Papa Dick's Dishwasher

A story of post World War Two America by Ruth Hamilton.

(All links in this text display jpeg photographs of 10-25 kilobytes.)

I am approaching forty, the age when if whistled at one doesn't know whether to feel insulted or flattered, Personally I feel flattered.

I've written a song, modeled, painted pictures, designed my clothes and papered a room and even grown my own geraniums. I do love flowers but during the recent years my ice box hasn't been cluttered with orchids. However I must confess in the bygone days I had my share. Anyway, who wants hamburger with an orchid aroma? I have two degrees from the University of California at Los Angeles and was a Spanish major. Why, I'll never know. My contact with anything Spanish is a small plot of Spanish onions in the backyard.

I have a wonderful son, a dog, a cat, three goldfish and one husband Yes one husband, the subject at my story. We live in a nice home in one of the better residential districts, across the street from the famed Carthay Circle Theater, one of the glamour spots of Los Angeles, where at premiere time movie fans line up at the crack of dawn to get a seat in the quickly constructed portable bleachers or if not fortunate enough to get a seat, find standing room on the sidewalk to get a glimpse of the stars. It's a pretty street about a block from Beverly Hills and a couple of blocks from the well known Miracle Mile on Wilshire Boulevard.

The houses all have luscious green lawns (ours has been a little dry looking at times for want of water), beautiful flowers and nice people. Movie magnates, professional men and men with just good American jobs live on this street. Their sons and daughters are all a part of the gang that plays ball in the street, breaks a window occasionally or does a good deed for a neighbor.

The years have been lean and the years have been plentiful. During these years we have had our share of joys and of sorrow. We'll begin during the war. My husband was an officer in the army. He did a good job. Our social activity kept us quite busy We were entertained by the gay and lovable John Carrol, dined with Jimmy Fiddler and at the home of those wonderful Don Ameches, a family that Hollywood and the movie industry should be proud. I've chatted with that wonderful Clark Gable, attended parties with the Randolf Scotts, Lee Bowmans, Marie Wilson, and many others. We've attended parties at the home of Eddie LaBaron and his wife. At these parties we mingled with counts, countesses, and such fabulous characters as Atwater Kent, Tony Moreno, Ramon Navarro and the still glamorous little Mae Murray, all great stars in the past. Then the war ended, the salary stopped, but the bills didn't, and we still had appetites.

We had our home, a nice car, and lots of ideas for the future. We packed the uniform in mothballs, got out the motheaten business suits, and launched out into the future. First, we were going into the flagstone business. We had located a fine formation in the hills of Arizona. Our partner, a G.I. who had sponged on us for several weeks after the war, graciously drove our car through the hills and wrecked it to the tune of $1,000. Discouraged and sad, our car demolished and saddled with the bill, we returned to L.A.

We left the flagstone leering at us, still embedded in the rugged old hills. Now every time I see flagstone I fail to see its beauty. After that we were sold on another idea. We made beautiful lamp bases from cedar burls. They were exquisite pieces of art but they were too costly to produce. Then my husband became the editor of a little talent magazine. Just as it was doing nicely, it was tied up in litigation. Its former owner has thoughtlessly sold its rights to three different people. Again back to hamburger. Then my husband was offered a position, something to do with vitamins for horses. The salary was small, and at times we wished we were horses so we could eat the samples for nourishment. Next, we imported a famous Italian stallion. His stud book filled for a couple of seasons ahead. We now felt that things would be better. He died just as the season started. To keep the wolf from the door, my husband wrote feature articles for mining journals, medical journals, travelogue digests and fiction. But we soon found that it takes a lot of writing to feed two adults, a growing boy, a dog, a cat and three goldfish.

Each one of these enterprises was started in a businesslike manner -- beautiful letterheads on nice stationery. We have: El Med Runner, Wil Engineering, Veterans Voice, Talent Scout, Arizona Flagstone, Hoods in Cedar, and Turf Pictorial. At times I threatened to throw them out, but something seemed to tell me to save them. They are serving as scratch pads for my story.

Then one day my husband said, "I'm going to become an inventor." Where the thought came from, I'll never know. He swears to this day that he actually suffered when he would see me slaving washing dishes. I really don't think that he suffered too much as he never offered to help me. However, that is how he became "The inventor."

