Goblets and dinner plates, flatware and dish towels all came free with Duz laundry detergent. You might get a little pasteboard box containing a teacup in your Duz this week, assuring you’d buy more to get the saucer next week.
I don’t remember how well it cleaned the laundry but Duz did one thing well, it sure sold laundry detergent. I still have a couple of those smoky-gray goblets, good as the day mama bought them.
Perk-a perk-a perk perk, a perka perk perk… can’t you smell the “good to the last drop” Maxwell House percolating? The perky commercial stuck in your mind and when you hit the grocery store, why naturally you had to buy a bag. The last time I used a percolater it was to heat water for instant coffee. Boy, my days are different now.
For several months in the late 1940’s my family occupied an upstairs apartment in a big two-story house. One memorable summer morning I wandered around indoors looking for something interesting to do. I had already cut out all my paper dolls, read all my comic books and colored all my coloring book.
Etta (our housekeeper/babysitter) was in the kitchen ironing the Duz-fresh laundry, sipping Maxwell House coffee and listening to Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club on the radio. Harold occupied himself with his Lionel trains or something. I couldn’t jump rope indoors. Couldn’t play hopskotch indoors. Needed more girls to play jacks. What to do?
Hmm. My curiosity getting the best of me, I raised the receiver to my ear to see what it sounded like in there. A lady’s voice demanded “Number please.” Startled, I was afraid to hang up — the woman in the phone might know where I lived!
But I didn’t know any telephone numbers, not even our own, so, quick-thinking me asked for my mother’s office. The kindly telephone operator looked up the number and said, “I’ll connect you now.” And she did.
Of course I got a good talking-to since the phone was strictly off-limits except in an emergency, and “What time are you coming home” wasn’t exactly an emergency. I explained as best I could that it was all a terrible misunderstanding, but I had a feeling there would be another talking-to when mama did come home.
I went into the kitchen, opened the icebox and took down a bottle of milk. The block of ice in the box was nearly melted but the milk was still cold. Etta hummed along with the radio, her squirt bottle going “swhush swhush” as she dampened a shirt for ironing. I dunked a cookie in my milk and pondered what to do with the rest of the morning that wouldn’t get me into trouble.
Well, dress-up was always fun. I made a beeline for mama and daddy’s bedroom. I carefully lifted the lid of mama’s jewelry box and listened to the little tune, then fingered through the dainty necklaces and earrings. Selecting several mismatched drop sapphire earrings, I carefully screwed them onto my lobes.
(Those orphan earrings now reside in my own jewelry box; I’ve never been able to part with them.)
I scrounged around in the closet for articles I figured mama wouldn’t wear again, then lugged my makeshift wardrobe into the living room. Onto my skinny shins I pulled run-filled stockings, sliding round garters up my legs to keep the baggy hose in place. It was a lost cause; they kept creeping down and I had to keep yanking them back up.
I added a crinkly crenoline to my ensemble, adjusting the waist with a safety pin. A gold knit top came next, picked and pilled with a few runs in it too, but I loved it. I carefully hitched up a black felt skirt over the crenoline. Knee-length on mama, it was evening dress length on me. I cinched a wide elastic belt in place to fasten everything and knew I looked glamorous.
Next I perched a black straw pillbox atop my head, untangling the veil and pulling it down. By the time I got all that netting straightened out it stretched nearly to my chin. Oh well, more glamor! Finally I slipped my toes into a pair of mama’s high heels. Clinging to the sofa, I rose to my wobbly feet and attempted to strut across the living room.
I soon discovered I needed a bit more padding in a few strategic spots, including my feet. Maneuvering in those slippers proved to be a real drag, especially when I had to yank my stockings back up every minute or so. I didn’t care; I was Marlene Dietrich to my heart’s content that morning.
In spite of my telephone misadventure I had a lot of fun that day, mostly with stuff that doesn’t exist any more. Of course, I do still have those two Duz goblets and the orphan screw-on sapphire earbobs. They might be worth a lot on E-bay these days, but they’re worth a lot more in memories to me.
(Reprinted from 2006.)