When Turtle Wax seemed to be a household necessity

Wax before you rideYesterday I penned (okay, typed) a glowing tribute to the days when we all drank Tang, that sickly-sweet orange concoction made exciting by the fact that “the astronauts drank it!” Today it’s time for another instalment in what may become an occasional series here at the Meanwhile, at the Manse: “Stuff That Used To Be Ubiquitous.”

Today’s entry, as telegraphed in yesterday’s post (because it’s what got this whole train of thought of mine leaving the station) is: Turtle Wax.

Now, I realize that Turtle Wax is still around – as, I guess, is Tang, for some unknown reason. But as far as I can tell Turtle Wax is now a bit of a specialized product, used by people who polish up their vintage cars for the show-and-shine and “cruise night” events that are popular in many places (including this immediate area). Gone are the days when regular polishing of one’s car with wax was considered a useful, even necessary, way to spend one’s time.

Turtle Wax ad

Ah, the good old days. Or at least, the old days. (Photo from the carconnection.com)

And really: how did we ever get into that way of thinking? Who on earth has – or ever did have – time to spend hours polishing the car? Who cares if the car is actually glowing, as opposed to just clean?

Well, I guess people did care about that stuff back in the 1960s when I was growing up here at the Manse, because Turtle Wax seemed to be an omnipresent thing.

Not that my family ever used it, as far as I can recall. In fact, here is a mid-1960s photo of my two younger brothers, Ken (left) and John, which I have used before for other purposes, but will now show you the general state of our family car, a 1961 Pontiac Strato Chief (like this beauty, only black):

John and Ken and the family car

I think you can clearly see that Turtle Wax was not a high-priority item in our household. My father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was way too busy visiting parishioners (sometimes bringing his own farm upbringing to bear in lending a hand with their farm work), preparing sermons, tending to the aforementioned family farm up in Haliburton County on his so-called “days off,” harvesting trees for firewood from a local woodlot, making maple syrup, etc. etc. etc., to be paying any mind to the state of shininess of the family car. But I also remember packages of Turtle Wax always floating around the house in my childhood. Did they come as free samples, I wonder? Maybe given out at the plowing match or the fall fair or other such rural events?

I don’t have an answer to that, but I do know that Turtle Wax was one of those front-of-mind products in those days, kind of like iPhones and video games and high-end barbecue units are today.

Which says a lot, I guess, about changing priorities. And how our ideas about how best to use our free time have morphed over the years.

But now that I’m really thinking about it, I’m getting all nostalgic, and a little envious. Because, you know, who wouldn’t like to have nothing better to do on a sunny summer afternoon than to spend a few hours Turtle Waxing the Chev?

4 thoughts on “When Turtle Wax seemed to be a household necessity

  1. For true aficionados (aficionadi?), it was the intoxicating smell, even more than the pointlessly brilliant (brilliantly pointless?) hard-shell finish, that delivered the full-bore Turtle Wax frisson. But here’s what I think killed the wax industry in general (except, if those louche rumours are true, in Brazil):

    • Oh gracious, another blast from the past! I’d forgotten that waxy yellow buildup was the bane of Mary Hartman Mary Hartman’s existence. (Well, that and her husband’s underperformance in bed.)

  2. I love, love, love that old photo! It takes me back to a simpler time. Can you remember how cool and fine the dusty earth felt on your bare feet? I love the look of the old lop-sided gate in the background. Was there ever one that was straight and swung freely? This really is a lovely photo. It reminds me of a Rockwell painting.

    • Your lovely comment made my day, Karen! I just wish my grandfather, the late J.A.S. Keay, were around to hear it, because he is the person responsible for most of the great photos from my childhood years at the Manse. Which were kind of like a Norman Rockwell painting, now that you mention it! And speaking of you mentioning things, thank you for so beautifully evoking “how cool and fine the dusty earth felt on your bare feet” – thanks to that word picture, I can feel it right now!

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