Op-Ed: THE IDLE AMERICAN – Laundromat short-cuts

Published 12:57 am Wednesday, July 29, 2020

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Don Newbury

Until mid-twentieth century, most American women had every right to sing “washday blues,” because one day of the week–for most, the longest day–was committed to washing, hanging out, ironing and folding the family duds.

The day started with a trip to the laundromat, since most homes at the time were lucky to have indoor plumbing, much less washing machine and dryers.

I recall my mother telling my brother and I to bring books along while she “put out a washing” on an old wringer-type washer. Mostly, we were to stay out of the way, facilitating early arrival before all the machines were taken.

Duds were tub-carried back home, where mom would hang them on the clothesline, remove them a few hours later and then take on the dreaded chore of ironing.

One day, a crow with muddy feet pulled a divebombing routine, soiling sheets. Mom would have none of it, attacking the bird with her broom.

Maybe it was a sickly bird, but she learned soon after its demise that it belonged to a neighbor down the street. But that’s another story.

In the early 50s, a smattering of homes had washing machines, but dryers were still on drawing boards.

Introduced, however, was a new synthetic fabric, called “wash and wear.” Ironing was no longer required. Used ironing boards could be bought for a song, and starch sales went limp.

Thanks to this modern fabric, songs of “washday blues” changed virtually overnight to “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

Advertising campaigns for clothing were restructured.

The words “wash and wear” simply had to be included when applicable.

We soon tired of hearing the words, comforting ourselves with the thought that in future decades, the “drumbeating” for wash and wear never again would dominate.

It is yet another reason to “never say never.”

In recent months, there have been requests, suggestions, urgings, pleas, mandates and threats–not necessarily in that order–to “wash and wear.”

This time, though, the term has nothing to do with washday. Now–and for the foreseeable future–we must remember to wash our hands and wear our masks.

With hands washed and face covered, I’m trying to “blaze new trails,” albeit with limited opportunities while sheltered in place.

Here lately, I’ve tried to read newspaper articles heretofore pretty much skipped over.

My intention is to study other writers’ skills, their points of view and their “takes” on humor. Two specific writers are Ed Wallace and Ray Magliozzi, whose columns appear each Friday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Since I don’t know a carburetor from a croquet mallet, their professional expertise in the world of automobiles ignites not even a spark of interest.

Their most recent pieces particularly amused.

Ed told about designer Bill Mitchell’s clash with the paint people on the 1968 Chevrolet Corvette. Mitchell managed to catch a Mako shark off the Azores, and proudly had it painted and hung on his wall.

The painters were requested to paint the new ‘Vette in the exact paint shade on the shark, but their repeated efforts never pleased Mitchell.

Finally, the designers sneaked into his office one night, removed the mounted shark and painted it to match the Corvette. Then they returned the shark to his wall mount.

Seeing that the shades matched the next day, Mitchell congratulated the designers for finally “getting it right.”

Magliozzi specializes in getting smiles as he responds to mail-in questions.

He confirmed that used cars showing up on the West Coast from the East Coast often have damaged undercarriages due to exposure to excessive salt used to help keep highways navigable.

Consider this sentence: …”It’s not unusual to be driving behind a salt-scattering truck while it’s snowing, and having salt actually sprinkled all over your car as if you were driving a baked potato.” Just as Art Linkletter maintained that “kids say the darndest things,” their parents run them a close second when sending in questions.

Dr. Newbury, a public speaker and longtime university president, writes weekly. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Facebook:  Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury