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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Automatic Dishwashers

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

One of the chores my sister and I shared at home when we were young was doing the dishes. For some reason, we hated this chore above all others we were tasked with. We had to hang clothes up on the line outside, take them down and fold them; help clean house; babysit our little sister, feed the chickens, etc. but nothing was the source of more complaints than the dishes. We used to ask our Mom why we couldn't have one of the modern automatic dishwashers, and she'd say, "Why would I buy one of those, when I have the two of you?" Needless to say, we were not amused by her logic.

When I moved out on my own, my apartments all had automatic dishwashers and I discovered the very best thing about them was not the actual washing of the dishes. No, it was that I now had a "storage place" for dirty dishes, so my kitchen was nearly always tidy even when I had baked and had several meals in a day. Once the meal was done, the dishes were tucked away in the dishwasher, out of sight and out of mind; a quick wipe down of the counter and I was free to go do something fun.

I still have huge value for my "dirty dish storage unit" since my husband and I are now empty nesters, and usually only need to run the machine every day and a half or so. If I had to hand wash dishes I'd have filled the sink up four times, and either had to hand wipe the dishes or put up with the rack air drying on the counter. (Being a bit of a housekeeping Nazi, it would drive me crazy to look at dishes drying in a rack in the kitchen. Yes, I have dog hair and cat hair all over, but that doesn't bother me"".Janie logic.)

In the late 50's or mid-60's a type of dish called "Melmac" was very popular. Melmac dishes were made of a resin material. The appliance maker Westinghouse had hit on the idea of making dishes out of the same plastic they molded for knobs on their appliances, and over $1 million was made off this product in ten weeks when the dishes were introduced in A & P grocery stores " big money back in those days. It was unbreakable, easy to clean, and inexpensive " a nice change from china for everyday use. Melmac came in white but also some very peculiar solid pastel colors. I remember an "Algae Green," a "Moldy Bread Spot Blue" and a hideous pink color similar to mucous membrane.

The housewives of the 50's took to Melmac immediately, and any of you around my age probably remember these dishes on your Mom's kitchen tables. And if you attended Garfield School in rural Peshtigo, you probably ate your hot lunch off of an algae green Melmac hot lunch tray!

Thinking about this made me remember the funny thing that happened to a friend more than 35 years ago, before she got a dirty dish storage unit.

One day, my friend had a kitchen full of dirty dishes and suddenly got a call that her mother-in-law and a friend of hers were enroute to visit. The mother-in-law was a titan of housekeeping and order, and my friend knew desperate measures were called for. Since she had no "dirty dish storage unit" and no time to hand wash, she stacked all her dishes into her oven and closed the door. Whew! A quick wipe and rinse of the sink, and her kitchen was ready to pass inspection.

Unfortunately, she forgot about the dirty dishes in the oven after the visit. The next day, she started to preheat her oven for some baking. After a short time, she noticed a very unusual chemical-type odor and a haze hanging in the kitchen. That's when she suddenly remembered her algae green dirty Melmac stacked in the hot oven. Too late, and the mess was one for the ages " while the plastic dinnerware was unbreakable, it did not like high temperatures, and the dishes were fusing themselves onto the rack in the oven, onto each other and against the oven side walls as well. The cleanup was epic, and only marginally successful.

I took a quick look and you can buy vintage used Melmac on E-Bay " probably some collectors out there, judging from the posts. If you have a kitchen decorated in hideous pink and moldy bread spot blue, and you want some matching unbreakable but not unmeltable dishes, you may want to check it out.

By the way, the "rest of the story" is that once my Mother's "two dishwashers" departed for college, she indeed got a dirty dishes storage unit. And I know for a fact that a lot of kids hate the chore of "loading the dishwasher."



You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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