General Non-Fiction posted March 12, 2018

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Then and Now

The Shower Caddy

by Betty Rosenstein

I had my chance. I could have made millions of dollars on my invention had I known then, what I know now. Well over fifty years ago, Allen and I were spending a social evening with our friends George and Pat Cohen. None of us had been to Europe and we discussed the possibility of going abroad together. Since our husbands were quite amicable about the four of us spending a summer in Europe, as long as we girls paid expenses, it was obvious the only way we could afford such a vacation, was if we arranged it.

With enthusiasm, Pat and I met the next day to figure out how we could make enough money to pay for the trip. We had to come up with a solution. By rare coincidence we discovered our local newspaper was holding a contest with cash prizes ranging from $10.00 to $10,000. Obviously, this was our answer. However, each month, the simple tests became more challenging.

The first questions were so simple, they didn't require much effort. Maybe that's why we didn't win that section of the contest! In a few weeks however, the questions became more technical. I was used to research in libraries, so optimistically we went to one near my home in Brentwood. To our surprise, the section that held answers to some of the contest questions could not be approached. About ten women (former contest winners) were occupying the small area that held the books of information we needed. After several hours, with considerable effort we found answers to the newspaper questions.

To make a long story short, we completed the month-long contest and Pat's husband met the midnight deadline when he placed our final answers in the mailbox. Strangely enough we didn't even win the $1.00 reward!

Plan two was to develop a product or something that wasn't too challenging and would bring in enough money for four tickets to Europe. After all, if two college graduates couldn't earn a few thousand dollars, there must be a problem in our college courses. Obviously, there was. We needed to invent a new product. That couldn't be too difficult. Actually, it was easy. Pat's suggestion was to design a cart on wheels that had books and shelves, so that a housewife's cleansers, mops, brooms, rags, etc., were all available. This way she didn't have to go back and forth to a closet to look for what was needed. That seemed kind of dull and uninteresting so we passed.

Then I came up with the project. At that time bathroom showers were practical but simple. There were water faucets and one indentation in the wall for a bar of soap. Since Allen and I used shampoo, special soaps, a wash cloth and a shampoo brush, our conventional shower was somewhat cluttered. It occurred to me that a contraption that held our personal objects for use in the shower would be practical, maybe even decorative. Our Shower Caddy was invented!

The question of its development was easy. A short distance from my home was a factory that manufactured household gadgets made of vinyl. Allen suggested metal rings to attach the Caddy to the faucets, and we were nearly there. The only problem was that the pockets intended for soap, shampoo, wash clothes, etc., did not hold anything. Each object fell out. My husband the Engineer easily re-designed the pockets and our Shower Caddy was ready.

A young high school girl living near us seemed to have considerable artistic talent. I explained to her that we needed a design to demonstrate the use of the new Caddy. In one day she drew a woman in a shower with just enough modesty to be interesting, but not enough to reveal a naked body of questionable taste. Our Shower Caddy was now available to the public. The first customer was Bullocks Department Store. Shortly after, the new item was featured among its bathroom objects. Eventually other stores followed.

Proudly we realized we had invented and designed a new product. Pat and I sold tremendous numbers of Shower Caddies and we were doing quite well, and then things changed. Pat's husband was transferred back East. Shortly after, she followed him with her children; which killed our trip to Europe. During that period, I was quite ill and spent some time in the hospital. To help out, another close friend Charlene purchased Pat's interest in the Caddy. She too helped sell a number of them, but the time had come to move on.

Eventually I found a company that bought our product. Unfortunately, we were all somewhat naive, did not have an attorney, and trusted the company that purchased the Caddy to provide us with a modest return for each sale. The company, however, then turned it over, or sold it--to another company in which we had no interest. Today, several variations of our original Shower Caddy are found in most retail stores that sell bathroom products and many websites online. While there is no profit for us, we still point with pride to our Shower Caddy. If only we knew then what we know today...

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© Copyright 2018. Betty Rosenstein All rights reserved.
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