David biggs Sim­ple and ef­fec­tive just won’t do to­day

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - OPINION -

IRECENTLY asked read­ers if any­one knew what Pre­ser­vene soap was and who made it. It was men­tioned many times in a book of house­hold hints pub­lished in 1926. Ap­par­ently it could be used for a vast range of house­hold clean­ing jobs, from getting grease off pots to clean­ing car­pets and fresh­en­ing hats.

My neigh­bour Richard said it was prob­a­bly pure soap made from the salts of an or­ganic acid. Soap, he ex­plained, al­lowed wa­ter to com­bine with fats and grease, mak­ing it easy to re­move them from sur­faces.

He added that pure soap was com­pletely biodegrad­able.

My niece Deb­bie wrote from Amer­ica say­ing Pre­ser­vene was the brand name of a pure soap made orig­i­nally by a chemist, Thomas Cus­son, in Manch­ester.

He started his busi­ness in 1869 and ob­vi­ously made a good profit sell­ing his soap.

Pre­ser­vene be­came such a vi­tal part of every housewife’s equip­ment that the name was used as a generic term.

What in­ter­ests me about this ob­vi­ously highly ef­fec­tive and ver­sa­tile prod­uct is why Mr Cus­son’s com­pany ever stopped mak­ing it.

My guess it that it was just too good to be true.

It was cheap, sim­ple and ef­fec­tive. You could use it as it was or grate it and make eas­ily dis­solved soap flakes to use for clean­ing your cur­tains or Sun­day trousers.

The peo­ple who took over the com­pany sim­ply could not leave it alone.

Be­fore long all the soap they made had to be per­fumed and tinted and put into a pretty wrap­per so it could be sold at 10 times the price of Pre­ser­vene.

Be­fore then one soap was all you needed to keep your home fresh and clean.

That sim­ply wouldn’t do to­day. To­day you have sep­a­rate prod­ucts for clean­ing kitchens, crock­ery, bath­rooms, toi­lets, laun­dry, walls, floors, tiles, win­dows and dogs. Pre­ser­vene did all those and more.

It’s more than just a soap.

It’s part of an era when peo­ple were con­tent to use sim­ple things as long as they worked. They lived by the old say­ing: “If it ain’t bro­ken, don’t fix it.”

To­day they fit flash lights to pep­per pots and make shoelaces that glow in the dark.

No­body knows why, but peo­ple buy them.

Last Laugh

Fred­die had some ex­pen­sive ren­o­va­tion work done to his home and the builder waited and waited for his pay­ment.

Even­tu­ally in des­per­a­tion he sent Fred­die a pho­to­graph of his three small chil­dren. At the bot­tom he wrote: “This is why I need the money.”

A few days later he re­ceived an en­ve­lope from Fred­die and felt very re­lieved as he tore it open. In­side was a pho­to­graph of a gorgeous young woman and un­der it Fred­die had writ­ten: “This is why I can’t pay.”

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