Ilf and Petrov’s Greatest Adventure – In Schenectady!
by Don Rittner
Ilya Ilf (1897–1937) and Evgeny or Yevgeni Petrov (1903–1942) were two accepted Soviet Union writers from Odessa during the 1920s and 1930s. Known in account circles as Ilf and Petrov, they spent a abundant accord of time autograph and travelling together.
Two of their abusive novels were The Twelve Chairs and The Little Golden Calf, both about a con man accepting affluent about the Soviet arrangement that was appealing adventurous at the time although it was a aeon of added advanced times in the Soviet landscape. In 1970, Mel Brooks did an adjustment of the additional book starting Frank Langella, who was in Schenectady afresh filming an HBO appropriate (http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9D04E4DC173BEE34BC4151DFB667838B669EDE).
So why am I autograph about two Russian writers? Able-bodied during the American abasement they travelled beyond America demography abounding pictures and autograph about their observations on American culture. They appear it all in a photo article alleged American Photographs. It was appear in Ogonyok Magazine, a annual amorphous in 1899 and still in print. That was followed by a book alleged One Storied America translated actuality as Little Golden America but the aboriginal copy had no photographs. What makes the book arresting is the alertness of the brace to acclaim American society.
But there is additionally a Schenectady connection. In Little Golden America they address about their appointment to Schenectady, at the time the automated assertive of a burghal with General Electric about at its aiguille of 40,000 employees. What did they appetite to see here? GE of advance and according to them the “world centermost of the electrical industry, the boondocks of Schenectady. “
When they approached the gates of Schenectady there was a acceptable assurance that afflicted them:
THE BIGGEST SMALL TOWN
IN THE UNITED STATES
“ In Schenectady we chock-full at a auberge that provided three kinds of water—hot, cold, and iced—and went for a airing through the city. It was alone about ten o’clock in the evening, yet there were about no pedestrians. Against the curbs stood aphotic automobiles. At the larboard of the auberge was bare acreage awkward with grass. It was absolutely aphotic there. Beyond the field, on the roof of a six-story building, a assurance lit up and went slowly—G.E.—General Electric Company. It was like the cipher of an emperor. But never did emperors accept such ability at their auctioning as these electrical gentlemen who accept baffled Asia, Africa, who accept durably built-in their brand over the Old and the New World, for aggregate in the apple which is in any way affiliated with electricity is in the end affiliated with General Electric.”
They additionally address about their appointment with a adolescent Russian who was a airheaded agent forth what appears to be Erie Blvd. The aing day the two were alien to Charles Ripley who endemic what was advised the aboriginal All American Abode – absolutely electric at 1590 Wendell Avenue. Ripley’s abode was not the aboriginal electric house, that belonged to addition GE architect a few blocks abroad acceptance to Harry Hillman at 1155 Avon Road. Hillman was GE’s Electric Heating Administration in 1905. Hillman’s abode was the aboriginal all electric abode in the world.
Ripley fabricated the Russians advance the doorbell and again proceeded in to appearance them the little box in the closet that fabricated the accretion work. There were bristles accretion for altered occasions from addition at the aperture to a alarm for calling anybody for breakfast. This amused the pair. Ripley went on to authenticate his electrical blast system, his lights, a coffeepot, a toaster, and a teakettle with a whistle, and a frying pan.
All these were the latest models.
They abide in their writing:
“But Mr. Ripley delivered the capital abstract to his visitors in the kitchen. Actuality stood an electric stove of amazingly bright ery whiteness. “In the lower allotment of the stove is a drawer for dishes,” said Mr. Ripley. “Here the plates are consistently balmy and it is not all-important to calefaction them distinctively afore dinner. You appetite to baker dinner, soup, and roast. You adapt the soup meat and the vegetables, put them in the pot, add water, and put it on top of the stove. Again you adapt the meat for the buzz and put it in the oven. Again you go up to a appropriate accoutrement on the appropriate ancillary of the stove and move one arrow to ‘soup’ and the added to ‘roast.’ After that you can calmly go to work. The banquet will not be spoiled, alike if you do not acknowledgment until evening. As anon as it is ready, the heating automatically decreases. Alone a low temperature will be kept up, so that the banquet should not be algid by the time of your arrival. There is never any charcoal in my kitchen, because there is an electric abstract appropriate over the stove.”
In a amount of a few minutes, the Russian duo were apparent an electric dishwasher, debris auctioning unit, refrigerator with ice cube trays, electric egg beater, tanning light, electric razor, exhaustion cleaner, abrasion apparatus with appropriate bed-making press, and electric bed-making machine.
Ripley was the arch of GE publicity department.
When he was done, the duo remarked to Ripley:
“Now you accept absent several hours because of us. You knew actual able-bodied that we would not buy a refrigerator or a stove, didn’t you?”
“But maybe anytime you will address about my little house,” replied the gray-haired, pink-cheeked gentleman. “Good publicity is never wasted.”
Indeed, it never is!
GE fabricated a cine in 1915 demonstrating the virtues of the electric abode application Martin T. Rice’s abode in the GE Plot. You can appearance it here:
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