Not Even Once In A Blue Moon

LJ Vintage Ads 

So here we are, the women of the future. Right? It’s been about 45 years since this ad appeared and that’s plenty of time.

Time for us to get our false eyelashes on. Time to paint our nails a shade of pale lunar blue (I really like that nail polish, by the way), put on a protective plastic wimple and mask, and take off. Bang zoom, to the moon, Alice! And make sure you pack a few dishrags before you bang zoom.

But it’s 2012, and no one’s gone up to give the moon a good cleaning. What have we been thinking? There’s the Tomorrow’s Lestoil, after all. Although taking a single bottle to clean the whole of the moon may not be enough.

I guess the idea was that we’d all be living on the moon by now – The Future – and there would be all sorts of housecleaning going on. Lots of scrubbing opportunities.  So if any gentlemen would care to scrub – either on the moon or here – I really think we ought to make them feel welcome. Equal plastic wimples and Lestoil Liberation for all, I say.

Cleaning Up Your Act

Keeping the house clean – oh yeah, that. Whenever I look up from my writing, or come back home after being out and about – I remember it. The carpet that our beloved grey cat has rolled on, shedding silvery fluff everywhere. And how about those dishes? And the laundry. And the floor! Oh heavens, the floor. I can assure you that I do not look quite as effervescent as the lady in this wonderful 1955 ad. She is entranced with Flor-Ever vinyl tiled floors, but – even though I like my floors just fine – they don’t make me laugh and throw the cleaning brush in the air. No sir.

Having said that, I do feel quite virtuous after I clean stuff, and in the end it isn’t that bad…and doesn’t take all that long, especially if you have the right supplies on hand.

We all need a few excellent housekeeping and cleaning supplies and probably a pair of protective cleaning gloves, too. I remember my mother had yellow rubber gloves that she wore to do the dishes every night, and I probably should think about getting some for myself. They can really keep your hands looking smooth (this is crucial, especially when you’re in your 40s like me!). And the right cleaning supplies can help you get jobs done in a hurry – like special brushes and scourers for dishwashing, special dust removers and rechargeable vacuum cleaners.

Happily, you can now order all this stuff online – which is not only convenient and quick, but gives you an excuse to get back on the computer. The laundry can wait ten more minutes, after all.And while you’re doing some virtual shopping you can also get some fun household supplies, like Scented air fresheners. I love deciding whether I want the atmosphere at home to be like lemons or lavender or perhaps Sweet Orange. A great scent in the air is the perfect finishing touch to a clean house. I might even toss a sponge up in the air to celebrate that!

Valley of the VisQueens

LiveJournal Vintage Ads

VisQueen is the name that you want to be looking for when you’re in the mood to wrap everything in your kitchen in colored plastic wrap. Put pink plastic wrap on your table, so you can keep your cool when Susie spills a whole glass of milk all over the place.

Mind you, she spilled it because she was surprised to see what you did to your apron – wrapped it in blue plastic like you were some kind of leftover. And right behind you, the coffee pot is swathed in translucent purple.

“I do hope you remembered the purple VisQueen.”

Yes, as a matter of fact, you did buy a roll of VisQueen in every color. It’s fun to wrap everything in plastic, Susie! “Tasteless bowl covers” (yes, aren’t they just?) do a “flavor favor” for your salads and puddings and whatever else you have going on in those bowls.

Wrap that bread in yellow. And yellow for the Jell-O too, because it rhymes. Isn’t this fun? Just watch out for your sandwich, Susie – if you don’t keep a close eye on it, Mother will wrap it up just as you’re about to take another bite.

Yes, you too can enter into a world of endless wrapping and unwrapping. Make your kitchen into something Tutankhamun – indeed, all the mummies in the Valley of the Kings – would be proud of. “You couldn’t possibly ask for more safety – for less!” Or for more obsession with wrapping things up – and outright madness. No, you couldn’t.

[The 1821 image of the entrance to one of the royal tombs at Thebes is from Wikipedia, link here.]

Underwear For Arrogant Onions

How’s Your Refrigerator Strategy?

Oh, it’s fine thank you, how’s yours? But really, it doesn’t actually have a strategy, you see. Because it’s an appliance and doesn’t have a brain or anything. So it doesn’t think. And my strategy is to just put stuff in it and keep it clean and – oh yes, and not to anthropomorphize bowls by putting underwear on them.

Pillsbury had other ideas, though. Hence this 1937 ad for oiled-silk refrigerator bowl covers called, if you can believe it – Pantry Panties.

Yes, this really could be the worst named product of the 20th century. Just because the words sound almost alike does not mean that they should ever, ever be put together in the same phrase.

Whoever wrote the ad copy just didn’t think it all through, that’s all. They were so pleased with their odious little phrase that they kind of lost the plot. Why else would you write that PPs are edged with “firm, live elastic” so that your “insistent fish, arrogant onions or riotous cheese” can be contained. This gives rise to all sorts of dreadful images that I am not even going to start on. Ugh.

