The annual ritual known as spring cleaning seems to wane in popularity with each passing year. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that time is so much more structured in the average family than it was in the 1950s and 60s. Another big consideration is that when we boomers were growing up, the vast majority of our mothers stayed at home. Yet even though they stayed at home, they were modern women who were most definitely interested in any technology or product that would lessen the drudgery of house work. They were not about to do things the way their mothers had to.
For the Mister Boomer house, spring cleaning fell into three main categories: personal space, seasonal replacements and seldom-performed household tasks. Mister B’s mom, the acting general in the spring cleaning attack, would request each child to “clean” their own closet. This amounted to, for the most part, removing the piles of toys in the bottom of the closet, cleaning the dust bunnies that had taken up residence, and carefully selecting toys that had been outgrown and relegating them to the storage areas of the basement. Rearranging the toys to place back completed the bottom half of the closet cleaning. Of course for some, like Mister B’s brother, the piles that went back in looked a lot like the piles that started.
The second part of the annual closet cleaning was connected to seasonal replacements. Each spring, fall and winter clothes in the closets were gathered and moved en masse to a chifforobe in the basement. From the basement storage, spring and summer ensembles, smelling of moth balls, were resurrected and, like spring itself, renewed for another year in the light of the season.
The family hall closet got the same treatment. Each family member removed and stored the winter coats, scarves, hats and gloves and replaced them with the lighter-weight outerwear needed for spring weather.
Sometimes, Mister B’s mom would want to kick it up a notch and clean the walls in the bedrooms and living room. The kids hated that job, but, armed with old rags and buckets filled with warm water and sudsy Mr. Clean or Spic ‘N Span, they’d dutifully wipe the walls, climbing on chairs to reach up to the ceiling.
Cleaning the venetian blinds were another spring chore. Having the oldest child assist in removing them from each room, the blinds were set out on the backyard grass. There, Mister B and his brother would train the garden hose on the horizontal slats, power washing the winter’s dust from the white aluminum. Next they’d drape the blinds over the backyard clotheslines to dry in the sun, while Mister B’s mom took a brush and soapy water to any tough remaining spots. When things weren’t coming clean, she’d fill an aluminum tub with soapy water and dunk the blinds, letting each soak a few minutes so the modern cleaning technology could do its work.
With the product reaching the maturity of nearly ten years old, Mr. Clean got a “new formulation” in 1960 that made “him” tougher than ever on dirt.
Marketers, ever tapped into popular culture, never missed a trick to tie their product into popular movie and TV shows of the time. When this commercial was released, the James Bond series had hit the silver screen while The Man from U.N.C.L.E. appeared on TV.
The final spring cleaning ritual was delegated to Mister Boomer and Brother Boomer; it involved the outdoor storm windows. The boys retrieved window screens from the basement and brought them to the backyard, where a quick hose-down removed any remaining dirt from the previous year. Then, Brother Boomer, as the eldest, got on the family’s six-foot ladder outside each window as Mister B took up position on the inside. Sliding each storm window up the aluminum slats until reaching the opening where it could be removed, the boys took down the heavy glass storm windows and replaced them with the summer screens.
Completing the window-to-screen task, a simple twist of threaded screws on the aluminum frame of the front door was all that was needed to removed the door glass, and quick as a wink, it was transformed from storm door to screen door.
What spring cleaning tasks were you required to do as youngsters, boomers?