Electrolux Model Automatic F

Page Seven


 “The Japanese Connection”

One of my client's offices are in an old converted house in West Los Angeles. The house, which sits right in-between a residential area to the east and commercial development to the west, was rezoned and converted into office space about 10 years ago. It's a really cool, rambling, one-story house that was built in the 1920s.

A narrow walkway flanked by high shrubbery is all that separates the east side of the office-house from the property next door, which is a cute little pink stucco with white clapboard-trim bungalo built, I had figured, in the 1940s and probably as part of the housing boom after World War II.

A very old Japanese lady lived in that house -- I never got to know her but we would greet "Good Day" if we passed on the sidewalk, or wave to one another if I looked out the studio window and saw her in the back yard where she spent a lot of time tending her plants, bushes and flowers. Her back yard was small but very lovely, full of all sorts of beautiful greenery, citrus trees, rock gardens and little fountains.

Recently I happened to glance out there and I saw a different Japanese lady in the back yard. She was a bit younger than the other lady, but it was clear she was a relative as she bore a striking resemblance to the lady who lived there.

I observed that the entire back yard was full of boxes, cartons, piles of clothes, and all sorts of other STUFF. As the lady passed along the walkway between the two houses, I called out the window, "Hello there!"

She gave a little jump and let out an exclamation -- "OHH!!" then - "My, you startled me!"

I apologized, introduced myself, and said I had seen that the other lady had not been around and hoped she was okay.

Well, she was not, it turned out. She had become ill and feeble, and had to move into an assisted-living facility.

This was very sad news indeed -- I told the lady I'd come out there.

So I went outside and properly introduced myself. Turned out this lady, whose name is Ochiai [pronounced "Oh-chee-eye"] was the other lady's sister -- the lady who owned the house, whose name is Fumi.

Fumi's family had been on her for years to sell the house and move into an assisted-living situation. Her husband had died some years ago and she was there all alone. But, well, really ... who would want to do that and give up the lovely little house that she has lived in since the day it was built? She and her husband had moved into the house in 1947 when it was brand-new. And she had lived there ever since. Can you imagine that kind of history with a house?! It surely must become an extended part of a person's soul - identity - after so long a time.

Ochiai said the family had put the house up for sale. She and other family members were in the process of cleaning it out and going through Fumi's personal effects. She said they had already filled three truckloads with "Stuff" --- apparently Fumi kept the outside of her house neater than the inside --- it was, as she put it, a "nightmare" inside.

And now comes, well, the tacky part I guess.

It occurred to me ... well, gee ... Fumi had lived in that house since 1947. Wonder if there were any, well, you know .......!

So YESSS, I took a deep breath and asked the question, "I don't suppose there are any old vacuum cleaners around here."

Ochiai said, "Well, yes as a matter of fact, there's an old Electrolux around here. Why - do you fix them up?"

I said, "Well, no, not really - but I do collect them. I wouldn't mind seeing the old Electrolux and maybe I could make you an offer on it."

She did not seem the least bit put off by the idea that I collected old vaucum cleaners. She just chuckled and said, "When you see it you may not want to offer me anything for it! It's pretty old and 'funky.' Let me do some more work around here today and I'll look around and get all the parts together for it. I saw all sorts of stuff in the garage that goes with it. Come back on Tuesday and you can have it."

We continued talking for a while and had a very lovely chat. She is a very nice and dear lady. I wish I had gotten to know her sooner as we established a very warm rapport together. Her eyes glistened a little when she said, "I am glad the old Electrolux will go to a good home -- I know that will make Fumi happy also."

Well, need I tell any of you that there was hardly anything else on my mind all weekend. So much so that as I walked out of her house and back to the office, I only gave half a glance to the pile of stuff in the front yard with a sign propped in front of it, "FREE!" She had put a bunch of stuff out there for people to help themselves to. I just didn't stop to look at what-all was there.

Later, when I left the office I drove by Fumi's house on my way home, as I did every day. Ochiai and her hired hands had left; the house was empty.

Now this is probably going to sound kinda weird, but ever since I talked to Ochiai I have felt a strange kind of psychic connection with Fumi for some reason. I can't explain it but it's like, I have just felt a sense of her presence around me. Now, I am not one to be superstitious or believe in all that psychic hooey, so I am even a bit reluctant to tell this part of the story. But I have to, for its full depth to sink in.

