BOOMERBROADcast

Enjoy, laugh, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties, and beyond.


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Is there really a Santa Claus?


Boomer gals looked to Helen Gurley Brown for divine guidance in the sixties.

Every boomer gal worth her salt in the sixties read the best-seller Sex and The Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown. Our lives were modeled around the latest COSMO decrees as our entire generation was creating a new world order. We also read Coffee, Tea or Me? about two high-flying stewardesses (as they were called in ancient times) living the swinging single life. There was even a movie and television series made of the book. We aspired to live exciting lives as modern gals enjoying beginning careers and the freedom of the sexual revolution—just like Helen Gurley Brown, Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones. Reading about Trudy and Rachel’s escapades as they flew the friendly skies in search of adventure was enough to make this boomer high-tail it to an Air Canada recruiting (cattle) call in their old Toronto head office on Bloor Street in 1971. Although I was turned down, a friend of mine was deemed to have the requisite ‘sex appeal’ and was hired. Fortunately, my life eventually turned out OK despite the rejection by Air Canada.

Last week, to my everlasting horror, I learned that Trudy and Rachel were totally fictional characters created by ghost writer Donald Bain. I thought the original Coffee, Tea or Me book was non-fiction. It was Bain’s obituary in the newspaper that alerted me to the fact my role models were neither real nor particularly authorly. Bain, who was an airline publicist and pilot himself, based the book on stories from conversations with a couple of Eastern Airline flight attendants, but they were inspiration only. Donald Bain, who was eighty-two years old when he passed away also authored all forty-six of the Murder She Wrote mystery novels, which were turned into the popular television series starring Jessica Fletcher, his alter-ego played by Angela Lansbury. He’s what is known in the biz as a ghost writer. We all know they exist and routinely pen autobiographies for semi-literate celebs and famous people who lack the wherewithal to compose their own story. Mr. Bain was so prolific writing for others, that it was fifty years before he finally had a book published under his own name. At least HGB wrote her own material so I’m somewhat mollified.

Imagine my shock when a major totem of my swinging sixties days suddenly came crashing down. The problem this bit of information has created is profound. It has undermined my entire belief system. For fifty years I actually thought Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones were real people, role models I could aspire to. I’m now considering the possibility that there might be further deception in what I read on a daily basis. What if those long-ago stunning magazine shots of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy had been air-brushed and they really weren’t that drop-dead gorgeous? Was I bowing down to false idols? Perhaps Resdan really didn’t cure dandruff and Bonne Belle’s 1006 Lotion wasn’t the solution to my acne problems? Here are some other sixties’ assumptions that have been called into question as a result of that bit of revealing news about Coffee, Tea or Me:

  • “I’ll still respect you in the morning.”
  • Men prefer to marry virgins.
  • Your engagement ring should cost the equivalent of three months’ wages of your beloved (I rather liked this one although it meant he’d be so far in hock you’d never be able to scrape together the down payment on a house.)
  • A woman’s place is in the home.
  • Marriage is forever.
  • Smoking makes you look sexy.

The end of innocence

The possibilities and implications of those decisions based on standard assumptions in the sixties have influenced my entire life. Where would I be today if Air Canada had deemed me sexy enough to hire? Are my wrinkles now the result of applying tank trucks full of harsh astringent to my face to combat acne fifty years ago? Boomer gals were raised to do as we were told, not question authority and to be patient; the rewards will come to those who are deserving. We have all since learned those premises are total bull crap. I know for sure that being a good girl who doesn’t rock the boat in business did not serve me well. In retrospect, I wish I’d been a whole lot more assertive in insisting on equal pay and recognition for work performed. I did well enough, but I could have done better if I’d cast aside so many of those standards of behaviour baby boomer gals were raised with. Self-promotion, equal rights, speaking up were issues we were just starting to dip our toes into. By the time we realized these traits were assets in business not liabilities, we were often past our career prime and nearing retirement. We got the ball rolling but there’s still a lot of work to do. You’re welcome, Xers, Y’s and millennials who think feminism is passé.

Some things never change. Buyer beware.

