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Claudia Myers column: Marriage and gifts both built to last

No need for “new and improved,” thank you very much.

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Claudia Myers

Many companies periodically make changes in their products and announce that they are “new and improved.” That usually means that the former product, which you searched for forever, loved, relied on, recommended to friends and can’t live without, will no longer be available — except in its “new and improved” state, which is to say, “not available.”

I have an electric egg poacher that was given to me as a bridal shower gift 60 years ago and is still working away. Evidently, it never needed improving, because the company is still making similar ones, and people are still buying them. I always joked that when the egg poacher quits working, the marriage is over. Good for a laugh, until it got close to six decades. Now, I’m starting to get a little nervous. What happens if it does stop working? Will I have to buy a “new and improved” one?

To me, “improved” usually means something needed improving. I always wonder if the improvers succeeded in their improvements. I once had a Dodge Durango. I loved that car. Perfect size for me to drive, perfect cargo space for costumes, antique furniture, dogs, whatever. I drove it for years. Then it started showing its age, making mysterious crackly noises, sucking up too much oil. Time to trade it in. But the Durango people had improved upon my car. It was now heavier by a ton or two, and the size was approaching that of a Mack truck and $$$ zoomed to $$$$$. Improvements? Hardly!

I don’t know what my readers might think about mentioning “unmentionables,” but let’s talk underwear — specifically bottoms — for both sexes. For years, you’ve searched for the perfect underwear. You’ve gone through the high cut, low cut, stretchy polyester, Scottie dogs and sports teams briefs until — oh, happy day! — you find the ones.

They bend when you do, don’t sag where you don’t; they don’t ride up; they don’t fall down, and they don’t lose themselves in your washing machine. They come in four solid colors, all your favorites — and camo. You rush out to buy some more of those babies, right now! But, so sorry; you can’t. Nope, really; you can’t. They’ve been discontinued by the manufacturer. One of their analysts did a study. The pre-production cost estimates were miscalculated, and the company is losing 37 cents on every pair you buy. Too bad, so sad.

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My husband has a gasoline-driven garden wagon. He’s had it for about 25 years, has taken very good care of it, and it works just fine. Last year, the tires were flat and looked like they were split, so he contacted the company to order new tires. Uh oh. They no longer stock those tires. But, do they still make that model garden wagon?

Company: “Yes, yes we do. But it’s been improved.”

Husband: “What do you do for tires?”

Company: “Different size, different tire, won’t work for your wagon.”

Husband: “Solution?”

Company: “Uh … new wagon?”

Back to the subject of wedding gifts that didn’t need improving, where are those wonderful sheets and pillowcases that we got in the ’50s and ’60s? They weren’t silky and sleazy; they were crisp. They didn’t wrap themselves around your neck and they didn't have to be ironed! Yes, I know they weren’t pure, 100% organic cotton, and they had polyester in them, and maybe they “pilled” after awhile, but they didn't have to be ironed! Nowadays, you get “wrinkle-free” sheets that come out of the dryer looking like dried-up tumbleweeds.

Toasters were another popular wedding gift 60 years ago. Sometimes, you got three or four. They amazingly toasted all four corners of your bread — both sides. In 60 years, I’ve probably owned 18 toasters. The one I have now is two years old and toasts the bread only on the top half. I’ve gotten used to turning the bread around, halfway through. You have to learn to deal with these improvements.

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In the early 1960s, all brides got a set of metal Ekco kitchen utensils. They had matching plastic handles printed with an attractive Pennsylvania Dutch design and included a hanging rack. The set consisted of a spatula, cake server, sieve, slotted spoon, solid spoon and an egg beater. The solid spoon found its way to the kids’ sandbox; the spatula and egg beater lost their handles, and the rest gradually wandered off.

But I still have the slotted spoon. I would have to say that this product has been improved. They are now made entirely of plastic or nylon. And I would be willing to bet my egg poacher that they will make it through 60 years, handles and all. So, 60 years of marriage, and I still have the original egg poacher, slotted spoon and husband. No improvements needed, thank you very much.

Next time: Pets. Most everyone has had a pet, even if only a Myrtle turtle. I'll share Part One about the many pets of a spoiled only child. (That would be me.)

Claudia Myers is a former costume designer for The Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at The College of St Scholastica. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and a local antique dealer, specializing in Persian rugs.

Related Topics: FAMILYHOME AND GARDEN
Claudia Myers is a former costume designer for The Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at the College of St. Scholastica. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and a local antique dealer, specializing in Persian rugs.
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