a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My dad, the Maytag Man

Maytag Man Inflatable, originally uploaded by arbyreed.

By Lorys Crisafulli

My dad was a Maytag Man, but he never was loneseome.

He made house calls. There was no repair shop that I knew of so six days a week, he would drive to the offices in Charleroi, Canonsburg and Washington, Pa., to pick up information on the calls to be made that day.

He fixed Maytags all over Washington County and knew all the farmers, many of whom we later would visit as friends.

I can still see the chickens and pigs being shooed out of kitchens so he could get inside to work.

He knew every village and back roads, whether they were were paved in mud or red dog. He also traveled further south into Greene County, where he would joke about the steep hillsides where the sheep's legs where shorter on the upside of the hills.

Many farms had no electricity so he kept the gasoline motors running on the washer. He even found a lady who made butter in her washing machine because it made the perfect churn. The Maytag company even marketed a meat grinder that attached to the upright arm of its washing machines and also held the wringer.

Dad bought half a hog every year and we ground it into sausage on that powerful grinder.

We shaped it into patties, browned them on the old gas stove (grease everywhere) and layered them with lard in heavy crocks. Mmm. I must admit is sounds as though we should have all died of salmonella, but they lasted all winter and we ate them with pancakes and maple syrup.

Breakfast was never cereal or just toast. It was always bacon and eggs or sausage and pancakes - all with homemade bread. Our grandma live with us and baked bread and biscuits several times a week.

We probably needed all that energy as we always walked everywhere. We never were driven anywhere unless visiting relatives on Sunday.

We were outdoors summer and winter unless it was raining, maybe. Even when it was raining we stomped around mud puddles while carrying an umbrella.

The first sign of snow was greeted with a scramble for the sleds. Otherwise we slid down the hills on anything we could find, from a license plate to curtain rods for skis. Our Maytag Man once made us a bobsled that was so heavy it took two of us to pull it back up a hill for another ride.

He put so many miles on his Chevy - always a maroon Chevy - that he needed a new one every two years. The one he bought in the mid-1930s cost him $395. It had a wool-felt interior, which scratched but was great to fall asleep on when returning from those Sunday visits.

I remember dad carrying us into the house and tucking us into bed after a long day. His car had window blinds, but it didn't have windshield defrosters. In freezing weather he had to drive with his head out his window to see. Then along came a wonderful invention - two suction cups one foot apart with connecting wires fastened to a heater on the floor between the seats - to help clear the windshield of ice and snow.

All summer and fall we never knew what dad would take out of the car trunk when he arrived home. A bushel of tomatoes or beets, two chickens? A basket of grapes or peaches? Whatever they were, we  had to do something with them that evening after supper. We sterilized canning jars and peeled fruit because we knew how great it would be to have next winter.

Then came World War II with such a shortage of gas that the Maytag Man couldn't travel anymore. So he opened up a small repair shop in Monongahela. There were no more Sunday trips to see airplanes take off from the Allegheny County Airport or the Isaly's plant for a 5-cent ice cream cone. Its cones were called a skyscraper and dad, on those occasions, always wore a straw boater hat and "ice cream (seersucker) pants."

Dad has been gone 36 years now, but folks in town still remember that he could fix anything from a gas engine to those washers, which gently laundered the first lingerie ever sold. Yep. He really was the Maytag Man.

Lorys CrisafullLorys Crisafulli is an entrepreneur and retired schoolteacher from Monongahela. She is known around the globe as Miss January, producer of a 2008 calendar featuring older women posing semi-nude for portraits to raise money for charity. Another calendar is in the works for 2011.


Amanda Blu said...

Very nicely written slice of life blog, Ms. Crisafulli! Welcome to the world of TWAB!!

Scott Beveridge said...

I enjoyed it, too. Sweet memories.