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Jere Brittain: Maytag repairman busier than ad version

Remember the Maytag appliance ads showing the repairman sitting around waiting for a phone call? The old Maytags were actually that reliable.

When Joanne and I built our retirement home 22 years ago we purchased Maytag appliances from a local dealer, Johnnie Johnson. Johnnie has made occasional service calls to our house over the years.

Recently our clothes dryer developed a bad-sounding rumble at the beginning of its work cycle.  So, we called Johnnie, apprehensive that he may have fully retired. Lo and behold, his helpful daughter answered the phone and assured us that Johnnie would be out to fix the machine the next day.

Johnnie always comes with a few corny jokes.

“Jere, I’ve started collecting yard sticks,” he baited me.

“Unusual hobby,” I said.

“Yeah,” replied Johnnie, “They’re not makin’ ‘em any longer, you know.”

Then he got down to business. He turned the dryer on, listened to the rumble for a few moments and pronounced, “It’s the blower unit.”  Still spry at age 81, he hopped up onto the machines to unplug the electricity, then stretched flat out on the floor and began to remove the front panel to access the blower. It turned out that a small picture-hanging nail I had left in my work pants pocket had damaged the blower blades. As usual, Johnnie had a replacement unit in his truck, and within about 30 minutes the machine was purring like new.

Before heading out to his next stop, he told me about a woman who told her husband of many years that she was getting forgetful and thought she was losing her mind. “Well,” replied the husband, “You’ve been giving me a piece of your mind every day for 60 years, so it’s a wonder you have any left.”

Johnnie goes deer hunting with bow and arrow out in Nebraska. This season he bagged the biggest buck he had ever seen. While waiting in his tree stand, he composed a song about hunting, which he proceeded to sing for me in a good ballad voice.  “Have you written other songs?” I wondered aloud? Needing no further encouragement, he regaled Joanne and me with a couple of his songs relating to Christmas season. Said he had sung these at his church.

Johnnie said he made his first appliance repairs before he had a driver’s license; someone had to drive him to home appointments. He is not happy with modern day appliances with super-sensitive computer control units that cost $300 to replace. Says they aren’t making machines to last any more. Probably aren’t making any more repairmen like Johnnie either. … Journeying on.

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A sixth generation native of Mills River, Hendersonville Lightning columnist Jere Brittain is a retired professor of horticulture at Clemson University, a musician and songwriter and Henderson County history enthusiast. He writes about life in and around Mills River.