Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

April 16, 2013

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Quick Henry, the Flit

CROSSVILLE — “Quick Henry, the Flit” was  a popular saying especially during the days of the Great Depression. Flit was a pesticide used against flies and mosquitoes that came on the market in 1923. It wasn’t until 1928 that the saying started and lasted for a good 17 years.

Who was behind this “Quick Henry, the Flit”? None other than American writer, poet and cartoonist Dr. Seuss. Long before Seuss became known as a children’s author. Long before his death at 87 when the New York Times called him the modern Mother Goose, Seuss cartooned.

Theodor S. Geisel, born and raised in Springfield, MA, went off to Dartmouth College but what his life work would be he didn’t know. During the Great Depression he used his cartooning skills to sell “Quick Henry, the Flit.”

It isn’t surprising that Dartmouth Professor Donald Pease wrote a biography of Dr. Seuss. What is surprising is that learned humans are studying the children’s books of Dr. Seuss today. Just last month Professor Pease gave the keynote address at the New York Law School where he discussed the works of Dr. Seuss in the context of civil society.

In his 1961 book “The Zax,” Geisel provided a parable about political stalemate. Pease said, “The book was published at the height of the impasse produced by the mutually assured-deterrence logic of the Cold War. But it also has lots of applicability to the present impasse in Washington, D.C., where neither side seems willing to budge.”

The panel also discussed “The Sneetches” and Sylvester McMonkey McBean. Whether Theodor Geisel would approve we’ll never know.

***

I’m not sure that women still consider spring as the time to do housecleaning. For those who do washing windows is one of the first jobs to be done. Did you ever think how different washing windows at home is from washing windows in tall buildings like the city of New York City?

By 1931 the Empire State Building was just being completed and there were two to three thousand window cleaners in the city. It didn’t take an education, only a strong, brave man. The Poles were the first minority group to do window washing but they were soon followed by Ukrainians and the Italians and Irish. I learned all these facts from a New Yorker article written by Adam Higginbotham.

Window washing of skyscrapers began with the washer standing outside on the two-inch ledge and holding onto the frame of the window. Only his safety belt protected him. Finally bolts were added to the brickwork and over the years more protection was added. Even so there were two hundred accidents and 70 were fatal in window washers between 1983 and 2008. It is a dangerous job.

As far as washing windows it is all very simple. You need only a bucket of water, to which you add a squirt of lemon-scented Joy or Dawn. Then using the squeegee you go to work. Oh yes, every professional window washer will tell others they keep a song in their heart while they work.

• • •

Dorothy Copus Brush is a Fairfield Glade resident and Crossville Chronicle staffwriter whose column is published each Wednesday. She may be reached at dcb1@frontiernet.net.

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