The upshot of this experience is that I’m going to be a lot more discriminating about everything I read and am told from now on. From now on I’m going to be a lot more skeptical about the claims made by the cosmetics companies about the efficacy of their ‘anti-aging’ potions. It’s entirely possible they could be selling me a bill of goods. A shocking prospect to consider. Do you suppose food conglomerates are not being totally honest with us as well? Can I really lose weight and stay regular on fat-free yogurt? We learned too late that chewing Dentyne gum does not replace brushing. The ramifications of questioning all those early assumptions are mind-boggling.

My brain’s straining from the implications of the simple discovery that a book I read in sixties and considered to be non-fiction was in fact a total fabrication. I’ve always put all my faith in media being unbiased, just like in the days of Walter Cronkite. Now I’m forced to consider that my entire value system is flawed and now I’m too old to ‘be anything I want to be’. I should have clued in when Air Canada didn’t think so and chose to reject me. Next thing you know someone will be trying to tell me there’s no Santa Claus. If that proves to be another deception, then that definitely proves there’s no advantage in being a good girl. It’s taken me awhile to catch on but from now on, I’m my own boss living by my own rules. It’s about time.

To order Coffee, Tea or Me from Amazon click here.

To order Sex and the Single Girl from Amazon click here.

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What a difference a scale makes


Mother’s little helper. Wish I’d bought one of these little scales years ago.

Sometimes we spend an inordinate amount of time in an attempt to save money when spending the money in the first place would save us a great deal of time. Such was the case in my recent purchase of a kitchen scale—one of those nifty little digital jobs for weighing food items in recipes. In more than fifty years of doing my own cooking and baking, I could never see the value in investing in a scale. I had a large supply of measuring cups, spoons, scoops and various gadgets that allowed me to calculate the correct quantity of flour, sugar or other ingredients. And, yes, many times I also employed a pocket calculator to convert imperial to metric or vice versa.

The other day I dug out my nearly one-hundred-year-old recipe for dark Christmas fruitcake. My mother would traditionally make it every year while Dad was away deer hunting in early November so it would have about six weeks to season and ripen in time for Christmas. When she got beyond making it herself, I would go and stay with her for the week Dad was away and make it myself in her kitchen. The first time I couldn’t find a bowl big enough to contain all the ingredients so I had to wash out a cooler, dump all the ingredients in and do the mixing with my hands.

My ancient recipe for Christmas cake called for one jar of red cherries and one jar of green cherries. How much do you reckon that is?

The difficulties associated with working with such an old recipe include interpreting quantities of the listed ingredients. The recipe originally came to my mother in the fifties from a girlhood friend of hers who got it from her aunt who, with her husband owned the dairy in our small town. It called for one jar of red cherries and one jar of green cherries but gave no indication of what size the jar should be. I could take a guess at around twelve ounces each but that brought up another problem. The ingredients in the store today are now labelled in odd metric sizes like 375 g or 2 kg which always presents nearly insurmountable problems for someone like me with zero aptitude for math and conversions. Despite forty-plus years since Canada’s conversion to the metric system, I’m still thoroughly and utterly imperial. When I pass on I’ll be buried in a six-foot coffin and dropped into a six-foot pit. No metrics involved. When I buy a Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey, don’t ask me to do a quick mental calculation to convert the size from kilograms to pounds. I can’t do it, so I just eyeball the size and hope for the best. Usually I cook two turkeys just to be on the safe side and enjoy the bounty of the leftovers.

The sheet of paper with the old Christmas cake recipe on it has numerous calculations scribbled on the side of the page after my attempts to nail down the quantities in language I can understand but I’m never confident I get it right. This year, after all this time, I picked up a little President’s Choice digital scale (less than $30.00) with my groceries and I can’t begin to tell you how much I love it. And it works in imperial as well as metric. I simply put the empty bowl on the scale, hit zero then add the raisins or whatever until it shows the two pounds, one-quarter pound or whatever quantity is needed of nuts, currants or glazed fruit. No calculator, no Google, no brains required. Right up my alley. I don’t know why I waited so long. Just think of the painful hours I could have eliminated with my pocket calculator or Googling conversation charts over the years trying to adapt recipes to something I could understand. My mother would be proud. If you don’t already have a little digital countertop scale, pick one up. It’s a good investment by anyone’s measure. Believe me.

