Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Kirby Vacuum 1959
Yesterday the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner salesman came to the door. I stood behind my locked security gate, out of his line of vision and politely told him that I wasn't interested in him dumping a bag of dust on my carpet and then vacuuming it up with the new and improved vacuuming wonder for 2010. Hell, I have enough dust and dog hair of my own to contend with, and I am a suspicious of anybody rattling my caged abode without an invitation. He must not have done well on his pushy salesman course, because he backed away, sheepishly, and said, "Nice dog." Oh, yes, even though he couldn't see me through the security grate, he could certainly hear Hamish's rumbling warning of "don't get too close, Dufus".
But his visit reminded me of the guy who came to our door in 1959, complete with his own bag of dirt, and Wow'd my mother and the 5 year old me, with the wonders of the Kirby Vacuum. It was the first multifunctional appliance we had ever seen and guaranteed to pay for itself with every vacuuming. It had a slot in the back of the upright handle and all we had to do was deposit one thin dime into the slot each time we (let's face it, it was Mom) vacuumed. Mom was a fastidious housekeeper and figured that it would be paid off in a year. I can still hear the dimes rattling in the aluminum tube.
When it wasn't vacuum cleaner, or a bank, it was the newest thing in hairdryers for the ladies of the house. Take the bag and handle off, open the oven door, place the Kirby on the door and attach the hose to the optional hair bonnet, turn on the oven to 475 degrees, turn on the vacuum and reverse it to "blow" and you could sit in front of the oven blasting the entire kitchen with infernal temperatures until your Do was Done. I recall the perplexed look on my father's face the first time he came home to find my mom sitting in a chair with the oven door open, tethered to the beast. We soon found out that the wheels weren't really designed to withstand the blast furnace as they melted into flat plastic blobs, making it impossible to wheel anymore.
Mom purchased the Lifetime Warranty, and while it had to be rebuilt several times, it kept on sucking away. That Kirby stayed in the family for over 30 years, ended up with my brother's wife for a few years and eventually became my first vacuum when I moved out on my own. Mom finally replaced it in the late 1970's with their newest super, power train/overdrive version that was a $1700 piece of crap. A friend described using it to "dancing with Darth Vader".
Mom had 2 vacuums in her lifetime. I've been through at least 6 in the past 20 years and not one of them could dry a decent curl.