Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

Some people buy antiques. I find them in odd places around my farmhouse.

A month or two ago, our kitchen faucet gave up the ghost. It was one Sunday afternoon, while Dennis was getting water for the dogs, when the underside of the chrome faucet suddenly gave way and water started spewing everywhere. I wasn’t home at the time and Dennis was kind enough to clean up the mess before giving me the bad news upon my return.

You never realize how much you use your kitchen faucet until you can’t. I kept catching myself repeatedly going to tap a glass of drinking water or fill the houseplant watering can. I finally had to hang a plastic container over the faucet to remind myself it was deceased.

Fortunately, the plumber showed up the day after I had called and left a message. Unfortunately, his message back to me was that I needed to remove everything from underneath the sink so he could do the faucet replacement.

The cabinets under the sink tend to be a neglected area. When I set about transferring the under-sink items into a large plastic storage tub, I found that even after tossing a few items, I still needed a second container to hold everything. It reminded me of the tiny clown cars in a parade where many more clowns exit than you thought such a small vehicle could possibly hold.

After the plumber replaced the faucet, I gave the plastic-lined shelving under the sink a good scrubbing and found that the old stuff looked as good as new after it was wiped down. I then set about returning the cabinet’s contents and found things that needed to be discarded. I also found tons of items I never seem to be able to find when needed. Suffice it to say, I think I have accumulated a lifetime supply of rubber gloves.

I dutifully reorganized things in an orderly way. I’m not sure what others keep under their sinks, but historically, my family has stored dishwashing detergents, sponges, scouring pads, household cleaning products and, for some strange reason, vinegars, in the sink cabinet. I was surprised how much more room there was after everything had been put back neatly.

I found one last item to discard, when I had a change of heart. I’d first noticed the ancient-looking bottle of a yellowish-tan liquid when I’d hurriedly emptied the cabinetry, but hadn’t taken time to look at it closely. This time I did. The yellowed label was tattered around the edges, but the printing was still clearly legible. It read “The Wonder Wax” at the top. The bottom of the label said, “The Wonder Wax Co., P.O. Box 824, York, PA.” In between was a description of the contents and the directions for using it, as well as the price: $1.

It said Wonder Wax is a “liquid wax that protects your furniture from cracks and checks and preserves the finish and leaves no oily or sticky surface.” It sounded great to me. I read on, “Exceptionally good for ... automobiles, pianos, furniture, floors and linoleums. A wonderful cleaner and preserver for wood work and leather.” I was sold.

The liquid in the bottle had separated from years of disuse, but I gave it a good shaking and soon it became a gelatinous substance. I turned open the cap and took a tiny whiff — it didn’t have much of an aroma. Then I grabbed a few paper towels and also one of my excessive number of rubber gloves and took the bottle with me as I headed to the second floor. I wondered whether my mother had left behind this bottle of wax because she liked it so much or because she hated it and never used most of the bottle. Either way, I had just the test case for this product, which I’d guess dates back to the 1930s or 1940s.

In one of our spare rooms, I have a lovely cherry dresser that once belonged to my great-aunt. I’ve washed it down with oil soap and used enriching spray furniture polish on it, but it has always remained dull-looking. I tried a little dab of Wonder Wax on a test area to be sure it didn’t eat through my rubber glove or do something weird to the dresser’s wood. My glove was OK, and the cherry wood took on a new glow, so I wiped down the whole dresser.

I made a mental note of some other older furniture which could use a lift and decided that I’ll give Wonder Wax a chance to work its miracle on them, too. Then I Googled “Wonder Wax” to see if the company is still in business. It apparently isn’t, but I did discover that a bottle of it that looked to be in about the same shape as mine was advertised as “a great vintage advertising item” and had sold on eBay two months ago for $34.95. That’s not a bad return on an initial $1 investment, but I’m hanging onto my antique Wonder Wax and using it.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.