The Spic n Span Incident

The Boulevard Apartments

The Boulevard Apartments

When my Dad cam home from the Army Air Corps at the end of WWII, we moved from my grandmother’s house, where Mom and  Ilived while Dad was away, to an apartment in New Haven on what was then called simply The Boulevard.  The buildings were converted Army barracks and I remember my Mom saying that the wind blew right through the walls on cold, blustery days.  Still, it was our first home as a family and my oldest memories as a child reside there still, even though the buildings are long gone.  There are memories of baseball games between the buildings and of my Dad breaking his leg as he jumped over a fence to retrieve another kid’s baseball glove that I’d thrown there.  There was walking to Truman School, always a little nervous as I crossed the railroad track because I’d dreamed of a train coming off the tracks to chase me down the street.  There was Dad teaching me to ride the bright red Columbia bicycle I got for Christmas.  And there was the Spic n Span Incident, in which an eight year old learned not to believe everything he heard in commercials.

This was, by the way, 62 years ago, so before you conclude I have a remarkable memory for a old codger, I’ll confess … like the photos in my oldest photo album, these memories are printed on my brain cells in hazy black and white, frayed about the edges.  It’s best to look at this, as they say in Hollywood, as Based on a True Story … the basic facts are true but some of the details filled in.  We were sitting around the kitchen table with company … I think it was my Mom’s brother Richard and his wife … and my Mom was saying that she neededSPIC N SPAN to wash the bathroom floor, a job she hated.  Ever helpful, I said, Mommy, you should use Spic n Span.  It says on TV that it makes every job easy.  Everyone had a good laugh about that but my Mom, ever on the lookout for a teaching moment, said, I have some Spic n Span. Would you like to do it?  I said, Sure, so she filled a bucket with water, added the magical powder from the orange and blue box, then gave me the tools of the trade, a brush and mop.  I quickly realized the error of my ways and tried to retract my offer, but Mom insisted I finish. Lesson learned.

So, you know those commercials in which light beer drinking men are always surrounded by beautiful beer drinking women?  And in which that certain facial cream can make you look years younger?  And some peculiar extract of berries you’ve never heard of can make it easy to lose weight?   How about Airborne, that herbal health formula that boosts your immune system to help your body combat germs, including the common cold?  All bullshit.  That’s sixty-two years of hard earned experience speaking.  Thanks, Mom.

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3 Comments on “The Spic n Span Incident”

  1. Barry Says:

    We’ve all had our “Spic and Span” monent!!


  2. Love this story, Buddy, your Mom was a genius!

  3. jenihill Says:

    If my kids had ever quoted a commercial line like that and if I’d ever been smart enough to turn it into a way to get them to do something, anything, remotely related to cleaning up the place, well let’s just put it this way -you learned something then and I learned a trick tonight. Now, if only I had a way to use that to get one of my grown-up kids now to do something along those lines! BTW, I really loved this story. Your Mom definitely was a smart cookie!


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