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Ingenious DIY in a deficit economy

by Dignity News
It’s hard to find a Pole who hasn’t heard the name of Adam Słodowy at least once, or the name of his programme “Do It Yourself” or hasn’t seen a clip from it. Today is the 50th anniversary of the awarding of the Order of the Smile to an inventor whose biography is as interesting as the inventions he came up with.

The future designer was born on 3 December 1923 in Czarnków in Wielkopolska into a clerical family. From an early age, he was said to have had a passion for construction; as a child, he made an unsuccessful attempt to invent a revolutionary drive for a mill, and as a schoolboy, he prepared a design for a fire alarm system. He was also a member of scout troops – first in Czarnków and then in Bydgoszcz, where he moved with his family.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, the 16-year-old’s father sent him to an agricultural machinery factory in Baczki, where he learned various trades. In 1944, he volunteered for the army, where, after completing officer school, he reached the rank of major. He taught at the Officers’ School of Anti-aircraft Artillery in Koszalin and the Military University of Technology. There, he was said to have taken up DIY; he created mock-ups and is also said to have developed a missile flight simulator.

In 1958, he voluntarily left the ranks of the army. In the same year, he had his first major DIY success. From found parts and a demobilised engine, he created a working car driving at a top speed of 40 km/h. Słodowy presented his creation at an exhibition organised by the Transport Publishing House. Visitors liked the project so much that Słodowy wrote a book on the subject, which was sold out in a week. With the earned money, he bought a television set, a luxury product at the time. Thanks to the set, he watched a programme on technology, but he did not like it so much that he went to the television building to share his comments. After the conversation, the receptionist offered him the opportunity to prepare his own material.

The subject of the first episode of the DIY programme was a bird feeder. Around 7,500 letters were received by the TV station afterwards (it should be remembered that the number of TV sets at the time was around 240,000). This was the beginning of a programme which aired for 24 years (1959-1983) and had 505 episodes, in which the author showed how to make a toy or a useful device out of commonly available objects, which we today consider useless rubbish.

Słodowy also co-authored the scripts for the fairy tale “Ingenious Dobromir” and other productions. At the request of children, on 21 March 1974 he was made a knight of the Order of the Smile, which has been awarded in Poland as an international honour since 1968.

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