Footnote: The one scale I’ve never been able to find is something to measure butter when the wrapper has been cut away. This is further complicated by the fact that many American recipes call for one stick or two sticks of butter and in Canada butter is sold in a solid pound, unless you want to pay extra for ‘sticks’. At one time I saved the little strip along the closing flap from a Tenderflake lard package but lost it and now that I never make anything requiring lard, I’m lost without that little cardboard measuring strip. I think I’m going to have to create my own, get it laminated and put it on Etsy. I’m bound to make a fortune. Or I could simply buy a pound of lard, save the measuring strip and call it a day.

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Dreaming of a whiter shade of pale . . . and other old lady fantasies


We’re never satisfied.

We’re never satisfied are we? If we’re blessed with natural curls we spend all our days with the flat iron or depending on our ethnicity, subjecting our hair to harsh chemical treatments. If we have straight hair, we’re forever frying it with the curling iron and spraying the bejeezus out of it in our quest for natural-looking curls. If we have glorious red hair, we want blonde. In fact, as many of us age, regardless of our natural colour we opt for blonde—all-over or strategic tone-on-tone highlights—to soften the face. I was a serious user of Clairol’s shampoo-in Light n’Easy Strawberry Blonde in my early twenties but the upkeep was tiresome and hard on my hair.

Then, there was that time I accidentally bleached my entire head during an impulsive and disastrous late-night attempt at brightening up my look. I had to go to work the next day with orange straw for hair, looking like a scarecrow. When I tried applying a light ash blonde shampoo-in colour to tone it down, my hair turned green. That fiasco was followed by lashings of cheap yellow shampoo to fix it but basically my hair was so damaged I just had to wait until it all grew out. Most of us have similar stories. I soon resorted to minimal impact, safe highlights and have been a dedicated fan for fifty years.

Maye Musk. Maybe in my next life.

Many baby boomer websites and blogs are now glorifying grey and white hair, letting our natural beauty shine. Canadian-born super model Maye Musk (mother of Tesla founder Elon Musk) represents the pinnacle of what I aspire to look like. Slim, fine-featured and gorgeous with a shock of lovely white hair, she’s the personification of aging gracefully. For those women who starting turning grey in their late teens or twenties, early intervention at the salon was followed by a lifetime of time-consuming maintenance and the accompanying hefty financial commitment. On the plus side, technical advances in professional hair colouring have made it so much easier to keep our locks looking beautiful long past our best-before dates.

When I look at pictures of Ali McGraw, Helen Mirren, Glenn Close, Maye Musk and other ladies of my generation sporting gorgeous white hair, I’m truly envious. I loved Meryl Streep’s hair/wig in The Devil Wears Prada. But there’s a caveat. Half-way doesn’t have the same effect. It’s the drama of pure white hair juxtaposed with great cheekbones and stylish, colourful fashions that achieves that crescendo. Even though I’m seventy years old (ouch, still can’t believe that number), my own natural hair colour has little to no gray. Don’t know why that happened, but when my natural growth reaches the one or two-inch mark, I totter off for a high-light refresh. Some might consider me lucky to not have to worry about touching up grey roots every three or four weeks, but, I want to look like Maye Musk. Sigh . . .

Am I now paying the price for all those years of sleeping on brush rollers in high school?

My friend Perry has the kind of pure white hair I would kill for. She wears it short and sporty and it sets off her perfect skin and large blue eyes so beautifully. Meanwhile, I motor on with my light mousey colour enhanced with blonde highlights. Maybe, like Marie Antoinette I need a good shock, like facing the guillotine (although turning seventy came close) to give me the white hair I covet. But then I wouldn’t be around to enjoy it so where’s the fun in that?

