Pity poor Jesse White. Never was anyone so successful by being lonely.
In his role, Jesse did little in the way of making his mark in the appliance repair business. For 22 years, White was The Maytag Man.
He had little to do because work was scarce. From 1967-88, his perfect hangdog face and misery perfectly delivered the Maytag message. Jesse’s loneliness was a result of Maytag’s commitment and delivery of a high-quality product.
And unlike Ol’ Lonely, those appliances worked, and worked, and worked.
I remember back in the fall of 1980, after a particularly good weekend of picking NFL winners and feeling guilty about Vicki needing bags of quarters in order for us to have clean clothes, it was time for action.
I figured I owed it to Fred Johnson, who’d been our family’s guy when we needed appliances, to buy a washer and dryer.
I met with my “accountant” and took my winnings to Johnson’s Appliances. The next day, Vicki’s trips to the laundromat were over, thanks to Fred, Maytag and the Rams covering the spread.
Jesse Stone and Fred made a believer out of me. That duo of appliances was with us until 1994, when we grew tired of moving them. The pair survived two California moves, another to Oregon, stayed with us in Louisiana and finally retired in Woodstock.
Fred’s store was on a busy Bakersfield street and was nothing like where you’d buy merchandise today. It was more like a small house, with his “showroom” consisting of random nooks and crannies.
I think he gave me a good deal, despite me and fellow Saint Lawrence hooligans being obnoxious to his son, Freddie, who had the misfortune of being our P.E. teacher.
I swear I didn’t do this, but I remember it vividly. A classmate wrapped a shotput in blue school sweater and asked: “Hey Fred, is this your sweater?”
He lobbed the sweater to Freddie. It hit him in the chest and bounced off the teacher’s toe. The shot-putter scrambled home on his bike. There was no way he was going to be caught. Freddie was chasing a 10-speed while only having nine good toes.
Believe me. I know that feeling.
I never had to do business with Fred’s appliance store after winning $500 on a magical Sunday. Our appliances never broke.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to hold true today.
Just ask Doug Odom, owner of Aaron’s Appliance. He doesn’t sell them, but he’s a whiz at making them feel young again.
Doug is 62, and if his back holds out, plans to hang up his tools in a year or so. That’s too bad. He’s as good as those first Maytag’s.
Check out all those online reviews. They are glowing. Five stars. Customers are fiercely loyal. He has little time to play golf.
So why is he getting out?
If an artist needs a clean canvas, repairmen need worthy subjects to work on. Today, that playing field has changed.
“It’s all foreign junk,” said Doug, as he was being pestered while trying to unclog a line in our 12-year-old Maytag refrigerator. “All this is American in name only. It’s all made somewhere else. We make very little in the U.S.”
He talked of all of us having to wash clothes in less water. I bet everyone has had a sniff of clothes just not smelling as fresh without some kind of artificial enhancement.
Doug is a throwback to the way stuff used to get fixed. He’s honest, reasonably priced and get this, he answers his own phone. Telemarketers drive him crazy. He recently talked with a confused woman from Fairbanks, Alaska, who swore Doug had fixed her Frigidaire.
Think about years ago when you paid homage to a good TV repairman. When’s the last time you’ve seen one of them around. I wonder whatever happened to those TV tube-testing machines?
So why did a guy named “Odom” name his business “Aaron’s?”
“Everyone used to use the Yellow Pages.”
It’s doubtful anyone would get better placement if their name started with “Aa.”
That’s what I mean when I see someone as being “old school.”
Mike Tasos’ column is published every other weekend. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Facebook.