a homemade gunny sack.

    When I read the book, I was saying to myself several times, "Thank God for charitable strangers." because she got a good amount of help at times. But...she did ultimately make it pretty much on her own.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
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  7. Hairy Clipper

    Hairy Clipper Basic Member Basic Member

    414
    Feb 28, 2009
    Some of my friends get a bit tired of me saying, "If you can call 911 for help you are not on an adventure." My favorite reads are from a time when there were no automobiles or radio communications. I am really looking forward to reading this book however. I have read much of George Washington Sears writings although his preferred mode of travel seemed to be canoe. I wish I were in better health as I think I would thoroughly enjoy a trip like she made.
     
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  8. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    Yes!

    As much as I backpacked up and down sections of the Appalachian Trail, I always regretted that I didn't take a summer off and just do the whole thing from Georga to Maine. A 5 month adventure with no cell phone or911.

    But at least I did have the benefit of growing up in Maryland with the Potomac river and the salt marshes of the eastern shore to go canoe camping in. I'd often find myself wishing I'd lived in an earlier time like Sears. The benefits of canoe travel is that you don't have to lug all that stuff on your back. I could't get my wife or kids to go backpacking, but they loved canoe camping. I can't put a value on how much fun my family had with two Old Town canoes and a couple tents.
     
  9. Hairy Clipper

    Hairy Clipper Basic Member Basic Member

    414
    Feb 28, 2009
    I, too, have wished I had lived in an earlier time.
     
  10. James Y

    James Y

    Feb 18, 1999
    Several years ago, I heard of a woman who hiked at least a good portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (or possibly the entire thing), and the only knife she carried was a Victorinox Classic. I’m not sure if that was under equipped knife-wise or not, but she was successful.

    Jim
     
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  11. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    Certainly for the sport of backpacking, a classic is enough knife formats things. By virtue of having your shelter with you, and ample food in the form of freeze dries pouches of Mountain House Turkey tetrazzini, not much knife is needed for opening food packs, trimming a nail, or sniping some moleskin for a blister. You certainly won't be hacking a living out of the wilderness on your way down the Pacific Crest trail or the Appalachian Trail in the 21st century.

    Heck, we've long talked about Chuck Yeager and his buddy Anderson going into the Sierra Nevada mountains for two weeks at a time with a Vic executive as his only knife. With a modern Sil tarp and some twine, you can make a way way better shelter in a few minutes than Danial Boone could with his long knife and tomahawk in 2 hours. And that tarp is less weight and bulk than a loaf of Wonder Bread. Heck, a disposable plastic drop cloth from Walmart is all of 2 dollars and is about the size of a paper back novel.

    Knife nuts over think and over do the whole knife thing because of their obsession. The smaller 58mm and 74mm SAK's are enough for modern backpacking and camping. The days of taming the wilderness by hacking it downs ling gone. Except for immature knife nuts destroying woods to test out their new toys.
     
  12. VicAlox74

    VicAlox74

    105
    Nov 4, 2018
    If i could have only one pocket knife it would be a SAK. Many people have saved a life or theirs with one. The unbelievers really still exist.

    Theres a book I downloaded by Victorinox that has stories in it about people that have used their SAK in difficult situations. Its worth the read for sure.
     
  13. Papilio

    Papilio

    55
    Sep 6, 2019
    Refreshing view. There are not only knife nuts but knife snobs, too. Who look down on people for not having the coolest, biggest and most expensive blade.

    Cool. Must have a look. I have read Chris Lubkemans Whittling with a Swiss Army Knife. That book has been published in coorperation with Victorinox. You can find some of those "my SAK saved my life" stories, too. Maybe you can find a copy in your library or somewhere else.
     
  14. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    The fact is, that compared to a SAK, all other pocket/folding knives pale to insignificance. One trick ponies. Shallow Hal of knives. One dimensional shades of a pocket knife.

    I regret that it took me almost a lifetime to wise up, that a SAK was the ultimate pocket knife. Since I got that first SAK in 1969, there was 'other' pocket knives that came and went. A stockman, a Barlow, sodbuster, Opinels, all mostly went. But even if I had my Buck stockman on me, the Vic pioneer/tinker/hiker/classic/Wenger SI wasn't far away. In pack, or even another pocket. I'd use the 'other' knife once in a while if I had to cut something. But there's just no counting the number of loose screws, cans opened, bottles opened, small repairs done with just the basic tools of the SAK.

    They say you get wiser with age, and it must have happened to a small degree with even my thick skull, because I finally stopped carrying anything but a SAK. Either I just got burned out with the knife thing, (and the associated knife snobbery that goes with it) or in his infinite wisdom the good Lord above let me see the light.

    I know we on this forum are not alone, as Victorinox is the biggest knife company in the world. They make more SAK's per year than Spyderco, Benchmade, and even Buck, all together. It took Buck until their 50th anniversary of the 110 to Make the 10 millionth one. But Victorinox makes 9 million classics a year. Just the little classic, every year. The old figures I have from an article in Knife World gave a figure of 35 million SAK's a year. And that figure is old.