At the rate it’s thinning, I should be thankful I have any hair at all. I’m tempted to sprinkle a little Miracle Grow on my scalp. It can’t hurt. When I was at the hairdresser’s a couple of weeks ago, the young woman in the next chair actually had the bottom half of the back of her head shaved below the occipital bone so her perfect bob would fall properly. I’m watching this in stunned amazement as my stylist carefully cut my hair one strand at a time to preserve as much volume as possible. I nearly pass out with envy. Some of us have so much and others so little. Please pass the estrogen. I could use a top-up of that too. I’m entitled to my fantasies.

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What did you have for breakfast?


Not in my front yard.

Our house is located at the end of an eleven-home enclave on a T-shaped street. It’s tricky to find without specific instructions, particularly on a dark night. Naturally, little Halloween trick or treaters are reluctant to turn the corner where our illuminated pumpkin on the front porch confirms we’re open for business on the big night. I particularly love the little ones who often look bewildered as they’re being toted from house to house in the dark, wearing funny outfits they don’t understand. We ate dinner early to be ready for the onslaught, stacked the goodies by the front door, turned the inside front hall light on and sat anxiously in our his and hers La-Z-Boy® chairs waiting for all the little Cinderella’s, Spidermen, zombies, Big Birds and other assorted costumed munchkins. We turn every outside light on to make the path to our house less scary and more welcoming but despite our best efforts at hospitality we received only two (!!!) visitors on Halloween this year—the 12-year-old boy in camouflage gear from two doors down and a single pint-sized superhero of indeterminate gender. What happened? Were the parents unable to cobble together a politically correct costume for their little ones so they just opted out and stayed home?

I can see I’m going to have to take extra measures to try and lure trick or treaters to our house next year. I could place fluorescent traffic cones along the sidewalk and hire a policeman with white gloves and an official flashlight to direct children to our door. Or does that sound too creepy, even for Halloween? We’re still smarting from the rejection and don’t care to experience a repeat of this year’s poor turnout.

You can never be too prepared.

Last year we had sixteen visitors and our friends at the more visible front of our little court received over one hundred trick or treaters and had to come and relieve us of some of our loot to pass out after they ran out. We’re never quite sure how many will ring our doorbell on Halloween but just to be on the safe side, I stock extra goodies. With the foresight of any good host, my hand-outs are something we enjoy in case there are left-overs. Then, there’s also the issue of the peculiar ‘evaporation’ of supplies before the big night so extra inventory is essential. This year I bought a box of fifty bags of potato chips. I actually prefer ripple chips but they went the way of Trump’s integrity this year and were nowhere to be found—not at the grocery stores, Costco or Wal-Mart. Since potato chips are rather unimaginative, I felt a bit embarrassed and planned to top off the handout with little chocolate bars. Then, at the last minute on Tuesday, I sent my husband out to buy packages of red licorice Twizzlers (see personal preference comment above) in case we or our neighbours ran short.

Because we had only two visitors, I’m now researching how to recycle ninety packages of red licorice that cost $25.00 (that’s what happens when men shop) that are now on sale at the same store for half-price, forty-eight bags of a brand of potato chips I don’t care for, and several dozen little chocolate bars that taste like icky brown wax. Any suggestions? I suppose I could make forty-eight tuna casseroles to crumble the potato chips on. Or use the puffy bags of chips as packing material when mailing packages at Christmas. I’m sure the grandchildren would much prefer bags of potato chips instead of styrofoam pellets in their gift boxes. The chocolate bars could be handy for stabilizing wobbly chairs or table legs. They might even work as temporary glue when I run out of Elmers. With a little zap in the microwave to soften them up they could be repurposed as caulking around our drafty doors and dryer vent. Or, I could keep them in the console of my car as part of my emergency rations when I’m stranded in a snowstorm. The problem with that is emergencies are highly subjective and they might not last until winter. Waiting at a slow red light qualifies, as does going through the automatic car wash. And as we all know, frozen is no obstacle to devouring canned chocolate frosting, cake, cookies and other rations in times of need. We’re experts at adapting stale and otherwise inedible treats to accommodate cravings.

Breakfast of champions.