Anyway, I stopped in front of Fumi's house and just sat there, gazing it and feeling pretty sad for her. What a way for such a full and beautiful life to come to an end. I really felt that somehow she was aware of my feelings ---- and also that she was trying to tell me something.

I got out of the van and wandered back into the back yard -- did not feel bad about it, like I was tresspassing or something. I knew that if Ochiai had come back she would not have minded seeing me there. I gazed at the plants and flowers, which had begun to fade and wilt -- they obviously missed their caretaker's tender touch and seemed to have gone into mourning. There really was a quiet, sad feeling in the air. I wandered around a bit, looking over at a little meditation garden tucked in the far corner of the yard alongside the side of the garage.

There was a little pile of rubbish there along the wall -- some mildewed old clothes, rusty coat-hangers, dirt-clogged gardening tools, half-used containers of household cleaners, an old can of Electrolux wax.....



I quickly walked over and picked the can up. It was FULL of wax, probably had never been opened. I recognized the graphics as Model F (1957) vintage - a white can with black and red printing. Of course, my initial reaction was to grab the can; then I thought, well, maybe I'd better not; then I realized, Good Lord, it was sitting in a pile of stuff that was going to be thrown out. So I spared it the indignity of such a fate and took it with me.

The can was not in the greatest shape -- not rusty so much but was very badly crumpled --- looked like it had been run over by a car. So before I put it in my van, I shrouded it in a couple of plastic grocery bags to make sure it wouldn't leak wax on my carpet.

I got back into my van and just sat there for a moment, wondering mightly at the moment I had just experienced. Honestly, it just really felt like Fumi had "guided" me out there to find that can of wax. I mean, think about it ---- who else in the world would likely have come along and wanted a tarnished, dented old can of wax? Whom else but the diehard Electrolux Nut sitting in the office next door?! And I knew in my heart, at that moment, that I had done an okay thing.

As I sat there in the van thinking all these disquieting thoughts, my eyes wandered to a pile of stuff piled in the front yard, with the word "FREE" scrawled on a piece of cardboard propped in front of it. I nearly fell off the seat when I spied a long, narrow carton sitting to one side of the pile -- a box with red and black printing. "ELECTROLUX - America's Largest-Selling Vacuum Cleaner - World's Only Automatic Vacuum Cleaner - Guarantees A Cleaner Home AUTOMATICALLY."

Need I say that I jumped out of the van and RAN to that box as fast as I could! I snatched it up and my heart started pounding when I saw that it was in PERFECT condition. It was as crisp, clean and firm as the day that Fumi's new Electrolux --- a Model F --- was delivered to her some time between 1957 and 1959!

OH my Lord! I almost got sick to my stomach when I realized how close I had come to overlooking this treasure! That box had been sitting out there ALL DAY!!! I cringed at the thought of some scavenger grabbing up the box to hold some awful kind of junk in, or some homeless person coming by and stopping to take a dump in it. (That actually happened to me once - I had put some boxes out front for the trash collector and the next morning discovered a "special treasure" that someone had deposited in one of the boxes. How lovely.)

Heart pounding even harder, I took the box over and stuck it in my van and I looked inside it. It contained odds and ends of old Christmas ornaments, including some very dear handmade Angel Christmas Tree ornaments. Another little odd turn to this --- I just ADORE ... CHERISH ... vintage Christmas ornaments, especially handmade ones. So, a little tear running down my cheek because I was really feeling quite overcome by all this, I took the box and went on home.


After a very long four-day passage of time, Tuesday finally came ... I had no sooner gotten into the office when the secretary came rushing over and said, "Oh! The lady next door was here and seemed very anxious to see you. She said she wanted to be sure you got the old Electrolux!"

So I turned-heel and went over there. Ochiai was in the back yard and, honestly, she just lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw me. "Oh, hello Charlie! I have all the old Electrolux stuff right here for you!"

She led me into the garage. Well, how can I tenderly yet honestly say that my heart sunk when I saw it. Clearly it had been stored in the garage for many years --- probably since the happy day the Model F had come into the household.

Oh, wait -- I'm getting ahead of myself!

