Its loveliness increases; it can never
Pass into nothingness.
This post was taken from a section of my writings titled “Correspondence.”
Despite the title of that section, it is not simply a collection of letters that I sent to various people and groups over the thirty-plus years of my Oklahomian Exile. Is it that, but it is also more.
Of all the hundreds of letters I have written over that period, a few have been chosen and included in this blog for a reason. They are humorous, nostalgic, philosophical, or poignant insights into my mind and heart. They all relate to some aspect of my life at the time they were written, and often reveal what was happening to me inwardly and outwardly as I dealt with some ongoing situation.
For example, the 1991 letter I wrote to Barbra Streisand describing my dream about her was written not because I was a particular fan of hers but because of the issue of the lymphoma with which I had just been diagnosed at the time of the dream. (As a reminder, see the earlier post titled “Dreams” and the more recent one on my health titled “Reflections on My Birthday.”)
As another example, homesickness for the sound of Arkansas voices was the motivation for the letter I wrote to the Arkansas Department of Tourism praising them for their choice of a “sweet young Southern thing” as spokesperson for my beloved native state; her reply to me was classic gracious “Southern Belles Lettres.” (See the earlier post titled “Keep Arkansas in the Accent!”)
The following is a copy of a letter I wrote to the Zenith Corporation back in January 1979. It was prompted by the quality and longevity of a television set that Mari and I bought as the first purchase of our marriage in 1963. That letter was then followed by a commentary on it written in the 1980s–now almost twenty-years ago.
My 1979 Letter to the Zenith Corporation
Zenith Radio Corporation
Attn: Customer Relations
1900 North Austin Ave.
Chicago, Ill. 60639
My wife and I were married on December 27, 1962. About two weeks later, in early January 1963, we made our first family purchase—a brand-new, black-and-white, table-model Zenith television set.
I am happy to report that the marriage and the Zenith are both still going strong.
We have never owned another TV set. We could never part with this one; it’s almost like a member of the family. This month marks the sixteenth year of continuous service for the set (which must itself be some sort of a record for longevity of life); but that is not the amazing part—the set is still operating on the original tubes! In these sixteen years, I conservatively estimate that the set has operated at least 17,000 hours—without repair!
In the first fifteen and one-half years of operation I spent exactly one dollar on it (for two 25-cent wall plugs and a 50-cent antenna). Last summer when we finally had to call a TV repairman because of trouble with the dial, he simply cleaned the dial and adjusted the set—cost $15. This represents a total operating cost of $16 in 16 years—a dollar a year!
When (or should I say, if) this set ever quits, we plan on replacing it with a new color set. You can be sure that when we do, we will give careful consideration to Zenith. In our case at least, your slogan that “At Zenith the quality goes in before the name goes on” has certainly held true. [To view a video on this vintage advertising slogan, click here.]
If only all products were as solid and dependable as this one has been. After all, “Till death do us part” is not a bad idea for manufactures as well as marriages.
My 198os Commentary on the Letter to Zenith
I am not in the habit of writing letters—either of commendation or of complaint—to manufacturers. In fact, I suppose this was one of the first (if not the first) such letter I ever wrote. But since the old set had performed so magnificently all those years, I thought it should be called to the attention of the Zenith people. Had I been on their marketing staff I would have leaped at the opportunity to make use of such a free and unsolicited testimonial in my advertising campaign nationally.
For one reason or another Zenith didn’t see fit so to do. In fact, they never even acknowledged receipt of my letter. Which was OK with me, I guess. But it did seem rather negligent on their part. Especially since I as much as said that I was going to be buying a new color set in the near future.
Well, as it turned out, a year or so later when I bought that color set, I did “Give careful consideration to Zenith,” but ended up buying an RCA. (The old Zenith is still seeing yeoman duty in my wife’s second-grade classroom!) [Mari now tells me that eventually, like both man and manufactures, the old TV set died.]
Zenith passed up a marvelous opportunity to sell a color TV because of their seeming indifference to a faithful and appreciative customer. But that’s not the point of my story. My point is age—or more precisely, quality and longevity.
You see, when I acquire something—whether it’s a TV set or a car or a suit of clothes or a wife—I expect it to last!
In this age of “planned obsolescence” I refuse to yield to society’s pessimistic expectations. On the contrary, I don’t expect things to go wrong, I expect them to go right. I don’t expect appliances or automobiles or clothes or wives to break down or fall apart or wear out or even get old. I just take it for granted they’re gonna look good and run good and be good and last good, and seldom am I disappointed.
Like, for instance, our washing machine. It’s a 1968 model Maytag that has operated grandly day in and day out for lo these fifteen years, totally without complaint and virtually without repairs (we’re tickled pink that the Maytag repairman is the “loneliest guy in town”). [To see more about this classic TV ad man, click here and then scroll down to Jesse White, Top Ad Icon #2.]
I typed up this article on our 1936 (that’s not a misprint—1936) model Underwood standard typewriter that was bought second-hand for my wife by her father back in 1958 from the Missouri Pacific Railroad in a disposal sale. (They thought it was shot then!) We have both used it through college and graduate courses and for ten years and more as teachers, and I have gotten every job I ever got through letters and resumes typed up on it. We have no plans to replace it, and it doesn’t know it’s ever supposed to die. (See the previous post titled “My Mother’s Bible.”)
That’s the secret! Never let them (appliances, cars, typewriters, wives, etc.) know that they’re ever supposed to get old!
If you don’t believe it works, we’ll discuss it as we take a drive in my classic burgundy ’69 Chevy Impala that still draws admiring glances and whistles from the teenaged boys!
Why, I never wear out clothes or shoes (my last pair of cowboy boots lasted nine years; they would have made it longer had I refrained from digging drainage ditches in them for a couple of years). A few weeks ago I garnered several compliments on my stylish new suit I wore to work (you know, the snazzy navy blue ensemble I bought at J.C. Penney back in 1971). (See also the earlier post titled “My Cancer Car” about my 1992 black suit that I still wear!)
I could go on and on. But I think you’ve got my point.
The Bible says: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” And that holds true for his opinion and estimation of his “belongings.” In other words, if you want it to last, expect it to.
Finally, as Henny Youngman used to say, take my wife . . . please. After 18 years of marriage she still looks and acts youthful (people consistently under-guess her age by five years). So, although I’ve learned that the more I compliment her looks and youthfulness, the better and younger looking she gets, I do enjoy an occasional dig at her about her age and shape (especially the closer she gets to her fortieth birthday).
One day not long ago we were standing and talking with one of the ladies at our church, a pleasant middle-aged matron, and the subject of age came up. Once again I took the opportunity to make some cute remark about my wife’s age: “Yep,” I said, “Ole Mari’s gettin’ up in years. I’ve warned her that when she gets to be forty I’m gonna trade her in for two twenties.”
To which our friend, eyeing my less than Olympic physique and with a twinkle in her eye remarked: “Yes, but are you sure you’re wired for two-twenty?”
Well, maybe not. But, shoot man, I’m not over the hill yet. Not by a long shot. After all, I’ve never yet hit my Zenith!