The beauty of Halloween candy is it keeps forever. I’ll bet the archeologists who uncovered Tutankhaman’s tomb in ancient Egypt found toffees that were still edible after centuries of being stashed in cool, dark urns. In a few years when I’ve passed on and my executors go through my house, they’ll still be able to eat those tiny Mars Bars and KitKats they find hidden in my night table. That’s the advantage of buying quality. It lasts. When you’re having menopause cravings there’s nothing as satisfying in your hour of desperation as year-old Halloween candy. Ask any baby boomer woman. In fact, the calories probably diminish after awhile so the older, the better. I should probably tackle those boxes of goodies by the front door right away as they’re a definite tripping hazard and at my age I can’t afford any broken bones. I’m pretty sure I can find a use for the red licorice but I won’t disclose it here in case my friends at Weight Watchers read this. Or I could save everything for next year. In the meantime, I’m going to have to keep an eagle eye on what my husband eats for breakfast until I dispose of the loot. A woman’s work never ends.

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Breaking up is still hard to do


As more of our generation is retiring, accepting early golden parachute offers or even sadly, being made redundant through restructuring, I thought I would republish a piece I wrote a couple of years ago. The message endures.

Bette Davis is famously quoted as saying, “Getting old ain’t for sissies”. Retirement is a natural by-product of getting old and requires attention. For some, it’s wonderful; for others, not so much. I definitely fall into the former category but for those who are forced to retire before they’re psychologically or financially ready it can be devastating.

You’re out! You’re no longer part of the team.

At the risk of generalizing, I think it’s often more difficult for men than women to retire. The Boomer generation and our parents’ generation is characterized by men who devoted their entire adult lives to their work. Perhaps it was a family business, a demanding occupation like medicine or maybe it was a prestigious corporate position. Retirement means these individuals have lost not only something to do every day but their very identity. Gen X’ers and millennials watched their parents (us, Boomers) doing this, got the message and have flipped that psychology on its ear.

When you’re retired, people are no longer impressed by what you once did for a living. When you’re not Mr. Big, President of ABC International Corporation it can create a huge vacuum. Because you no longer have the power to improve the lives of your former coworkers they drop you from their social and business circle. This alienation can be devastating. The 2002 movie About Schmidt with Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates clearly illustrates the shock of transition. When Schmidt, played by Jack Nicholson attends his retirement party, the speeches and platitudes from his coworkers at the insurance company where he had dedicated his life were so cliché and familiar it was heartbreaking.

My friend David worked in the marketing department of a giant international corporation. The corporate culture was casual and creative with frequent product launches, brainstorming sessions, corporate retreats and big-budget product promotions . Co-workers often socialized outside of work hours going on skiing weekends and attending parties together.  When David retired he expected his former coworkers to keep him in the loop but the invitations stopped. He was understandably confused and hurt that people he had always considered friends as well as co-workers no longer wanted his company.

business lunch2

Business associates and friends are not the same thing, despite what it seems.

Another executive I know from the financial services sector was similarly affected when suddenly dropped by his circle of business friends when he retired. He felt abandoned and couldn’t understand why his calls weren’t returned and no one wanted to join him for lunch anymore. Once the unspoken message became clear, he was forced to accept the truth—he was no longer a somebody. His business friends were in fact not real friends at all but merely business associates and when he could no longer do anything for them they no longer needed or wanted his company.

This particular aspect of retirement can result in feelings similar to divorce. The entity that has been a huge part of your life is gone and no longer cares to associate with you. Like divorce where you lose being part of a couple, loss of some friends, probably your home and assets, you lose a large component of your life. A new strategy for moving on is required.  For some individuals it might take the form of part-time consulting work to keep a hand in the business world, albeit to a lesser degree. Others may prefer a more relaxed approach, taking time to enjoy all the activities that working did not allow for. This can include golf and other sports, taking courses, spending time with the grandkids, pursuing hobbies or perhaps a part-time job.

Retiring for me, however, meant total and utter freedom at last. Now I have the time to read voraciously, entertain at my leisure, get together with friends, take vacations whenever I please and do dozens of other things I’ve waited for my entire life. Fortunately, it was and is the best time of my life and just keeps getting better.

