That Was Then, This is Cheez Whiz

Life was a lot different 100 years ago. Back then only 14 percent of American homes had a bathtub. The average worker earned 22 cents an hour. And 90 percent of the doctors had no college education, though that was offset by the fact that you could buy marijuana, heroin, and morphine over the counter at the corner drugstore. Come to think of it, that's not such a big deal. After all, you can buy all that on the corner right this minute and you don't even have to go inside a store to do it.

A hundred years ago the first World Series was played, Sanka was accidentally created when a shipment of coffee got drenched in sea water, and helium was discovered, without which there would be no Goodyear blimp, no balloons on the ceiling at children's birthday parties, and no parents at those parties doing bad Mickey Mouse imitations. It was also the year that Henry Ford talked 11 investors into forking over $28,000 to start the Ford Motor Company so he could put out the "Model A", which he sold for $850. Plus tax, transportation, and dealer prep, of course. Now, 100 years later, you can walk into a showroom and buy a three-ton car based on an Army tank that has a name your mother would wash your mouth out for saying had you uttered it when you were growing up. Yes, it's the Hummer 2, and for only $50,000 you can be the first one on your block to have a car which can cross a 20-inch deep stream, climb over boulders and logs, and go up a 60-degree grade, all of which can come in mighty handy when you're circling the Ikea parking lot looking for a space while getting a whopping 10 miles to the gallon.

The "Model A" wasn't the only transportation that got off the ground 100 years ago. On December 17th the Wright brothers flew their airplane 120 feet across some sand dunes in North Carolina, changing history forever when they were admonished for not putting their seat-back trays in the upright and locked position. Amazingly, 100 years later flying really hasn't changed that much. Sure, the planes are larger and now you sit in uncomfortable seats rather than lying flat so you can snooze to your heart's content, but that's about it. For starters, on my last flight I was served the same meal the Wright brothers had on theirs -- nothing. And my flight was delayed, as was theirs. Sure their delay was a little longer -- they had to wait three days to make repairs after Wilbur crashed -- at least they didn't have to sit in their seat desperately needing to go to the bathroom while their plane circled the airport for 45 minutes waiting to land.

Even 50 years ago life was very different. A house cost $17,000, you could mail a letter for three cents, Playboy magazines were being stuffed under mattresses for the first time, and we were fighting with North Korea. Okay, so some things don't change. New products that year included Saran Wrap, Sugar Smacks, Swanson's TV dinners, and Irish coffee, all American icons regardless of how the last one sounds. And of course Cheez Whiz.

I know it's hard to believe, but until 1953 cheese came in hunks, not jars. And it contained real cheese. Then Kraft changed the face of bad nachos by developing a "pasteurized process cheese sauce" that remained semi-liquid at room temperature. And to think, the Nobel Prize in chemistry that year went to Hermann Staudinger for some macromolecular crap you can't even eat.

Cheez Whiz is to cheese what Slim Jims are to meat. Think about it -- France gives the world a reported 365 cheeses while the best we can offer up is American cheese, Velveeta, Cheez Whiz, and Easy Cheese, the silly string of the dairy world that shoots out of a spray can. Yum, yum, eat it right up! But it turns out that Cheez Whiz is more than just a pourable, bright orange, vaguely cheese-like substance that drips off your 7-11 hot dog while gluing your tongue to the roof of your mouth, it's actually a handy grease stain remover. It's true! According to Joey Green, author of the book Clean Your Clothes with Cheez Whiz, the product's natural enzymes cut through grease, so if you put a little bit on a grease stain, let it stand for five to 10 minutes, then put some salsa and jalapenos on it -- voila! -- you have a serving of denim nachos that would make Martha Stewart jealous. Just kidding. Actually she's already tried them and she prefers chintz.

The truth is -- at least according to Green -- if you put Cheez Whiz on your greasy clothes and wash them they'll come clean. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who claims Listerine will fertilize your lawn, Reddi-Whip will remove make-up and work as shaving cream, and you can paint your house with Carnation Nonfat Dry Milk. No, I'm not making this up, though I wish I were.

So yes, life is different now. Ninety-nine percent of our homes have bathtubs. It costs 37 cents to mail a letter. And most of us earn enough money to keep us in laundry detergent so we don't have to resort to Cheez Whiz. Now if we could only do something about this North Korea thing.

More Mad Dog can be found online. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation.

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