family's first sign of prosperity
first sign of prosperity I can remember at the Trew house was laying
linoleum in the kitchen. The Dust Bowl and Great Depression allowed
few frivolous purchases of any type, thus the old rough wooden floorboards
were made do.
The day was exciting as we removed all furniture and appliances from
the kitchen, swept the floor, unrolled a beautiful multi-colored green
linoleum, then cut it to fit. A cut-off piece along one end was sufficient
to tack down on the cabinet top. Mother beamed with pride at the sight.
With a long run down the hall in my sock feet, I could slide clear
across the kitchen on the slick surface when no one was looking.
people called it "noleum," a neighbor called it "lemonoleum," and
a friend always said "liniminoleum." Whatever you called it, it was
the best floor covering of the time. Linoleum was invented in 1860
by British tinkerer Frederick Walton. By accident, he discovered that
linseed oil, derived from the flax plant, became rubbery under certain
conditions. He manufactured a floor covering for sale and like the
Model T, it came in all colors as long as you wanted black.
After his patent ran out in 1878, other companies developed colored
linoleum with embossed designs in many patterns. From 1920 to 1950,
linoleum reigned as king of floor coverings and the product became
a household word all over the world. By 1950, other floor products
pushed linoleum into the shadows of the past.
only "linoleum expert" I've known was a 92-year-old neighbor lady
born and raised in the Texas Panhandle. The reason for her expertise
came from being married for over 60 years to an "itchy-footed cowboy
always looking over the next hill."
Her credentials as a "paint and linoleum expert" are presented here
in her own words. "I've painted the inside and laid linoleum in almost
every ranch camp-house from Dalhart to Post and from Tucumcari to
Canadian. I've hauled rolls of linoleum on buggies, wagons, Model
Ts, pickups, horse trailers, and tied on top of a Buick car with lariat
ropes. I always chose the color green 'cause we were always praying
for green grass in the spring or waiting for a rain."
She also passed on the only directions I've heard on how to lay linoleum.
"Anyone can roll out linoleum and stomp it flat, but if you want a
good job that will last, you better tend to business."
The business of laying linoleum went like this. "First, you clear
the room including wood stove and spittoons. Next, you take a brick
or a flat rock and smooth off the high-spots in the wood where the
floorboards join together. Cover all holes, cracks, and knotholes
by nailing down tin-can lids with shingle nails. Last, sweep the floor
clean and lay down all the newspapers and livestock salt-sacks you
can find. Unroll the linoleum, replace the wood stove, build a fire,
and when the room gets warm, get your man, both take off your boots,
put a record on the Victrola, and dance the new linoleum flat."
Now that was one experienced, practical-minded lady.
© Delbert Trew
All Trew" February
6 , 2004 column