Sunday, August 06, 2017


Odd how the memory of someone you’ve not thought of in years will suddenly be sitting patiently on the front steps of your mind, as though they’ve just dropped in for a visit, and you are surprised at how happy you are to see them.

This happened with me last week when I suddenly found myself thinking of my immediate boss at Duraclean International, Phil Ward. My job at Duraclean, then located in Deerfield, Illinois, was one of the longest jobs I ever held...from 1960 to 1966. Duraclean sold franchises for a carpet and upholstery cleaning system which involved the franchisee getting down on his hands and knees and actually scrubbing the carpet. The secret to its success was in the cleaning foam, which for some reason could not be applied mechanically. I never could really understand how anyone would be willing to do it, but the company was quite successful.

The staff was small and a really nice group of people with whom I enjoyed working. One of my most vivid memories of working there, though, was one day in…what?…1961?…when the president, Grant Mauk, who later went on to run IHOP, came around to each of us saying that the company was planning to hire a black secretary and asking if we might object. Frankly, I was astounded by the question, but the early 60s were a very different time. She was of course hired and immediately became one of the family.

But I meant to talk about Phil, here. Phil was a very large man, heavy set, thinning hair, glasses, and a gap-toothed smile which he used often. My job at Duraclean was to put out the Duraclean Journal, the company’s trade publication for its worldwide franchisees. I was technically the Assistant Editor under Phil. I can’t recall ever having a nicer boss.

I remember going to him one time with an article for which I couldn’t find a finish. He looked it over and said: “Have you said everything you wanted to say?” When I said “Yes,” he replied: “Then it’s finished.”

Phil loved stories, and he had a wealth of them. He once told me of a job he’d had in which he had written an impassioned article on something or other, and titled it something like: “Framostats: Wave of the Future? Yes, say Experts.” He turned it in to his boss who so totally rewrote it that it came out with the title: “Framostats: Wave of the Future? No, say Experts.”

Phil had an absolutely charming, very attractive wife, Shirley, and a young daughter, Pam, and Phil doted on both of them. He announced proudly one day that Pam had learned to write her name, and a week or so later said that Pam had written a letter to her grandparents. A little puzzled, I asked: “What did she say?” He looked at me calmly and replied: “Pam.”

A year or so later, he announced that he and Shirley had gotten Pam a kitten. “It’s not much right now,” he said, “but you give it six months or so, and it’ll be good eatin’.”

Phil’s one quirk was that he could not use the restroom without turning on all the faucets in the sinks first. And he often forgot to turn them off when he left. I have no idea why, and I never asked, of course. I figured he was entitled to an eccentricity or two.

Having opened my own faucet of memories of Phil and Duraclean and the wonderful people who worked there and of who I was then and who I am now, I find myself tempted to just let it run. But I think I’d better turn it off for now, lest it overflow the sink and keep pouring out memories until they sweep me away.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from and; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/ You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site: 

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