As he was always puttering around in the garage, I never knew that something was taking formation until I began to miss things around the house. My dishpan was gone, and dishpans just don't disappear. I'll never forget the day I found it in the garage. It had taken the form of a weird looking monster. It had pipes protruding from its sides. It was then I was first aware that I was the widow of an inventor.

My husband and I have become strangers. He spends most of his life in the garage. Now and then we extend salutations as we pass each other in the hall, he usually retiring as I get up or visa versa. When I awaken in the morning I go to the garage and hunt for the coffee pot which has kept him awake through the night, however at times it has failed, because I have often found him sitting up in a chair, mouth wide open, snoring to the tune of a humming motor.

Sometimes, on very special occasions, he eats breakfast in the house, but usually he can't spare the time and asks only for an egg sandwich. Of course he did come in occasionally to grab a bite to eat -- a cold pea soup sandwich was one of his favorites, but anything in the cupboard would do as long as it was quick.

One day I missed a long green squash that I intended having for supper. When I asked him if he had seen it, he said "Oh I ate it. I thought it was a strange tasting cucumber." I suppose when you have lived as a recluse for such a long time, any of the primitive foods would satisfy. Many times I have brought out a pot of coffee into which he has dumped a cup half full of tea. He said it was rather good for a change. I should try it sometime. He has mistaken the dog's food, which I kept in a dish in the ice box, for meatloaf. The first time he tried it, he marveled about the wonderful meatloaf in the ice box. I only told him of his error when he kept after me to make some more with the same flavor. He didn't seem to mind when he found out. "At times we've all wished we were dogs."

Our very kind neighbors often give us delicious leftovers such as New York steaks, etc. It almost broke my heart to see our dog turn up her nose to a huge brown turkey leg. Now I leave the dog in the house and run to get the bones myself. My neighbor is a wonderful cook. During the summer we ate quite well as our son loved to fish. Once we had fish eight nights in a row -- baked, fried, boiled, breaded, creamed and stuffed. Also our apricot tree helped the cause by bearing luscious big apricots. We had a few stiggle berry vines behind the garage which helped also.

It has reached the point where nothing is sacred. Upon missing my shiny aluminum cover for my cooking utensils, I found that it had been converted into a steering wheel for the car which had long since lost its eye appeal. The top of a Chanel Number 5 perfume bottle combined with the lid of a jar of peanut butter is now the top to the gas tank. Tops to modernistic salt and pepper shakers are on the ends of the once beautiful radio dials. Since the inventor rarely comes out of the garage, the car just sits. The cat, a tiger band who loves to be vacuumed with a 150 h.p. vacuum has made the back seat her home and bed. Here she gave birth to five tiny balls of fluff. The dog, a mixture of more combinations than a zombie, crawls to the top of the car and luxuriously takes her sun baths. A passion vine has artistically entwined itself around the flat tires, and it somewhat resembles an upholstered sun house. A sparrow, too, has built its nest in a broken light. It's quite unique, but at times, I wonder if the neighbors appreciate it.

We do have fine neighbors. They have never complained about the weird noises or clanking sounds that come from the garage or the strange programs that come from the small portable radio in the wee small hours. Perhaps they didn't complain because they hoped that the inventor would make a fortune and enable us to move our vine covered car I really think that they didn't complain because they are nice people.

Once at a very crucial moment, dumplings all made and ready for the lid, learned the fate of my steamer lid. It now adorned the radio. It had become a huge dial surrounded by several pieces of copper. It was strange, resembling something from mars or it could have been mistaken for a flying saucer.

By this time I expected things to disappear. At times I have almost hesitantly sneaked into the bath fearing that some of the plumbing fixtures had been removed

While father invented, I ran the house as best I could and tried to keep home sweet home. I try to have a few friends in occasionally but if anyone wants to see the inventor, he has to go to the garage. At times the inventor doesn't go to bed for three nights in a row. many celebrities, including the well known Eddie LaBaron and his exquisite wife visit, her exotic perfume blending with mechanical odors of heavy grease, aluminum oxide, gasoline and a million others. Also a whiff of DDT contributes to the blend.

Spiders are plentiful and at times they actually line up to see the creation of this weird looking monster. I believe they think it's a distant relative, although by now it resembled a huge dinosaur that had been removed from the LaBrea Tar Pits just a few blocks from home. The hose to the drain on my washing machine had now been connected to it and our monster has become more lifelike with its newly acquired tail. At any moment I expected it to speak, or at least to bark. This actually took place a few days later.

