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Take me home...St Emilion  kay@diddakoi.com

Updated: 09/15/06

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"The Confusion"
by Neal Stephenson



Friday, 15 September, 2006

I leave tomorrow for a trip to Europe, stopping in Munich for a couple of days and then London. As it happens, the trip coincides with Oktoberfest, and we'll be attending on Sunday and Monday.

I haven't flown since the latest round of terrorist plots, so have to weed out various things in my purse, including my beloved Carmex.


I've been using Carmex since my college roommate, Anne, introduced me to it. Chapstick doesn't cut it for me and I've grown fond of the menthol-y tingle of Carmex in its little white pot with the yellow top.

But now, thanks to various and sundry terrorist organizations, Carmex has actually been singled out (by name!) as a no-no by the TSA to carry on airplanes. Rather than have them throw it away, I will remove it, substituting the little lavender lip balm that Mom gave me (thanks, Mom!).

It's a shame really, since I read the history of Carmex from their website, and found it to be a good old American success story:

Alfred Woelbing was a buyer of drugs and toiletries for a Milwaukee department store, when the country was hit by the Depression in the early 1930s. He began producing an earlier lip protection product, Lyptone, in his home after losing his job at the department store. Lyptone sold for 25 cents. In 1935, Alfred sold the name and formula for the product to a New Jersey company for $2,500.

"That was a lot of money in those days," he says.

He replaced the product with a silver polish, Shynebright, which he developed, produced and sold to jewelers, grocers and department stores in Milwaukee and Chicago. Two years later, in 1937, he began working on another lip protection product to cure his own chapped lips and cold sores. The resulting product was Carmex. But it was the silver polish that paid the bills and Carmex took a back seat to it. In fact, during World War II, production of Carmex was limited because one of its principal ingredients, Lanolin, was needed by the military to prevent rust and grease war equipment.

After the war, Alfred and his wife continued production of Carmex from their home, pouring the mixture by hand into its little glass jars, from a 12-quart kettle they kept warm on a hot plate. Alfred sold the product himself from the trunk of his car.

The success of Carmex grew through word of mouth, as the company used no advertising or salesmen other than Alfred.

In 1957, the product had become so successful that production was finally moved out of the Woelbing home to a small rented manufacturing facility in Wauwatosa, a suburb west of Milwaukee.

In 1976, having outgrown the Wauwatosa site, Carma Labs built their current facility in Franklin, Wisconsin.

In 2001, Alfred Woelbing passed away at age 100. The company tradition has been lovingly continued by his son and grandsons since then.

I may not be able to carry it with me to Europe, but the good news is that if I really get desperate, Garden Pharmacies in England carries Carmex now.

[Carmex will find a way.]

Speaking of finding a way, U.S. House Resolution 1000 passed yesterday, despite the efforts of many of Representatives to sink it. The Resolution calls for earmarking reform in the House, providing greater transparency in how they are spending our money. The vote was 245-171. One of those "Nays" was my own Representative, The Honorable Robert A. Brady from the Pennsylvania 1st District. Curious about the vote, I wrote to him:

Dear Representative Brady,

I read that yesterday you voted against the adoption of the resolution (H. Res. 1000) providing for earmarking reform in the House of Representatives. As one of your constituents, I would like to know your thoughts on why you voted against the resolution, and what your overall position is regarding ear-marking and transparency in government spending.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you about this specific topic.

Kind regards,

[We'll see what he has to say for himself.]


[Only 7,109 more needed for our Wine Cellar Wall.]

Quote du jour:

"People who keep stiff upper lips find that it's damn hard to smile."

Judith Guest (1936 - ____) US novelist

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