But maybe they did realize that this was starting to sound weird and gross, because right after that they change the subject and go on and on about Pillsbury Sno Sheen Cake Flour and how amazing your every cake will be if you use it. Oh, and if there’s any cake left over, you know what you can slap on it, don’t you? Just make sure you keep it well away from those arrogant onions – and from the cheese riot going on on the top shelf of the fridge.

The big version is right here, if you really want to know more.

A Wild Tonic in the Drain

LiveJournal Vintage Ads

“The exhilarating sound of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

It’s almost time for some fun retro Thanksgiving ads, but this one caught my eye this morning: one of those dramatic 1930s ads with a Can-This-Marriage-Be-Saved? storyline. “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” is a Ladies’ Home Journal column, still running today, that I used to read avidly back in the 60s when I was little. I read all kinds of stuff back then. I’m not sure my mother was aware of it, exactly.

But I never came across a couple who were having problems because of the bathroom drains.

Having said that, one problem here is that he’s “a man who doesn’t talk much” and just glares at you when something’s the matter. And when the drain is a little bit slow, his eyes shoot out daggers! I think he’d have a little problem here because our house is old and so are the drains and, well – you have this happen sometimes, too, right? It’s just one of those things.

Just grab the Drano, sir, and pour it in. It really isn’t anyone’s fault. Maybe your wife has to use a lot of starch on your shirts and that clogs things up (OK, I have no idea what I’m talking about, but bear with me). Dressing up like F. Scott Fitzgerald every day takes a toll on the sinks – all that washing and using hair pomade and so on. You never saw Zelda using Drano. Not even in the fountains she and Scott were dancing in every night.

Nevertheless, just one little tablespoon of Drano gets the drains “open and fast flowing.” Too bad it can’t get Scott here to be open and – well, not fast flowing. Maybe to give everyone a little smile. A half smile? Even a smirk would be a vast improvement, sir.

In the end, I really don’t think drains are this couple’s worst problem.

A Clean Sweep

Armstrong Vacuum Cleaner Pop Mech Jan 1911
Popular Mechanics, January 1911

I’d never been so grateful for carpet technology as I was when I read an 1890 account of how people cleaned them back then. The Bissell carpet sweeper had been around since the 1880s, but most people still beat the dirt out of their rugs. So let’s imagine that there was no modern carpet cleaning in New Jersey (or anywhere else, for that matter); it’s 1890, and we are looking at our filthy carpets and wondering what to do.

If you lived in a city you’d hire carpet beaters to come and deal with them. But if you had a backyard or a “grass field” – you were in for a day of hard work. Oh, and in addition to the outdoor space, you were going to need four men to do the heavy lifting. The London Lady (a formidable-sounding anonymous writer in an 1890 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine) probably just ordered a few of the neighbors (or hapless passersby) to “come along now, quickly!” and grab a corner of the carpet:

Proceed by taking the carpet up, fold it and carry it to a grass field. Let four men beat it with hazel or withey [willow] rods four or five feet long…Beat the carpet well, then drag along the grass, face downward [the carpet, not you]; now reverse and drag along the grass; beat and drag again. 

Then the four men each were to take a corner of the carpet and shake it. But you were not done yet! The four men would have sneaked off before you ordered them to beat any more carpets, and it was time for you to roll up your sleeves.  You had to rinse some tea leaves in water, sprinkle them over the carpet, and then brush the carpet. Or maybe you wanted to wash the carpet after it was beaten. In that case you would rub it with a flannel dipped in a solution of ox gall (a slightly fancier way of saying bile from cows) and hot water. This does not sound like fun.

Now by the 1910s, there were all sorts of fancy vacuum cleaners, like the one on the right that cleaned up all sorts of dirt and that “a child or delicate woman operates easily.” The woman in the ad still looks a bit grim, though, don’t you think? She would appreciate modern ways of getting carpets free not only of dirt and dust (and cat hair, and road salt, and what-the-heck-is-thats) but also would be cheered by things like mold removal NJ or water damage NJ. How happy she would look, free from pushing that wheelbarrow-with-a-bag. And free from even thinking of scrubbing carpets with ox gall. I know I would be, too.

Fred and Antiknock Ethyl

Ethyl Cleaner Life Feb 3 1947
Life, Feb. 3, 1947

Well, there are some mighty strong opinions flying around about Ethyl. Never mind. Everybody smile! And hold up the stuff you’ve been getting Ethyl to clean for you.

Ethyl is not some poor lady who lives down the hall from Lucy Ricardo and has to cope with Fred Mertz. No, Ethyl is a Cleaner full of Chemicals. And if you take a look at the container in the ad – well, it looks like it belongs in the garage. Not in your sink or washing machine.

[Short research break here...]

