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The transition to normalcy after World War II took place slowly. New innovations were continually being developed to make housework easier and to make life more fun.

A chore most kids disliked was helping Mom do a load of wash. After the initial washing, the hot, wet clothes had to be lifted with a stick and guided through the ringer. 

Enter the modern washer with an electric wringer! The clothes still had to be lifted, but the wringer made the chore much easier — as long as fingers were out of the way. 

Then came the spin dryer that, if not monitored, would vibrate out of the utility room, down the stairs and south to Madison Street, shaking the house and rattling the windows. 

 

The ballpoint pen

It was official: The inkwell was to be used no more, except for discarding sunflower-seed shells. The poor next pupil to sit at the desk would get a healthy handful of sogginess. 

The newly invented ballpoint pen was not cheap. Carol Crosby (an actual relative of Bing Crosby’s) let me borrow her new Parker 51 ballpoint pen. It was awesome, except for one problem: It leaked while upright in my shirt pocket.

Carefully, I showed it to all of my friends the next day while walking in the woods where Canterbury is now. 

For some reason, it wasn’t in my possession when I got home. I paid her back with my hard-earned paper-route money.

 

Kitchen tools

A fun thing to do when we went to a movie matinee on a Saturday was to go to Bartell’s. Downstairs was a guy with a microphone hung around his neck, demonstrating the newest fruit and vegetable parers, some of which are still used today. 

A block south of Bartell’s was the Colonial Theater, showing three movies on Saturdays for a quarter. A couple of doors south was a doughnut shop where, through the window, we could watch a glop of dough fall onto a metal plate affixed to a buckle chain, then submerged into hot oil. Seconds later, it would emerge into a big, fluffy doughnut that was impossible not to purchase. 

This all led to Presto’s Fry Baby appliances in the mid-’70s, which gave many of us a good head-start to heftiness.

 

The eats-and-greets

Two machines all but eliminated concession stands in theaters: the Coca-Cola and popcorn machines. 

Downstairs at the Paramount Theatre, we would insert a dime into the drink dispenser. A paper cup appeared, followed by a portion of ice and then carbonated water and, finally, syrup. A Coke very much lacking in flavor was the result. 

One time, our skinny-armed buddy reached up into the belly of the beast and removed the paper cup. An unsuspecting patron stepped smartly to the machine carefully reading the directions. After inserting a coin, he stood almost at attention and admired the futuristic machine perform the task that truly was a wave of the future. 

The machine growled as we all watched the ice fall onto the grating, followed by the syrup and carbonated water, which quickly washed down the drain. The man then said something seldom uttered in those days. 

We looked at each other and had to leave because we were laughing so hard. It was like watching Allen Funk on TV.

Not long after the introduction of the Coke vending machine, a coin operated popcorn machine was placed in Madison Park in front of Riley’s Café (where Terzo Salon is now). As soon as we saw it, we knew it wasn’t the fresh, hot popcorn served in theaters. 

Enter our skinny-armed friend, who reached up into the popcorn machine and wiggled a metal flap that held a measured amount of popcorn and dropped it into our open hands. 

Once more, a gentleman carefully read the directions and inserted a dime. The machine made a whirling sound as a mere 6 to 8 big pieces of popcorn fell into the open bag. This fellow also directed his anger at the machine, using several words strung together not heard much in those days.

 

The latest and best-ever

TV has to be the best gadget ever invented and now, in its many forms, is still a fascination, with 3-D and now 4-K coming around the pike, along with Internet, recording capabilities, unheard-of dimensions, surround sound, etc. 

With the promising future of this phenomenon, one could foreseeably produce a holographic form of some kind. It makes one want to stick around another couple of decades. And maybe the angry people will have figured out other terms of endearment toward inanimate objects by then, too.

RICHARD CARL LEHMAN is a longtime Madison Park resident. To comment on this story, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.