Times were getting bad. The inventor became a recluse in the garage. I spoke to my friends about the time when he would be out. If strangers had heard the conversation, I am sure they would think he was serving a sentence at Sing Sing, or at least Alcatraz.

The house needed decorating inside, so I got to work. I papered my first room. It was a nice room, pretty ivory tile trimmed in black and a lovely tile stall shower whose hot and cold water fixtures had now become part of the dishwasher. They were only going to be used temporarily, but I had given up hope of ever seeing them again. Anyway, the lovely black and silver shower curtain covered the vacant spots and we did have another bath.

The pale yellow water lilies on the wall had lost their oomph and the small green frogs by their side had sung their last song. The bath had a sullen dreary look. It just didn't give one the inspiration to sing or to do anything. I chose a beautiful wallpaper, black background with tiny pink and white lines and white horses gaily prancing about.

I was covered with paste from head to foot and with a long piece of wet wallpaper draped over my head, when I ran to answer the door. In my hurry my foot hit a football which rested serenely on the floor. It sailed over the candelabra, just missed a cluster of grapes hanging from a piece of Dresden and scored a touchdown straight into the face of Blue Boy. With no serious damage done, I answered the bell. It was the Fuller Brush man. I undraped the wet wallpaper from my neck and received the Fuller Brush man -- all ready to receive my free brush, which I needed badly as my old one had found a place in the garage. Whether it was part of the dishwasher or not, I'll never know. But it took part, I'm sure in the construction of the monster which was now resting serenely on the kitchen sink where the inventor had been testing it.

Just as the Fuller Brush man was showing me a brush that would do everything but handsprings, a bell started ringing. I excused myself and tried to locate the sound. It must be the alarm clock. It was summer vacation, and time meant nothing as school was out. I couldn't locate the sound. It had a peculiar ring -- sort of a combination of Spike Jones with a touch of Freddie Martin in the background. It was rather unique and weird. After searching the house with the aid of the Fuller Brush man, I decided it must be the Good Humor man with a new song. After all, the one he always played was getting rather annoying. It died away in the distance, and I decided that some hungry child had stopped the wagon for a cone. Then all of a sudden a voice that would have made Spike Jones band (while in full swing) sound like whispering leaves by comparison burst forth. The house practically shook. The Fuller Brush man and myself swiftly crept to the kitchen. We had located the origin of the sound.

The dishwasher had a voice. it consisted of the alarm clock vibrating against a few lose bolts which were hitting the rack for the dishes. I turned off the gadget, and it groaned as if to thank me. I walked away almost afraid to look back, fearing any moment it might follow me. I had scored a touchdown, received a free brush, bought a new one which the Fuller Brush man said would do anything. I planned to train it so it would hide when it saw the inventor coming or heard the voice of the dishwasher. I had a relaxing cup of coffee, and went back to my paperhanging.

By working until dawn, I finished the job. I painted the woodwork a beautiful shade of coral. Crisp white organdy curtains covered the windows. I was really proud and happy to know that the little carrousel where the little white horses gaily pranced was made of paper. I was sure that this merry- go- round would not break down or be broken down to become part of the invention. I went into the kitchen.

The stove and the cabinet beside it could have been mistaken for a winter in the Alps. Huge mountains and peaks of snowy white rice rose toward the heavens. The inventor must have had an idea and left the rice on its own. It had gone berserk. All of the burners were covered. The three pans on the stove were covered. The sun shown through the kitchen windows, casting shadows on the deep crevices. I stood spellbound, fascinated with its beauty. Five pounds of rice overflowing.

Not only did the interior of the house suffer, but also the exterior. The hose connection at the side of the house had been removed. It, too, played a part in the invention. A bright shiny chrome swinging kitchen fixture looked perfectly ridiculous protruding from the side of the house. The back door was hanging on one hinge because the screws had been removed.

The dishwasher was in the house occasionally now that the inventor had reached the testing point. At times the forks would get clean, but not the knife. At times the plates would glitter but not the glasses, but each test was better than the next. However we couldn't seem to get together at testing time. He would say, "Leave your dishes. I'm going to make a test." Happily I would leave the breakfast, noon and supper dishes. But strange as it seems, these were the days when he would decide to make a big change and the following morning the dishwasher would be all apart and I would awaken sadly with dirty dishes from three meals the day before, and they were really bad as I always had orders to never run water on them before a test. Usually, just as I had finished them by hand and gone away he finished fixing it.