Over the years I have observed people approaching retirement with different attitudes. Some were looking forward to european travelhaving the time to travel and do things with friends. Others were bewildered and had no constructive plan for filling their time. Those who were not prepared were often the ones who developed health issues that may have contributed to an early demise. Interestingly, many of the retiring career women I have worked with were often the ones who had a Mediterranean cruise or a tour of Ireland scheduled for the week after they finished work. They had plans to volunteer at a library or hospital and hit the ground running. These are generally the people who live the longest and have the richest, most fulfilling retirement.

Enjoying retirement does not have to involve memberships in expensive golf clubs or Mediterranean cruises. The most simple things now give me enormous pleasure. There’s nothing better than enjoying a second cup of tea as I take my time over the morning paper.  The luxury of being able to go grocery shopping minus the crowds on a Tuesday morning or hanging sheets outside on the line to dry in the morning breezes still give me great pleasure. The novelty of enjoying a ladies lunch with a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio and not having to rush back to the office has still not worn off. Entertaining friends is much more pleasurable when you have the luxury of time to shop, cook and prepare for your guests.

Just like in a divorce, breaking up with your employer can be devastating or it can be yourhippie boomers2 “get out of jail free” card. When that door slams behind you, the outcome is entirely up to you. I say, crank up the 60s music and let’s rock n’ roll. As Boomer Broads we’re living our best years now.

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Who doesn’t enjoy playing house?


Gender roles were more clearly defined growing up in the fifties – or were they really? (L to R) My brother Ron (the victim of a bossy older sister), me and my friend Brenda, dressed for afternoon tea.

When boomers were growing up in the fifties and sixties, gender roles were more clearly defined than they are today. Little girls played with dolls; little boys played Davey Crockett. Little girls were Barbara Ann Scott; little boys were Maurice Richard. Sometimes we strayed into crossover territory though. I clearly remember cherishing my white straw cowboy hat with the chin cord and jeans with the Hopalong Cassidy patch on the pocket. And my girlfriends and I took great pride in being able to out shoot (toy guns were still politically acceptable then), out run and outsmart any of the boys in our neighbourhood.

One of the most common activities we engaged in as little girls was playing ‘house’. We’d play with our dolls in tents set up with clothespins and blankets, play in a corner of the room or the front porch creating little scenarios that for us represented domestic life as we knew it. Fortunately, most of us enjoyed reasonably stable home lives and for those who didn’t, playing make-believe was an escape. We’d push our doll carriages up and down the street, copying our mothers going about their daily chores. We’d prepare fake meals and serve fake tea in little sets of painted tin dishes. Life was simple and uncomplicated. And most baby boomers lived in neighbourhoods teeming with other children our age so we were always busy and socially involved.

Have you ever considered that now that we’re retired we’ve come full circle? Now that I’m free from the working world and the struggles inherent in building our lives, we’re in a very peaceful place. I enjoy the simple pleasures of life—tea in the afternoon with a friend, walking the dog after dinner, even doing the ironing while I watch a good program on television. My everyday routines give me a sense of satisfaction and feelings of pleasure. I’m thankful to be alive, to be healthy and to have options about how I live my life.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen this morning it occurred to me that I’m now playing ‘house’ once again. My life is full of domestic activities, cruising the neighbourhood with friends, matching wits with the men in our lives and those close to us. I can devote an entire afternoon to sitting in the back yard engrossed in a good book if I want. Instead of pushing my doll stroller, I push a grocery cart on a Tuesday morning when it’s not busy or I walk my dog up the street. I serve tea in real china cups now and serve it with real cookies I’ve made. I discuss the various dramas of life with close friends over dinners of lovingly prepared real food instead of pretend. Every so often I dress up in my fancy clothes and go out on a date with my husband, my life’s answer to a Ken doll. It took a long time and no small amount of strife and stress to get to this place in time, but damn, I thoroughly enjoy playing ‘house’.

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Remember when laundry was a chore?


