This post is to commemorate my mother's FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY of being the neighborhood Tupperware Lady.
October 1, 1961, I joined Tupperware and my life was changed forever. I was a stay at home mom with two small children ages one and two. I wanted a part time job to make enough money to buy Christmas presents. I planned to sell Tupperware for two months.
That was over forty nine years ago. I joined Tupperware to earn money. I stayed because of the friendships that I made. As my success in Tupperware grew, my self esteem grew. I was successful far beyond anything that I had expected.
As my self esteem grew, I became a better parent and wife. A year after I joined Tupperware, we had another child. I am fortunate to be married to Ted, who took care of our children in the evening while I held Tupperware parties. When I held daytime parties, a lady came to our home and stayed with our children.
My introduction to Tupperware was through my mother who used Tupperware when I was growing up at home. When I hosted my own Tupperware party, I realized that I was excited enough that I wanted to share Tupperware with my friends. So, I signed up.
At my Tupperware parties, I learn ideas from the party guests. When I wanted to learn to menu plan, I asked for ideas at my parties. Now, I teach menu planning at some parties. Tupperware taught me how to do microwave cooking and organize cupboards.
As part of my Tupperware training, I attend sales meetings and conventions to learn more. I hear motivational speakers and read motivational books.
I teach my party guests how to save time, work and money. They date parties to share the knowledge with their friends. Tupperware gives the hostesses gifts for having their parties.
My favorite Tupperware job description is, “I get paid for giving people presents.”
My mom started selling Tupperware before I was even born. I have never known an existence without Tupperware. Some have said the reason I still look so young and fresh is because my mother used to seal me in Tupperware to burp me. But I know that Tupperware is so well sealed that I would have suffocated.
My mom didn't just drink the Kool-Aid of Tupperware, she brewed it at home and kept it in a Tupperware pitcher.
My mom was also a Tupperware manager and as such she was given a brand new Ford station wagon every two years. Every two years we got a blue station wagon with wood paneling. Every two years you had to learn a new license plate. I still remember OVF 111.
Each quarter Tupperware had a promotion. You could earn prizes. Valuable prizes! My mom would being home the prize brochure and all the kids would clamor to be the first to look through it. "I want the stereo!" "I want a TV for my bedroom!" "I want the carpet!" (yes, that last one was me. I was redecorating my room when I was 7.)
Eventually each of us got our own stereo for our own room, "FFT" - "Free From Tupperware". That was the common term as you walked through our house:
- Microwave - "Free From Tupperware"
- Stereo - "Free From Tupperware"
- Dishwasher - "Free From Tupperware"
- Chest type freezer - "Free From Tupperware"
- Upright freezer - "Free From Tupperware"
- Television - "Free From Tupperware"
- Dining room table and chairs - "Free From Tupperware"
- Shelving unit in living room - "Free From Tupperware"
- Living room chair - "Free From Tupperware"
- Mirror - "Free From Tupperware"
- Nesting tables - "Free From Tupperware"
- That blue station wagon outside - "Free From Tupperware"
- and yes, that carpet in my room - "Free From Tupperware"
You didn't get all that stuff sitting around doing nothing. My mom was busy! She sometimes held three parties in a day. One in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. But she was also readily available for us. She ran her datebook like a Hollywood PR firm, a year in advance. If you knew you had a school program she would put that in her datebook and it was immovable. If you got sick and had to stay home, she could fudge her schedule and leave for her party at the last minute and return a little early after stopping at the store to get you ice cream. There you were laying in the chair ("Free From Tupperware") in the living room watching TV ("Free From Tupperware") and the ice cream was picked up in a blue station wagon with wood panelling ("Free From Tupperware") that came home to rest in the freezer ("Free From Tupperware").
By the age of 5, I could answer the phone properly, "Hello? Kehl residence. No, she's not here right now. May I take a message?" I felt so adult. Nowadays I think we'd have to call child protective services, something about child labor laws. Let's face it, I was actually earning that area rug for my room.
Every Wednesday the freight truck came to drop off all the Tupperware boxes for all the Tupperware ladies that worked with my mom. Wednesday meant the garage was full of Tupperware boxes and my parents had to park outside until they were all picked up.
There's the house with the big circular driveway. The freight truck had to come up the right side, swing around, back up to the garage and then leave by the left side. No variations. If it was a new driver my mom gave him notes before he got to the house about how to do it properly. No one wanted a repeat of the time they nearly pulled the electrical lines off the house by coming up the wrong side, or the incident where half the tree in the center was ripped off the trunk.
You can also see the steep banks on the side of the driveway. With each new Tupperware lady, a new attempt was made at navigating that driveway. Sometimes there would be more than four people picking up their boxes at the same time. Like our very own free reality TV show, we kids would line up at the front window and watch them try to back out the driveway, their view obscured by boxes filling their cars. too far left, too far right, over-correct... and BOOM, up on the soggy side of the driveway leaving a big tire track! We'd all get excited knowing that there would be another free show that night when my dad got home.
"Hey dad, did you see the driveway?"
"Yeah I saw it. What kind of person can't see that big a side of a hill!?"
"It took her three tries!"
"Jesus! Barb, tell those lady drivers to park on the goddamn street!"
