How I Got My First Dishwasher Sixty Years Ago

By JACKIE OSTBERG | May 03, 2017

One day some 60 years ago, when I was young and had three little boys ages 5, 3, and 1 and a husband who commuted to his job in New York City every day, I casually said, “Honey, I would like to have a dishwasher.”

He replied, “My mother never had a dishwasher.”

Red flags swirled in my brain, but I managed to keep calm and speak with a gentle tongue.

“Yes, your mother had only one child and your father could walk to work. He probably got home from work every day at 5:30. It’s usually 6:45 p.m. before your commuter train pulls into the Westfield station. By the time we finish dinner it’s time to get the boys bathed and ready for bed. Next they beg me to read. Most often it’s their favorite, The Little Engine That Could, and I dare not skip a sentence; they know every word by heart.

“At 8 p.m. I’m still in the kitchen, washing dishes. I would like to have just one hour to relax, read and talk with you before we have to go to sleep.”

He thought a minute before he said, “We’ll talk about it later. Right now I don’t think we can afford it.”

My brain was still whirling when a marvelous idea popped up. “I can do it,” I thought to myself. “I can figure out a way to get a dishwasher.”

The next morning Dr. Blair’s big black Labrador, dragging a long chain, was on our front porch with his nose pressed to the glass storm door. I opened the inside door and let our chocolate Lab, Flicka, say hello to Blackie. He wagged his tail and cocked his head as if to say, “Can she come out and play?”

No way, I thought, but wait a minute, maybe he knows something I have not detected yet. Yes, I believe our dog is coming into heat. Then, a brilliant thought crossed my mind. When my husband was in Brussels the following week on business, I would lock the two dogs in our garage and hope that something works out between them.

That is exactly what I did. First, I phoned our neighbor, the doctor, to get his permission for the love match. One dark night while my husband was in Europe, Blackie came over and spent the night with Flicka. Of course I opened the garage door to peek once in a while. The third time I checked, our Flicka was sitting on the roof of the station wagon and Blackie was sitting on the garage floor looking up at her, wagging his tail in anticipation.

“Well,” I thought, “nothing will come of this. I might as well call it quits and go to bed.”

A few months passed and we noticed Flicka’s tummy was slightly plumper.

Three months later she delivered eight of the cutest puppies ever, some black and some brown.

Every day after school the whelping box in our garage attracted neighborhood kids, asking, “Please, Mrs. Ostberg, can we see the puppies?” When the pups were a month old I placed an ad in the local weekly paper: “Adorable Labrador Puppies for Sale,” plus my telephone number. The first call I received was from a woman who said her son wanted a sheepdog. I told her, “Well, they are not sheepdog puppies, but you are welcome to come over to see them.”

When her son walked up our driveway and saw the pups playing chase in the yard, he shouted, “That’s the dog I’ve always wanted!”

Several days later another woman called and said she was looking for a puppy to surprise her son on his 12th birthday. We spoke at length and agreed on a plan to have her family come over to pick up a package addressed to them, mistakenly delivered to us. I put the puppy in a large cardboard box in our kitchen. When the doorbell rang I greeted the family, ushered them into the living room and said, “I was sorry you had to drive so far to pick up your package. Wait a second, it’s in the kitchen. I’ll bring it out. It’s addressed to your son.” I placed the box on the floor in front of the boy. When he opened the box, cameras flashed and his face lit up with a big smile. It was love at first sight.

We were soon happy knowing our eight chubby, playful puppies had gone to live with families who would love and care for them. And I was happy knowing a brand new, shining dishwasher was living in my kitchen!

Jackie Ostberg lives in North Beach.

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