iRival Launch Day
Haven’t been so excited about an electronic device since the Rival can opener mom got at Boston Store. I think it may have been intended for dog food, but it turned out to be one giant leap for Feldmankind, who previously had to stab our tin cans like Norman Bates and hope for the best. The Rival was a killer app–it firmly held the can and ran it over a circular blade to a very satisfying whir while a little magnet held the lid out of the Chef Boyardee. I bet mom was shoulder to shoulder with the early adopters storming the doors at 10 AM to get their hands on one, it was that big.
The Rival was rivaled only, perhaps, by the coming of the electric blanket, which was like a heating pad the size of a bed, and had captivated the nation after one thawed out the Thing From Another World in the movie of the same name. If it could defrost a frozen entree from space, it certainly should have been able to and did thaw out the typical uninsulated Milwaukee duplex family. A lot of people will get iPads, but everybody had an electric blanket, which even had model years, like cars, so they could keep sweetening the pot with much anticipated features we didn’t know we needed–dual controls, thermostats, timers, rotisserie mode. The thinking at the time was that America’s appetite for the electric blanket was insatiable. They were given as wedding presents, and not re-gifted.
Some electronic breakthroughs did not break through 2718 N. 58th. The electric carving knife was big in the ‘burbs, but we were not headed that direction. I believe it was a pride thing with my dad, who felt duty-bound to saw through mom’s overcooked roasts, briskets and turkeys personally, although the birds, at least, were self-carving, falling apart on their own after 24 hours in a 325 oven. A cold reception was also afforded the concept of electrified oral hygiene–the water pic, something the French might use, only on the other end, and the electric toothbrush, an oxymoron not deemed capable of the crucial up and down not sideways brushing regimen drummed into us by our myopic but good-hearted dentist, Dr. Blumenthal. My wife and kids use them today, but I want to be able to look Dr. Blumenthal in the bottle bottom lenses should ever we meet again.
We were never an all-electric home, like the Reagans, but dad, in the early days, worked for the Electric Company in Milwaukee, so Reddy Kilowatt, the lightbulb-headed lightning bolt man who encouraged us to plug it in, was a close personal friend. The wedding gifts on dad’s desk in the 1935 photo were the apps I grew up with– a one slice chrome deco toaster, the battle ready Mixmaster, the elegant silver-like electric drip coffee urn, the little oscillating fan that could, and the herald of miniaturization, the table radio. A radio you could put on a table, and not have to build the house around. No life changers, perhaps, like the iPad, although the Ozone generator, a black case with electrodes and a rheostat you could dial up to create a god awful O3 smell that was supposed to make your life better, came closest. In a moment of weakness mom bought it from a door to door salesman who was good, but no Steve Jobs.