My mom sorted her Tupperware in the basement. If we were home when the truck arrived, we would have the driver drop her boxes at the top of the outside basement stairs. Then we would place "The board" (a big wooden plank) on the stairs and turn it into a slide. The boxes, sometimes 20 or more (especially if it was Break Your Record Week) would all be sent to the basement. Once inside the basement, every single box needed to be unpacked. Round with Round, square with square, replacement parts over there, catalogs and party supplies over here, it was an elaborate system. Once it was unpacked, if I was helping my mom, she would call out what she needed from the order form and I would find it, grab it and bring it her workbench, into a plastic bag went what the customer ordered, "Tagged, bagged and ready to go."
My sister helped me learn how to write my name on a Wednesday night. I was so excited, I ran downstairs and sat on the basement steps to show my mom who was packing her Tupperware. "Look mom!" and I took out a purple crayon and wrote my name over and over on the wall next to the stairs. It stayed there until about ten years ago when they put in new stairs.
When we were young, my mom would ask if anyone wanted to make her deliveries with her. "ME! FRONT SEAT!!" And on Sunday nights she would complete her order by hand (in a triplicate form with carbon copies) and then need to take it to the post office before midnight to make certain it reached Seattle or Everett the next day. "Who wants to ride to the post office?" ME! FRONT SEAT!!! When we got old enough to drive, my mom would have us drive her on her deliveries as our practice driving. I think she didn't particularly enjoying the front seat at that point.
There are many phrases that ring through my head that I know my siblings can recite in their sleep. "Tagged, bagged and ready to go," is one of them. Another good one is "Guaranteed to not crack, chip, break or peel. But if you melt it we'll sell you a new one." Once we were adults we were allowed to learn the phrase, "No sex, no supper, just Tupper, Tupper, Tupper."
Our house was living showroom of Tupperware in action. My mom often held open houses to sell Tupperware and she was always ready to give a cupboard tour. We used to say that if our house caught fire we'd perish in the toxic fumes of plastic melting long before any flames reached us.
When we were kids, my dad was the most likely to yell at you for getting out of line. My mom was slower to take the bait of bad behavior. In our teens, my parents went away for the weekend leaving us home on our own. My older brother and sister could drive by then and we were in charge of ourselves. On the Sunday that my parents were going to be home, my sister called us all into the kitchen.
"Watch this," she said, then she opened up the fridge and placed a head of iceberg lettuce in the middle of the fridge. ALL BY ITSELF. NOT IN TUPPERWARE.
"No!" shouted my brother, "You'll get us all in trouble!"
"You're crazy," I mumbled, taking a step back, shaking my head in disbelief. "You know they come home TODAY."
"I don't care," she said, "They left us in charge. That's how I want to put it away."
This was her greatest act of defiance (uh, there would be more later). She closed the refrigerator door and walked out of the kitchen.
I turned to my older brother, "What do we do? Should we just put it in the Tupperware?"
"Don't touch it. Let's just see what happens. Remember, we can always blame Debbie."
A few hours later we were all watching TV in the living room when my parents pulled into the driveway. We jumped up, turned off the TV and ran to our own bedrooms. Each of us holding our breath.
My parents came in to the house, "Hello! Hello!" No one moved. The ice chest came in from the car, you could hear the ice slushing inside. This was it. Any minute now the fridge would be opened and naked lettuce would be revealed...
"We're home! Hello!" the slight creak of the fridge door opening..."What in the...?"
"GARY! DEBBIE!! JIMMY!!! GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW!" My mother sounded very angry.
We all showed up in the kitchen. "What is this?" My mom pointed at the naked lettuce.
"Lettuce, duh." said my sister.
"Yes, I know that it's lettuce. Why is it like this in the refrigerator?"
"Uh," started my brother, "because that's where you keep lettuce?"
"Not like THIS," my mother grabbed the lettuce and pulled it out of the fridge, "this is just wasteful. You might as well be throwing your money away. Why would anyone pay good money for lettuce just to throw it in the fridge when there is a perfectly good lettuce keeper RIGHT HERE, this is beyond my comprehension!"
"DEBBIE DID IT!" I shouted and pointed at my sister.
We three kids thought this was the most hilarious thing we'd experienced, made only better by the fact that for years my mother still didn't see the humor when we told the story. "Perfectly good lettuce..." "Crisper right there in the cupboard..." "You kids think you're so funny throwing money away..."
Inducted into the cult of Tupperware we didn't know anything different. To this day I can not make Ziploc bags close. It's not a skill set I learned as a child. As each of us has married our spouses, they make the difficult transition to being Tupperized. I remember the first time I knew Lyle had drank the Kool-Aid. We were talking about Tupperware in our house (because there is so much of it) and a friend said, "I don't understand the big deal. You can use Rubbermaid the same." And Lyle launched into an explanation of potato chips and crispness with the zeal of a convert. There is no escape from the Tupperware. You will be assimilated.
And now it's 50 years. My mom has slowed down a bit and Tupperware has changed. It's not a station wagon anymore, it's a mini-van. The freight truck doesn't deliver to one house in the county, it gets shipped direct to each customer via UPS. No more midnight runs to the post office, everything is done through the computer. My mom still hold parties but not three a day. People aren't around during the day like they used to be and she doesn't have the same stamina it would take to do that. However, people do drop off broken parts at her house and just last week there was my mom, holding an open house, giving her cupboard tour.