Some friends and I were discussing laundry the other day (our lives really are more interesting than this conversation would lead you to think), making the inevitable comparisons between how it’s done today and how it was done when we were growing up in the fifties and sixties. Our mothers had wringer washers and clothes were hung outside to dry, which was a giant leap in terms of convenience compared to how their mothers handled laundry. My grandmother raised eight kids washing everything by hand and only got her first wringer washer when her eldest son bought her one when he got his first job.

The upside was we could do four loads at the same time.

While living in various cheap apartments and bed-sits during my early working life, I was accustomed to taking the laundry, a box of detergent and a bag of quarters in my bundle buggy down the street a few blocks to the laundromat, or later, when I advanced in the world, having facilities conveniently located in the basement of my apartment building. That was luxury. When my husband and I bought our first (town)house in Pickering in the seventies, the greatest thrill was having my own washing machine and it didn’t require coins. I no longer had to use the same machine as hundreds of other people who’d put heaven-knows-what in the load before mine. At the time, we couldn’t afford five appliances and I really really wanted a dishwasher (my first) so I had to forgo a clothes dryer to stay within our four-appliance budget (fridge, stove, washer, dishwasher). It was three years before I got a dryer to sit alongside my beloved automatic washer. A friend who also bought her first house at the same time installed an old coin-operated washer and dryer that had been discarded from her family’s campground laundry building. She, too, could use it without coins. Such lucky girls. And to think young marrieds today can’t imagine living without all the mod cons including granite countertops.

And they called wringer washers a modern convenience.

Decades later, I still love my washer and dryer and it’s probably because I clearly remember when laundry was not such an easy chore for me and my boomer friends. When I was in high school in the early sixties and I did the household laundry it was in the “cellar” with our wringer washing machine sitting alongside a dual-tub concrete laundry sink. For those readers who weren’t born then, all the washing was done with the same tub of water that was recycled into the left laundry tub before being pumped back into the machine for each subsequent load and so on until darks were washed last. After several loads of sheets, towels and clothing, the darks were the least likely to show the residual effects of washing in water recycled from previous loads. This handy feature was called a “suds-saver”. The right side of the concrete laundry tub was then used for hand-rinsing the clothes in cold water before being manually fed into the wringer. A wooden stick was handy for keeping your fingers out of the rollers but not always successful and many women suffered painful hand injuries.

As kids, we thought frozen longjohns were hilarious.

In summer we hung clothes outside in the breezes where they dried quickly and the sheets and pillowcases smelled heavenly when you put them back on the bed. In winter, the clothes froze solid on the outside line and always made us kids laugh at jeans and pyjamas stiff as boards when we brought them in. When clothes weren’t dried in a warm dryer, everything had to be ironed—socks, underwear, towels, even pyjamas because everything was stiff and wrinkled. In the days before steam irons, everything had to be ‘dampened’. Remember that? At our house we used an old Pepsi bottle filled with water and a corked sprinkler gadget in the neck. We’d sprinkle all the clothes and roll them in damp towels that waited rolled up like cordwood in the bathtub until they were ready to be ironed. Cotton was the primary fabric used in clothing then (wool was hand washed in cold water) so wrinkles abounded.

They call this work? Not in my world.

Recalling those sequences of work with my friends reminded me of how lucky we are today. Not only do we have so many fabrics that require minimal care and no ironing, we are blessed with washing machines and dryers that do everything but dispense our wine. I load the machine, tap a setting and with a few ping ping pings, technology does all the work. But old habits die hard. I still hang sheets outside and I’m genetically programmed to always do the darks last, even though I don’t need to. No more cellars, no more recycled water, dipping hands in freezing rinse water, feeding clothes into the wringer one piece at a time, dampening everything for ironing and blessedly, no more work. Even our laundry rooms now get ‘decorated’ to be cheerful, efficient and enjoyable. I may not know how to use my cell phone to its full capability or how to program all the settings on my TV but I sure know how to tap out those laundry settings. And how to pour a nice cold glass of wine while technology does all the work. We’ve come a long way baby.

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