Spring Cleaning In Sunnyside

When it comes to spring cleaning, the process can be a double-edged sword.  On the one hand we are so happy to be able to throw open the shutters (so to speak) and let the fresh air in to the house, enjoying the cool clean scents of a new season.  On the other hand, now that the fresh air is in and the sun is out, we look around and realize that our house is filthy. 

Spring cleaning in Sunnyside was a serious matter.  In the 50’s, spring cleaning was a serious matter for all American homes that used coal during the winter.  The soot from the coal was on everything, and Ann and Della were not any different.  The month of April was set aside for spring cleaning and it was “all hands on deck”.


Front yards all across Sunnyside are littered with mattress springs.  Mattress covers are removed and aired out while the springs are hosed off as most working class slept on spring mattresses in the 50’s.  There are bare windows on every house as curtains hang on clotheslines after being washed clean.  The small faces of Rodney and Colleen appear in the windows with their buckets of vinegar water and handfuls of newsprint to shine the windows to a clear reflection.

Cookie and Bonnie, however were not lucky with such an easy task.  Assigned with cleaning the walls, they were in less than good spirits and grumbled with each passing minute.  With a rolled rope of Kutol Wall Cleaner putty, they rolled uniform rows down the wall picking up the grime deposits left from the coal.  What’s Kutol?  It’s what we call Play-Doh.  Yes, Play-Doh used to be Kutol wall cleaner.  It would be rolled onto the wall paper without sticking to it picking up all matters of soot and grime deposited there.  Kutol was re-branded as Play-Doh in the mid to late 50’s when American furnaces began to switch to oil and natural gas which burned cleaner than coal causing Kutol to fall out of demand as a wall cleaner.  Further demand fell off when vinyl wall paper was invented and the paper was able to be cleaned with just soap and water.

Manufacturers later found that the soft fluffy dough was so easy to work with and could be used for children craft projects that the company decided to remarket the product as a child’s toy, and such is history.

By the end of the day, Cookie and Bonnie would have black hands, dough stuck in clumps under their nails and in their hair.  Not to mention the small arguments of whose turn it was to hold the ladder. 

However, their reward would come as a well-earned rest on the porch with a cold glass of sweet iced tea and chicken salad sandwiches.  It always, smelled so good in April sitting on the porch, swinging in the big porch swing.  April always smells like a morning of fresh rain showers.  It’s bright and crisp with the fragrant citrusy smell of juicy green limes and bright oranges coming from the cleaners used in the house as well as the sandalwood and cedar smell of the blanket chests where all of the winter bed linens are stored.  Bonnie, closes her eyes and just drifts back to relax in the swing as she catches the smell of Grandma Della’s light perfume that she has sprayed on the furniture.  The smell of sea air and jasmine is calming and reminds her of playing with her cousins in California.

Of course, the hyacinth growing in the front garden wafts up to quickly announce Spring is in full force and more is to come.