The fabulous General Electric Roll-Easy Vacuum cleaner, introduced in 1957, epitomized the aesthetics, appearance and colors of the “Populuxe” Era which ran from the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s. (See Populuxe.)

The dramatic turquoise and copper styling came from the noted designer Freda Diamond. (See page 5 for a brief biography).

My fascination with this vacuum cleaner started when I was just a little kid. We used to visit my paternal grandparents in North Carolina a couple of times a year - not more often than that because of their fairly long distance from us. The thing about those visits that stands out the most for me was my Grandma Casey’s vacuum — a Roll-Easy R1 that she kept in the original box in a corner of her bedroom.

Honestly, I don’t think she used it very often. I say this because she was very much a “Country Lady” and quite old-fashioned, probably not up to speed on newfangled things like vacuum cleaners! In fact, I wonder who even bought it for her, or where or when. There were no Sears-Roebuck stores in Spring Hope, North Carolina! For example, she had an old black cast-iron foot-treadled Singer sewing machine! And the house did not have central heat but one of those big metal wood-burning furnaces that stood at one end of the main (living) room. I don’t remember what kind of heat the bedrooms had but probably fireplaces. The kitchen stove was one of those old black wood-burning stoves. All the floors in her modest country house were oiled linoleum. No carpeting at all. The one or two times I ever remember seeing her cleaning was with a dust mop.

Anyway, my parents, glad to get the ever-precocious and overly wound-up ME out of their hair for a while, would let me use Grandma Casey’s sweeper. And use it I did — from one end of the house to the other, including the front and back porches! I wonder what her neighbors must have thought of this goofy little kid vacuuming the front porch! I would have even gone down the front steps and down the sidewalk to clean up the bright orange dirt, if the cord would have reached that far!

When I began to collect vacuum cleaners as an adult, the Roll-Easy was one I looked for for more than 20 years. And never, ever found one. I began to think maybe I had just imagined it, since it was such a strange, odd-looking thing. But then one day I was driving past a “ye olde junque shop” in south Los Angeles. I stopped at a traffic light and was gazing at the row of rusty lawn chairs, sofas with springs poking out of the cushions, racks of mildewy clothes, stacks of dusty books and boxes of mismatched odds and ends ... and then ... a little turquoise drum-shaped thing tucked between two rusty washing machines caught my eye.

My heart started pounding ... NO! ... It couldn’t be!

I whipped the fastest (and illegal!) u-turn you ever saw right in the middle of that busy six-lane boulevard, screeched to a halt in front of the junk store, jumped out of the car, and ran over to the turqoise treasure. I could hardly believe my eyes! Sure enough, there it was ... the first Roll-Easy I had seen since I was 6 or 7 years old. I went in and asked how much the “old sweeper outside” was, and got it for three bucks. I was a bit disappointed that it did not have any of the attachments, not even the cord. But at least I had the machine, and I perched it in the corner of my bedroom for many years.

Then a few years ago, I heard about a fellow collector who had one that he was willing to trade for a bunch of Kirby stuff he had wanted. Since I had Kirby stuff coming out my ears, I was more than happy to make the trade. FINALLY! A complete Roll-Easy, missing only the original hose and original box.

(I did finally find a hose but am still looking for the original box. “Dear Santa:”)

It even came with a pack of bags and the instruction booklet! It was not in quite this nice condition when I got it but didn’t take much work to get it to “showroom” condition.

btw, a note to those who have Roll-Easys: You may have noticed that the plastic parts tend to get a white icky build-up on them. I remember seeing this stuff even on the one my grandma had that I used to use when I was a little kid and would go to visit her. Well, many years later fellow collector Tania Voigt told me that the white stuff was a type of mold, and the way to get rid of it was to spritz the affected part with liquid laundry bleach (put some in a spray bottle), rinse it right off (after no more than a few seconds) and then polish it with furniture polish or Armor-All. Well, I tried it, and Lordy Be! It worked!! So, if you have a Roll-Easy and it has creepy white stuff, this will do the trick

Another interesting thing is that the Roll-Easy has a very distinctive smell. It's not unpleasant, just a slightly pungent “plastic-y” odor that, again, anyone who has one will immediately know what I mean!

Well, really, not one to be at a loss for words ... but what more can I say. If you are here, you probably already know plenty about the Roll-Easy. So, I’ll just cut to the chase and show you some photos of mine!

Following the photos is a gallery of advertising for the Roll-Easy, and then after that a brief biography on Freda Diamond.

Enjoy!

 


 



 



 



 



 



 


Dusting tools

 

 



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