Monday, August 27, 2018

From the Top of the Hill # 8: December 11, 1947

Another installment of John D MacDonald's Clinton Courier newspaper column. Here we can see what was possibly the first sentiment of dissatisfaction with the family's newfound home town: the local water supply. 

What we are about to discuss is an old and sore subject in Clinton. Many opinions have been kicked around -- but there has been a startling absence of facts to back up these opinions. We are talking, of course, about the Clinton water supply.

In this column we intend to present a few facts. That's all. Just facts. The facts presented have been extracted from an article in the November issue of The Hotel Monthly, which, in turn, was based on a survey report by Edward Engle, a graduate of the Department of Hotel Administration at Cornell.

In Mr. Engle's classification, 0 to 3.5 grains of hardening minerals to one gallon of water results in soft water. Anything over 20 grains of minerals per gallon is extremely hard. The Clinton rating is 39 to 40 grains per gallon. It is a fair guess that there is no other community in the United States with harder water.

What does this mean to you? What does it mean to Mr. and Mrs. John Doe and their two kids in their house on Kellogg Street?

Mrs. Doe knows that she has to use a great deal more soap than her Utica friends. She doesn't know why. Before soap can do a cleaning job, it has first to coagulate and precipitate out the hardening mineral salts in Clinton water. In effect, all the water she uses must first be softened by soap before it can be used to clean. Soap is about the most expensive and least effective softening agent available. Mrs. Doe has to use so much soap to soften the water that it forms unpleasant, sticky curds which float and attach themselves to whatever she is cleaning.

Mrs. Doe has to scrub finished surfaces harder in order to get them clean. the finish doesn't last as long.

Her kids and her guests use cake soap at an alarming rate.

When she rinses her sheets and pillow cases, she leaves a mineral deposit on the threads of the fabric. When they dry she has a harsh rough surface which tends to become dull and dingy. In addition, after the mineral salts dry on the fabric, the threads are weakened and her linens have a short life.

Mrs. Doe has a pretty rough time in the kitchen. The lime action in the water wrinkles the skins of peas and beans and toughens them. The fresh green color of other vegetables is affected. Longer boiling is required and the consequent loss of vitamins and texture results in overcooked food which lacks proper nourishment factors. The tea and coffee she serves are muddy and unpalatable and she doesn't know why. Mr. Doe has long since stopped complaining about the coffee. Her baked goods have a definite texture and taste loss. Her china, glass and silver are dull, spotted and streaked. Her pots and pans have white line rings boiled onto them.

Mr. Doe thinks that Clinton winters are getting colder. He uses more oil every year in his hot water system. He doesn't know that mineral deposits on the inside of his boiler and pipes form such an efficient insulating device that he is losing up to sixty percent of the original efficiency of the heating system. Three years from now Mr. Doe is going to have to replace a lot of pipes. The bill is going to be steep.

The daughter in the Doe family is fifteen. She has hair of that auburn shade which should be very lovely -- full of copper highlights. But when she washes her hair, she rinses it in Clinton water. When it dries, there is a deposit of lime and calcium which dulls those gleams and makes her hair lifeless. The Does don't care. They don't know how good that gal's hair could look.

Mr. Doe spends a great deal of money on various kinds of shaving cream. A tube lasts him about half as long as it lasts his Utica friends. In spite of all the shaving cream he uses, the razor still feels as though someone had used it to sharpen pencils. He goes to work every morning in a foul mood, his face smarting because hard water wouldn't soften his beard.

Mr. Doe washes his own car. But it never looks right. He can't seem to get all the pale streaks off of it. Every drop of water which dries on the surface leaves a pale white ring.

If you happen to meet the Does on the street, ask them about the hard water. They will look a little vague and say, "Yes, it is pretty hard, isn't it?"

Tell them that their life here in Clinton is made bothersome in a dozen little ways by hard water. Tell them that it is a constant drain on their pocketbook.

If they begin to look interested, tell them that there are 700 municipal water softening plants in the United States serving over 940 communities. Tell them that though Clinton has one of the worst hard water situations in the country, we are not one of the 940.

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Ten years ago this week:

Two British Army officers purchased 376 U.S. mules for shipment to India.

Mrs. Roosevelt took Mrs. Doris Duke Cromwell on a tour of West Virginia coal towns and resettlement projects.

At the Empire Cat Club show in Manhattan a rodent owned by a Chicago doctor won a silver cup, 40¢ in cash and a rosette inscribed "Best Mouse."

President Roosevelt asked for 3,000,000 five thousand dollar dream houses, each house to include living room, dinette, kitchen, two bedrooms, tile bath, porch, garage, oak floors, gas stove, coal furnace and refrigerator.

Princess Elizabeth posed with a dog under the shade of parasol held by Margaret Rose.

U.S. Army observers stated that Madrid is proof that bombs cannot wreck a large city.

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See you next week.

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