The XXX was very rusty and tarnished. It had the original hose but it was filthy and faded to a dull, ugly, brownish color. The wands were dented and rusty; the dusting brush badly needed a hair transplant, and the floor and rug tools were also rusted and corroded and the rubber all rotten and crumbling. The original cord was also there but also very dry and cracked. I noticed that on the back of the motor, on the chrome rim, was a yellowed sticker -- "Bill Matsumoto - Electrolux Sales & Service"

I was at first tempted to say, "Oh dear, what mess..." --- but then I looked at Ochiai and saw her beaming from ear to ear. So I put on a good poker face and said, "My, what a neat old sweeper! She must have been saving it for a long time!"

Ochiai smiled a knowing smile and said, "She WAS saving it --- for you." So I took the poor old withered machine and carried it out to the sidewalk. Looking on the bright side, it was all original and I have always delighted in finding original-owner machines that way, even if far from factory-fresh. I asked her how much she wanted for it and she waved her hands, "Oh no, no, I'm happy to let you have it because I know you will appreciate it."

I thanked her very warmy and then, tired old XXX under my arms, I started to head back to the office. But, then, it seemed I felt Fumi was tugging at my sleeve. I stopped, put the Electrolux down, and called out to Ochiai, "Say, I don't suppose there are any other old vacuums or floor polishers around are there?"

She gave me a kind-of sweet, funny look and said, "Well as a matter of fact there is another Electrolux inside -- but it's a modern one!"

I laughed and said, "That's okay. Could I just have a look at it?"

So we went inside and there, sitting in the living room, all hooked up and ready to go, was one of the most perfect late Model Fs I have seen in a long, long, long time. MY LORD .... it looked like it had JUST COME OUT OF THE BOX. All original -- hose, wands, attachments, even the odd black Belden cord with white bumper guard and white Belden plug! I chuckled when I saw that it, too, had a "Bill Matsumoto - Electrolux" sticker on it! Guess he really had a good customer here!

OH dear......... How do I do this tactfully?

I said, "Well, that's a nice Electrolux all right, but it's hardly a modern one --- would you believe it's nearly FIFTY (emphasing the word FIFTY) years old --- it was sold from 1957 to 1959."

Ochiai said, "Well my goodness, I had no idea it was that old! I was going to take it home to use it but I don't really need it I guess ....... and I probably couldn't get bags and parts for it. [NO, I did not do the "right thing" and set her straight on that point!] ---- Make me an offer on it."

So I did make her an offer that she was more than happy with. I unplugged and dismantled it she helped me carry it outside.

She stopped suddenly and said, "Ohh -- wait --- there's a little box with some kind of gizmo -- let me go get it because I think it goes with the vacuum."

Could this get any better?!

She walked inside and returned with a beautiful little cardboard carton --- "Electrolux Turbotool Rug Washer" ---- yes, it was the original Model F rug washer. With a FULL bottle of "Electrolux Rug Shampoo" with a nice graphic of the Model F on its front. And a de-mother. And a paint sprayer. AND a brand-new-in-the-box replacement cloth bag for the Model XXX. And, yes, the box also bore Bill Matsumoto's sticker!

She said, "There may be more stuff around here that goes with it. If I find any more things I'll set them aside for you." Then she waffled a moment and said, after some hesitation, "Oh, but maybe I should talk to Fumi about it first..."

I said, with an inward smile, "Well of course, that would be fine."

Ochiai stood there for a moment, not speaking, not moving, as if she had gone into some kind of trance. She then snapped out of the spell and said, "Oh, never mind --- I am sure she will be glad to let you have it. After all, I bet she didn't use it three times --- as you can see!"

I didn't say anything but yes, it was pretty evident that housework was not dear Fumi's strong suit! Maybe that's why she spent so much time in the garden...!!

So off I went, the VERY VERY happy curator of a VERY VERY beautiful Model F, and a decrepit old XXX that were both just flowing and swirling with all sorts of emotions and dynamics. Really, it's just an amazing story isn't it.

And, you know ... I have a funny sensation in the back of my mind telling me that the story isn't over yet......

Here are some photos of that beautiful Model F, one of the little pink house, and one of Ochiai - the "heroine" of this story!








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