By Shane Ross
Earlier this year I was sitting in a screening of a show I was part of a team of editors cutting. This was a screening for the owner of the production company, the Executive Producer (EP) of all the shows the company produces. This EP has a habit of straying from the screening and expounding on some great historical story from film or TV. It might be some great story about THE TOWERING INFERNO, on how Steve McQueen and Paul Newman’s name in the credits appear in the movie, one appearing first, the other appearing slightly higher in the frame…both the same size, and the reasons behind that. About how the most recent 20th Century Fox logo was designed. One day, three of us editors sitting in a row reminded him of the Three Stooges, so he spent an hour telling us the history of the Stooges. Fascinating stuff.
So here we were, in this screening and discussing the show we just watched. He expounded on the fact that we present the show as one thing…it appears to be about one thing, but hidden inside it is another story, a story within a story. He compared this to a laundry detergent brand from his youth. He was grasping for a name…and finally surfaced with “DUZ DETERGENT.”
Duz Detergent wasn’t “top shelf” stuff. It wasn’t the best brand out there. In fact, in order to sell it, the company came up with a brilliant marketing plan. They would include free items in every box of detergent. If you bought the really large box, you would get a towel…a full sized bath towel. If you got the next size down, you got a hand towel…and the smallest box contained a wash cloth. Buy enough of the detergent and you would have a full set. This is how they would sell the detergent…not because it was good, because it probably wasn’t…it was pretty cheap. No, you bought it to get the free stuff.
This sounded a little familiar to me, but it didn’t quite click…not yet.
He then grabbed a laptop to Google Duz and see if he could find out more about it. He found a couple old TV commercials and played them for all of us to see. These commercials didn’t mention towels, but another product. Duz Detergent didn’t only contain towels. They also included dishware, and glassware. The commercial my boss found (from 1967) showed a husband pulling out a glass from the box and showing his wife.
Then it clicked.
When I was 7 years old, my mother was raising me on her own while attending college. We didn’t have a lot of money, so of course my mom bought the things she could afford. And what a deal the DUZ laundry detergent was…not only could we afford it, but we could get glassware out of the deal. I remembered going to the laundry room with my mom and opening the box, and digging the glasses out of the detergent. But they weren’t the clear glasses as the commercial showed. I recalled the glasses being yellow, and having a raised pattern on them…and some had stems, like tumblers.
I spoke up. I told my boss that I remembered my mom buying boxes of detergent, and getting glasses from them. But they weren’t clear, they were amber and had a pattern. He googled again and found that in the 1970s, the glasses in the boxes were indeed amber glass, with a raised pattern:
When he showed them to me I was excited. “Yes, that’s them!” So funny…here we were, a room full of five editors, three producers, two researchers and the company president, and EP and I were having a trip down memory lane about cheap dishwashing detergent. And I was obviously more affected by this than he was…it was a very personal memory from my childhood….doing laundry with my mom, finding a glass in the box of Duz. For me, it was like opening a present…open a box and get a prize. Just like the occasional sugar cereal box I’d get to open when I went to spend a weekend with my grandma…or when you opened a box of Cracker Jack. It was exciting. At that time I didn’t realize how poor we were, I just loved opening the box and getting a glass…the fabulous prize.
The show ended, and I left for a bit to work on another show at home. When that wrapped, I returned to work on the third season of a series. I’ve been working for a week when the EP called us all up (editors, story producers) up to his office for show meeting. We were all waiting in the lobby while he wrapped up his last meeting. When he came out, he greeted us and said we should all go into the conference room. But he pointed at me, and said; “you…come with me.” I followed him into his office.
“I have something for you.” He bent down behind his desk and pulled up a box wrapped in black plastic. Pulling a pen knife from his desk, he cut off the black plastic and then handed the knife to me. I proceeded to open the box and when I finally cut away all the tape, I found five more round boxes inside. ‘What on earth could these be?’ I wondered.
I started cutting the tape on a round box…a bit quicker than I should…I was curious. “Careful,” he said. “Slow down.” So I did, and gently opened the box.
And found an amber tumbler inside. The exact same glass that we got in the Duz Detergent boxes many years ago. I looked up with excitement. I don’t recall if I said anything, but the excitement must have been written all over my face, because he was giddy with delight…smiling and laughing with me.
My boss must have seen the look in my face those many months ago in that screening. He didn’t expect anyone else to know about this product, he’s used to being the only one to know the story. But he must have noticed how strong of a memory that was for me, and, finding the glasses on e-bay ordered them for me. And then waited months for my return in order to give them to me.
I didn’t know what to do. This was an amazing gift. I wanted to hug the guy…but he’s my boss, so the best I could manage was to reach out and shake his hand and say thank you. A very sincere thank you.
They might be very cheap glasses…gotten from a very cheap box of detergent. But to me, the value goes way beyond that. They are precious memories.
Thank you, Kevin.