As time went on, his demonstrations became more frequent. The dishwasher was beginning to do a real job and slowly turning into a lovely kitchen fixture. I never thought my husband had an inquisitive nature, but although it now had a nice glass top, he always had to lift off the lid and take a peek while it was running. Many times, before my own eyes, the dainty stiffly starched curtains became drenched and wilted. The floor became a glistening pool where fantastic designs of suds landed. One design in particular I'm sure would have been considered a masterpiece by some of the futuristic artists. They might have called it creativity realized, but I just called it more hard work. The effect was rather pretty because the ceiling is blue and the billowy suds formed picturesque clouds.

During this inventing process, the inventor took on the appearance of Nature Boy. His long dark hair hung to his shoulders, and his pants due to many washings in the hottest water, resembled the ever popular clam diggers or peddle pushers. He rarely took time to lace his shoes and his socks were often mismatched One of the rare times he was out, he was questioned by police. But I came to the rescue and before long the police were in the garage completely fascinated by the monster. They laughingly agreed that no thief would be dressed in such a conspicuous manner.

As I mentioned previously, I do love flowers. I have a lovely little bush at the side of the garage. it always bloomed so beautifully for me, but during the lean years it refused to blossom and was dying in spite of the loving care I gave it. I was terribly blue and had just about decided to give up my gardening there. Then I visualized what was the matter. The inventor hadn't been in the house for the last couple of nights. We had a little talk, and it's doing beautifully now.

My silverware (ordinary) has taken on a sort of maroon tinge. I actually don't know what he does to it, but the once complete service for eight is scattered about among the tools and I believe we have three forks, two knives and one spoon that we use in shifts, washing between. I still refuse to let very good silver out of hiding for fear it would have the same fate. It saves dishes, too, but does take a little jumping up during meals.

Practically anything within reach of the inventor is used as a rag. A designer dress would mean nothing if a rag were needed in a hurry. One day I gasped as I saw him wiping a motor with an imported Italian cutwork napkin. He replied, "Why, this old rag. It has holes in it." (That was the hand cut embroidery.) I've explained many things such as this during the past two years. I've ranted, laughed and cried. In fact sometimes I feel that I no longer resemble or act like a human being. One could hardly be normal living under these conditions.

He has used enough nail polish to paint a house. My favorite shades and matching lipstick sets have vanished one by one. He uses them as paint. I now get the cheapest bottle I can get and hide it, but alas, he usually finds it. A luscious lemon pudding turned out to be just a tasteless conglomeration because half way through the recipe I discovered that the lemon extract had been used as alcohol or paint thinner.

The dishpan has long been discarded, sad and forlorn and full of holes, it sits stoically in a garage corner. I am now using a beautiful shiny porcelain model.

The prototype is ready for the market. Our friends are anxiously waiting to see it on the market. Those who watched this monster grow and gradually change into a beautiful whining portable dishwasher hope that it will be a success because they know how we have struggled and they know that it does a mighty fine job.

Now that we are ready to put it on the market, it's time for the inventor to come out of the garage. It was rather sad to see the old car towed away. The cat lost her house and the dog, her sun deck. With tender hands I untangled the beautiful passion vine which had so actively entwined itself around the rusty fenders and the flattened tires. The next day the inventor drove a nice looking, shiny new car in to take its place. I looked at it proudly, sniveled to myself that at last we had a nice car, a car that looked like other cars, no pot covers for the steering wheel. I called my friends to tell them the good news. "This calls for a celebration. I'll make some custard meringue." I looked and looked for the custard cups. Almost quivering, I looked outside at the inventor. He was using the custard cups as hub caps on the new car.

Eventually he informed me that he had another idea for an invention.

Photo Index:

[Ruth Hamilton] ruth.jpg

[The inventor's home] barw.jpg

[Carthay Circle Theatre by Stan Cline] carthay.htm

[The inventors horse] othllo.jpg

[Ruth and Clark Gable] rugabl.jpg

[Ruth and Dick] rthdck.jpg

[The Dishwasher] dshwsh.jpg

October 9, 1997

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