Book Report: Mary Ellen’s Best of Helpful Hints by Mary Ellen (1979, 1980)

It must be Year of the Early 1980s Good Morning, America Contributor here at MfBJN. In November, I reported on a book by Erma Bombeck, and now I’ve run through this collection by Mary Ellen Pinkham.

Like the Bombeck book, this book belonged to my mother, although I cannot imagine she used it much as cleaning and cooking were not her bailiwicks. This book is a bit of a time capsule to that middle-of-the-century period where housewives looked for tips and tricks to keep their homes clean and their tables laden within a budget. Personally, I wonder how much the world has changed compared to how much my status has changed when I look at these books. On the one hand, I have moved upward from the housing projects to a nice rural retreat in the 30 years since this book was published. On the other hand, technology and the culture have changed to some degree changed. The first chapter, for example, deals an awful lot with gravy and how to thicken, thin, extend, and otherwise deal with its defects. How many people under the age of 50 cook with gravy in the 21st century? Honestly, I don’t know.

At any rate, it’s a collection of grouped hints, as the title indicates. I don’t think I’ll take too many things away from it as the price of cleaning products has fallen to the point that it’s less expensive to buy a cleaner off the shelf for a dedicated task than it is to buy the precursors listed in the book. Maybe I’m just to bourgeois to think so.

I did see a couple of hints (toothpicks in screw holes to tighten the screws and toothpaste in nail holes to cover them before you paint) that my mother passed onto me. I don’t think she got them from the book; I’d wager they were such common knowledge that even my mother knew them. I still use the toothpicks thing, although I can afford filler now for holes before I have my painter come in and paint things in the shade my interior decorator designs for my feng shui. So maybe hints remain relevant for some people beneath me. I do see Heloise still runs in the local rag, after all, but my daily stock reports are not.

Books mentioned in this review:

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