Ethyl Booklet Pop Sci Aug 1943
Popular Science, Aug 1943

Apparently, in the 1940s, the Ethyl Corporation (which is still around, see here) was mainly known for selling Ethyl gasoline to service stations. This explains the car-polishing man in the Bing Crosby hat whose folksy “I think you’re both right!” has averted a neighborhood feud fought with frightening smiles, easy-to-throw plates and sopping-wet woolens.

The Ethyl Corporation also made “Ethyl fluid” to put into regular gasoline “to prevent knocking.” Note: this does not mean Ethyl is going to prevent Fred Mertz from knocking on the door dressed up in something he found in that old vaudeville trunk of his, ready to do a little song-and-dance number for Ricky’s new revue down at the Tropicana. You can’t stop Fred when he’s in one of those moods. He’s a free spirit, don’t you know! The only known free spirit who wears trousers belted under the armpits.

Equally unrelated to gasoline is the “What’s In A Name” booklet you could have ordered from Ethyl and friends in 1943 (above right).

On your left is a lovely antique gasoline pump decorated with Ethyl’s mark of approval (this is from Wikipedia). That antiknock fluid was full of pollutants, I’m sorry to say. I can’t imagine what was in the dishwashing compound, but – I didn’t see any ads after 1947, so I dfon’t think it was on the market for very long.

All of which is just another reason that it’s just better to let the Mertzes get up on stage and have at it. You know they’re going to find a way to sneak into the Tropicana anyway.

The Fourteen Hour Wife

Vintage Ad Browser

Being a wife in the 1890s equals scrubbing the floor, according to Gold Dust Washing Powder. That Eight Hour Man is no captain of industry, or else his Fourteen Hour Wife would have a fleet of housemaids and they’d have to do the scrubbing.

As for me, there’s no powder in the world – gold-dust-enhanced or not – that would save me any time. Never mind strength or patience. I don’t know how much money it’d save either, but as soon as I’d saved enough I’d be off in my time machine looking for a Swiffer to take back to 1895.

The wording of this also implies (to me anyway) that she’s only a wife for fourteen hours. As soon as she clocks off, she turns into the Ten Hour Floozy. Now that sounds like fun! I’d like to see an ad featuring her.


Glamorene Life Apr 20 1953I love some of the names that they gave products in the 1950s, and this is my new favorite: a rug cleaner called Glamorene. Doesn’t that sound more like foundation makeup (“covers up all your imperfections for a more glamorous, lovelier you!”) or nail polish (“won’t chip for at least two days!”). But no. It is a funny looking powder that you shake on the rug after someone spills an ice cream sundae or something (hint: pick up the sundae dish first).

There were a bunch of funny ads but I restrained myself and am just going to show you two. On the right is a 1953 ad in which Mom is wielding a special Glamorene brush and has coerced her daughter not only into vacuuming but also into wearing a matching outfit complete with frilly apron. Note that the jar of Glamorene is on the clean side of the carpeting, giving an inanimate side-eye to the strangely even coat of dirt on Mom’s side. That is one filthy rug! How can people who dress up in party clothes to do housework have such a dirty old rug?

I guess they are too busy keeping their frilly clothes clean. And yes, I know that those are not really party clothes. I remember going to grade school in that sort of outfit, minus the apron. In third grade we girls were finally allowed to wear pants and I was SO happy to get a pair of jeans! Yay, bellbottoms! I’ve rarely been so happy about a single clothing item than I was about those bellbottom jeans.
Glamorene Oct 13 1952 Life
Anyway…I also wanted to show you a detail from a 1952 Glamorene ad, featuring the jar and a tiny lady dancing around next to it acting like someone had just given her the equivalent of my third grade fashion statement. Yay, I get to clean carpet soils!

Ironic note: I have just this minute managed to spill coffee on the beige rug under this desk. Where’s that jar of Glamorene (and a 1950s lady with a brush) when I need one?

Ironic note #2: Maybe we don’t want to use this stuff after all…Here’s a 1952 Time article about a Reader’s Digest sponsored nationwide “cleaning tour” of salesmen demonstrating Glamorene, which is described as a “compound of cellulose fiber (resembling sawdust).” The tour almost got derailed (or, as Time quips, had the rug pulled out from under it) when someone died cleaning a rug on a plane. The rug cleaner contained trichloroethylene, and at first everyone thought that the cleaner in question was Glamorene.  Only it wasn’t. And so sales picked up again. And people still do want to buy it, too. I’m not sure that it is still being made, though.

Good Lux With That

Watching the idiot box all day sure made them hungry. No wonder Dad and the kiddies are tired and can’t do a thing except stare at the TV – they are exhausted from snacking.

But did they have to leave all the dishes on the floor?

And I suppose that little bottle of Lux down in the corner is going to be helping out. It is about as big as one of those stacks of dishes. Though it may need to stand on a few telephone books to reach the sink.

And unless it can tie on a frilly apron and start swinging a sponge, I doubt it will be able to help all that much. I really do.

[Thanks to Millie Motts.]