Saturday, March 7, 2009

clean bathrooms

Just ran across an article in that tickled my fancy - thought you might like it too.

Bring On the Highway Hostesses
By Chuck Woodbury

It was the 1930s and American motorists were fed up with filthy gas station restrooms. Not only did the toilets need cleaning, but the washbasins, floors, walls -- you name it. The American gas station restroom, theretofore neglected and often downright unsanitary, needed a major overhaul.

The average restroom was suitable for only the most germ-defying motorist -- no place to "rest," for sure, especially for the dainty ladies. It was a filthy never-never land of bacteria and brake fluid, a home for the motoring brave, but mostly the desperate. Thankfully, the gasoline industry recognized it had a problem. It decided to clean up its act.

Texaco was the first to respond in a big way. In 1938, it established its White Patrol, a fleet of inspectors in white coupes who motored their way across the continent, leaving in their wake the cleanest pots in the history of automotive-related sanitation.

Thus began the race to eradicate dreaded dirt and germs from gas station restrooms across America.

In 1939, Phillips 66 geared up for one of the nation’s most creative clean up acts. It hired a half dozen registered nurses, sent them briefly to restroom cleaning school, and then dispatched them to the road to inspect potties. They were dubbed Highway Hostesses. Their goal: "Hospital Clean Restrooms."

DRIVING CREAM COLORED PLYMOUTHS and armed with disinfectant, these smartly-uniformed couriers of comfort visited one Phillips 66 station after another, instructing station owners on the necessity of clean restroom facilities. "The average female motorist doesn't know the difference between one brand of gas and another," they explained, "but she sure knows who has the cleanest restrooms!"

The leader of the Highway Hostesses was a registered nurse named Matilda Passmore. She believed, according to company literature, "in the need for daily use of an approved germicide such as Lysol to overcome the inherent fear of women for possible disease which may be contracted in contact with toilet facilities.

"Within a year, the Highway Hostesses were visiting each of Phillip's stations at least once a month. At each stop they would inspect potty rooms as well as provide suggestions about how a station could be more appealing to motorists, especially the "feminine motoring trade.

"But the Highway Hostesses' work didn't begin and end at each station. "On the highway, she stops whenever she finds a car in trouble and attempts to aid the difficulty," Phillips' PR men boasted. "This may range from summoning help to repair a mechanical defect to rendering first aid in the event of an accident. During the summer, she carries ice water which often is delightfully refreshing to a hot, weary traveler. She has ample supply of tools in her car
which often provide the necessary assistance in themselves."

These twentieth century Florence Nightingales of the road actually performed some heroics. One helped save a child from drowning. Another administered first aid to five members of a Negro baseball team that had rolled its car near Kansas City.

PHILLIPS 66 WAS PROUD that even the blustery winters could not stop its mobile cleaning consultants: "Let the winds howl and the snow fall, Winter is not stopping the Highway Hostesses in her efforts to help dealers maintain the best restrooms on the road and assist the travelers who venture forth in the Winter season."

Alas, the Highway Hostesses were grounded at the onset of World War II. At least three of the women enlisted in the military as nurses, presumably retiring from the restroom cleaning business forever. Texaco's program paused but resumed after the war. In the 1950s and '60s, Union Oil established its Sparkle Corps, an all-female inspection team that, too, eventually passed into history.

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