Depending on the exact size, I could see that working for some places, although more and more plastic is involved nowadays than in 1950. I would actually drill the drainage holes in the sides an inch or so up from the bottom so you end up with a bit of a water reservoir down there. I've done that with half-barrels that I use because I only had 1 sunny spot which was a warm enough for plants like tomatoes at one time. Luckily, I've now got two sunny areas, so my main crop tomatoes have moved elsewhere, but I still use the barrels because they're handier to the house for quick bits of lettuce or for "grazing" mini-tomatoes while I'm on my way to see the chickens!
I have collected a variety of old, non working dishwashers, refrigerators, such. Take the door off and drill holes in the back of it. Lay it on it's back and fill with dirt (preferably from a local stock yard or someone's corral ).
Susan Hunters said Could you expand on how you use the spade for seeing if you need to water. Breaks will be a must for me also. I loved the watering schedule - how long do you water your veggie beds?