The Long Way Home 1.19.24

At dinner last night, our conversation turned to vacuum cleaners. The bohunk runs a vacuum cleaner at least once each day. We have dogs that bring in debris from outside, shed like strippers, and find their way onto furniture. Even the cat leaves some of his fur around.

So, finding a proper, long-lasting, and reliable vacuum cleaner is a constant search for her and periodically a topic for dinner conversation with our son--one of the inheritors of her vacuuming predilection. 

Since I’m the old man at the dinner table, I lead the conversation toward reminiscence with a “remember this” bit about the good old days.

Sitting with the bohunk on one side and our adult son on the other, I looked to Becky and said, “Remember the Kirby vacuum we bought?” 

We were much younger when that encounter happened—an upwardly mobile young couple with several young kids. The Kirby salesman back then came to your living room to demonstrate the rather incredible product and destroy any argument you may have had about paying three to four times what a Hoover cost at Sears. But the shiny aluminum body and its ability to bring dead skin cells and other strange things out of the mattress in our bedroom won the day. 

For all the stereotypical door-to-door salesman aggravation we endured that evening, that vacuum cleaner performed well for several years. There was even a repair shop in a strip mall at France Ave. on Old Shakopee Road that we visited once or twice. 

When it was time to replace the Kirby, we relied on department store vacuums with brand names—even two, like the Kirby, named after its founder, Dyson and Shark. 

We probably still haven’t paid the price for a new vacuum cleaner that we did for the Kirby back then. Regardless of the brand, we only get a few years before the damned thing breaks down, and shopping for a new one begins.

To my surprise, the Kirby company is still in business more than a century after founder Jim Kirby built his first cleaner in 1909. And they still do home-based demonstrations/sales calls. 

As I tend to do, the Kirby story got me thinking about the days when I grew up in suburban Minneapolis and the things we experienced that seemed so familiar then that don’t exist in those places today.

There were the Fuller Brush and Watkins peddlers. Guys with a fedora perched perilously on the back of their heads, a sample case at their feet, a streak of mustard in the middle of a paisley tie, wearing a dusty sport coat and nicotine-stained fingers. 

The Avon ladies always came by, ringing the doorbell, “Avon calling.” They always looked stylish and professional.

The young Dr. Lindblom actually made house calls early on. Otherwise, we saw him at his office near the Roith’s Pharmacy at 72nd and Chicago. 

The postman came by, sometimes twice a day, and dropped our mail in the slot by the front door.

A milkman stopped by a few times a week. He left our milk order, sometimes cottage cheese and even butter, in a metal cooler on the back stoop. 

I kinda miss those days, but I don’t miss the growing pains, acne, and puberty. Instead, I deal with the growing old pains and the wind chill.

It's always a new normal.