    All kinds of people from all walks of life, all over the world love and use SAK's. They have a universal recognition equal to Bic. They've been to the bottom of the sea on oceanography research submarines to orbiting space stations far above the earth. I have no doubt that someday in the far future when we go and set foot on Mars, that a SAK will be there.

    Lets see the one hand tactical wonders do that.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2020
  15. Papilio

    Papilio

    55
    Sep 6, 2019
    Still waiting for the day to come.

    Think about how many knives that means per day. That is amazing.

    Many adventurers / expeditions rely on a SAK. That is amazing, too. Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard always carries one with him. And he did oceonographic research as well as he flew with a solar plane and a balloon around the world. Well, you don't really fly a balloon, I know.
    And a SAK has been on Mars already. Matt Damon had a Hunter Pro with him when he was left behind ;).
     
  16. shopdoc

    shopdoc

    96
    Mar 24, 2020
    That is really interesting about Grandma Gatewood. I wonder if it was difficult to find a SAK in the store back in the 50s? I know that's when they first started to become know in the US, but still wonder how available at your local store?

    It seems that many non knife people who still recognize the value of having something sharp to cut with carry a SAK. It just gets the job done. MANY backpackers rely only on the Classic as mentioned above.

    Since carrying my Executive, I have purchased a few knives; a couple Case Peanuts which I love, a Schrade Middleman, and an Opinel #8 gardening knife (I really like the pinchability of their gardening knife line), but I go back to the Executive. I'll carry another knife for a day or two and then start to miss the scissors/screwdriver tip on the Executive. There is really nothing (minus easier food prep with the longer blade on the Opinel) these other knives can do that my Executive cannot. I've certainly gravitated to smaller knives, even in the SAK line. The Executive fits in jeans, dress pants, and scrubs without me noticing. I got tired of switching out knives based on my clothing.

    Canoe camping really interests me. I need to figure out a canoe camping trip near Ohio this summer. Sounds like a lot of fun!
     
  17. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    Years ago, we knew a young lady who was manager of a Mall based knife shop, Chesapeake Knife And Tool. Sold all kinds of knives and assorted stuff. One thing I do remember clearly, she said that not a day went by when someone came in looking for a pocket knife, and after looking at all the black handle things and assorted knives, would see the stand up rotating Victorinox display and go "Oh, Swiss Army knifes!" and then buy one. Usually a two layer one. Very often a keychain size one for the office. It was like an instant recognition.

    I wondered as well, in 1955, where Emma Gatewood found her SAK? She was from a small town in southeast Ohio. Farming community I gather. In 1955, SAK's would have been something exotic in the pocket knife field. Most hardware stores had large Schrade or Case or even Camillus display cases, but I don't recall seeing SAK's in sporting good stores let alone local hardware stores. A real mystery.

    I still have a few Opinels on hand, but they are in the kitchen drawer for fine work on stuff like slicing fish and tomatoes. I find the Opinels finicky but they do cut like the dickens. But even the small number 6 is bulkier in the pocket than a SAK garden knife with its flat sides. The Vic garden knife also cuts like the dickens and carries easier.

    Big plus on the canoe camping if you have a place. I guess we were lucky in Maryland with the Potomac river, Annacostia River, Chesapeake Bay, and Assategue National park with canoe in campsites in the salt marshes. There was some islands in the Potomac that the kids called ours that we paddled out to a lot. Nice thing about the canoe camping is you can take a boat load of stuff with you. Even the air guns for the kids to practice plinking. Sometimes a .22 bolt action rifle with standard velocity shorts for lower noise. Stealth plinking.
     
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  18. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    It's almost mind boggling to think of the numbers each and every day. Victorinox is the worlds most automated knife factory with so many of the operations done by computer controlled machines. Maybe that the secret to the unreal quality control.

    If what I read was right, the second highest output of knives in the world was Opinel. They have a very automated factory pumping out Opinels on the market. And I have to admit they have a catchy little tune on their factory tour video! Fincky knives you have to screw with when you get them, but they do cut like the dickens. :D
     
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  19. Papilio

    Papilio

    55
    Sep 6, 2019
    Opinel sells approximateley 15 million knives a year. Victorinox produces 34.000 SAKs, 38.000 pocket tools and 30.000 household, kitchen and professional knives...every day. That's what I found on Google.

    The other thing I am thinking about is the question where Grandma Gatewood got her knife. I know that SAKs got popular after WWII because many US-veterans brought those knives back from Europe. But I have no idea how hard it was to find them in the shops, especially in rural regions.
     
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  20. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    Wow, 15 million Opinels shipped out every year!

    I think was the late 1960's before I saw SAK's in the then new specialty sports stores that catered to backpacking and mountain climbing. Companies like Eastern Mountain Sports, R.E.I., Hudson Trail Outfitters. Before that they were some sort of exotic thing. Maybe Grandma had a relative that brought one back from the war in Europe? Who knows.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020

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